Video Summary: The Human Behavior Experiments
The film The Human Behavior Experiments explores different studies that have happened relatively recently. The findings from the famous studies and experiments covered in this film provided researchers with information about authority and the role of bystanders. In the film, the Milgram study, Stanford prison experiment, and the Latane study are all explored. Along with the experiments that this film introduces to the audience, real world examples and implications are also explored in relation to the studies.
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In the Milgram study, Stanley Milgram wanted to understand the influence that a powerful leader could have on average people. During his study, staged to the participants as a study on learning, Milgram uncovered how far individuals were willing to go under his command. 65% of the participants gave the "learner" the highest amount of shocks, something that Milgram did not hypothesize. Through these results, Milgram interpreted that situations can cause a person who isn't inherently cruel to act in a cruel manner. The role of an authority figure caused these participants to behave in extreme ways. Milgram even replicated the experiment with different conditions and discovered that any factors that minimized the experimenter's authority also minimized how much influence they had on the participant, which in turn allowed the participant to behave in ways more congruent with their normal beliefs and behaviors. However, I do think that there were ethical issues in this experiment; the participants had a really tough decision to make. Some of them even thought that the "learner" had died after he mentioned having heart problems. Participants in this study likely suffered psychological distress during and after the study was conducted. The Milgram study particularly relates to the problematic role of authority involved in the McDonald's case. Just like the experimenter essentially demanded that the participant continued in the study, the caller in the McDonald's case was emitting a similar sense of authority. The caller claimed to be a police officer and told the manager to strip-search an employee. Although this initially seems absurd, a police officer enforces the law, so hearing their commands over the phone might seem like a legitimate order. Even though in both the Milgram study and in the McDonal'ds case, the participant/manager has the option to question the figure of authority or even not follow through with their commands, that's not what happened in the majority of cases. People are inclined to follow orders from a dominant leader.
Next, the Stanford Prison Experiment was designed to understand the psychological effects of authority. The participants were assigned either guard or prisoner by flipping a coin. The experiment escalated quickly after the guards gained a sense of power and began exerting it uncontrollably. Things got so bad that the experiment ended after only six days. Even though this experiment was highly unethical given the extreme psychological torture that the prisoners endured, the results were significant for researchers. This study shed some light on the ability for an average person to behave so viciously, similar to the Milgram experiment. But, it also highlighted the psychological effects of perceived authority and the role of dehumanizing the victims, or prisoners in this instance. If a person is stripped of their identity and assigned only a number, like they were in this study, it's much easier for the guard or authority figure to behave in such an extreme and torturous way. Also, when one is given the sense that they are in control, their behaviors can escalate quickly. Another ethical issue of this experiment was the lack of boundaries set in place for the prisoners, they were stripped of their rights and identity and several experienced mental breakdowns and psychological effects during and after the experiment. This experiment is related to the real world example of Abu Ghraib. In these prisons, American soldiers quickly took on the role of a prison guard with the prisoners at their mercy.
The soldiers understood the power that they had, and they abused it, just like in the Stanford Prison experiment. Maybe what made the torture and abuse so easy for the American soldiers was the fact that the prisoners were foreign. This may have made it easier for the soldiers to look past their identity and torture them in inhumane ways.
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Lastly Darley and Latane's study focused on the role of the bystander and what people tend to do in an emergency. They discovered through their study that the more people that were present during the phone call of someone needing help, they were all less likely to respond and receive help. When it was just one person by themselves receiving the phone call, they were much more likely to act quickly and get help. This experiment proved the significance of the bystander effect; people are less likely to help a victim when in the presence of others rather than being alone, according to our text. While the participants were in the presence of others, they were likely experiencing pluralistic ignorance, which is when people are collectively unaware of each other's attitudes or beliefs, according to our text. When the participants were together receiving the phone call, they were likely looking at each other to gauge their reactions and their sense of urgency. However, if each of them were doing this, they might have sensed everyone's inaction as evidence that this was not an emergency. The ethical issues posed in this experiment might have been similar to those in the Milgram study; participants were placed in a stressful and difficult situation unsure of what they should do.
This study relates to the real world example of Kitty Genovese. When Kitty was stabbed, no one called for help even though it was audible to everyone living close by. The people living nearby likely did not intend to leave Kitty helplessly dying from stab wounds on the street below; they likely experienced the two phenomena I mentioned above. They also probably experienced diffusion of responsibility. This is when people assume that someone else has already called for help or taken action. People also tend to assume that someone else would better know what to do in an emergency. The issue is that if everyone is thinking this, then no one will take action. The role of the bystander and the theme of inaction is also related to fraternity hazing. With the Mathew Carrington incident, it was clear that something was not right with him and that he needed medical help. His mom even mentions that when someone is acting drunk while drinking water, something is clearly not right. As soon as one person takes action, everyone is likely to follow suit. All of the bystanders monitored each other's reactions and when no one took action, no one became alarmed which allowed Mathew to helplessly die.
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