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Evidence Supporting Stanley Milgram's Experiment on obedience to authority figures
"The social psychology of this century reveals a major lesson: often it is not so
much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself
that determines how he will act." Stanley Milgram, 1974
o Milgram had no idea about what would happen in his experiment and
therefore any outcomes could not be predicted, he had no intent to cause
harm with his experiment.
Stanley Milgram (1961) was interested in why millions of Germans blindly obeyed
orders that resulted in the mass slaughter of millions of Jews during WWII.
o This proves that he was investigating for a reason he had an idea behind
the experiment, and was not attempting to inflict pain on participants.
While Milgram's research raised serious ethical questions about the use of human
subjects in psychology experiments, his results have also been consistently
replicated in further experiments.
o Thomas Blass (1999) reviewed further research on obedience and found
that Milgram's findings hold true in other experiments.
Because Milgram's research was carried out in a laboratory, it has been argued
that it is artificial and people would not behave that way in a real situation.
Nevertheless, it could be argued that experiments are real situations and an
authority figure is an authority figure whether they are in a lab or elsewhere.
Postexperimental interviews showed that the vast majority had believed they
were giving real shocks and that the victim's stress was likewise real.
o This has been supported by research conducted in the field. Bickman
(1974), carried out a study where a stooge wearing a guard's uniform
asked pedestrians to pick up a piece of paper or give money to a
stranger. The obedience rate in this condition was 80% however, when
normal clothes were worn, the obedience rate was 40%.
84 percent of former participants surveyed later said they were "glad" or "very
glad" to have participated, 15 percent chose neutral responses (92% of all former
o No long lasting severe psychological harm.
74% of participants said that they had learned something of personal importance
by taking part in the study.
Many later wrote expressing thanks.
o Participants were pleased about taking part in the study
Milgram repeatedly received offers of assistance and requests to join his staff
from former participants.
A year after the study a university psychiatrist interviewed 40 participants and
reported no evidence of emotional harm that could be attributed to participation
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Also the American Psychological Association investigated the study
and found it ethically acceptable.
Participants were not afraid or mentally scared from the experiment and wished
to partake in more.
The study provided a hugely valuable insight into human behaviour. Without it, we
may not know in as much detail how far humans will obey, and how dangerous
human beings can be. Because of his research he was awarded a prize for his
outstanding contribution to social psychological research.…read more