Milgram's electric shocks

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  • Created on: 25-11-14 09:51
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Stanley Milgram
Milgram began his work as a psychologist after receiving a PhD in social psychology from
Harvard. During his graduate studies he worked with psychologist Solomon Asch as a
research assistant for a year. Milgram was inspired by Asch's conformity experiment and
went on to perform a similar experiment:
To investigate what level of obedience would be shown when participants were told by an
authority figure to administer electric shocks to another person.
Milgram recruited 40 men aged between 20 and 50 using a newspaper advert each
participant was paid $4.40 for their involvement.
He developed a shock machine, generating shocks starting at 30 volts to 450 volts, with
switches labelled `slight shock', `moderate shock' and `danger: severe shock'.
Each participant was given the role of a `teacher' who would question a `student' and
deliver a shock to the `student' after every incorrect answer. The `student' was working
with the experimenter and simply pretended to be shocked.
As the experiment continued the `student' began to complain about a heart condition and
pleaded to be released. The `student' banged on the wall after 300 volts and beyond this
became silent and refused to answer any more questions.
The participant was told to treat the silence as an incorrect
Most participants asked whether they should continue to
which the experiment prompted the participant to continue
with phrases such as:
1. "Please continue."
2. "The experiment requires that you continue."
3. "It is absolutely essential that you continue."
4. "You have no other choice, you must go on."
The level of shock that the participant was willing to deliver was used as a measure of
obedience. Milgram asked a group of Yale University students how far they thought the
participants were willing to go. They predicted that no more than 3 out of 100 would deliver
the maximum shock. However 65% of the participants delivered the maximum shock in the
Of the 40 participants in the study, 26 delivered the maximum shocks while 14 stopped
before reaching the highest levels. Many of the participants did however become angry at
the experimenter but continued to follow orders.

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The participants were all debriefed at the end of the study due to concerns about anxiety.…read more


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