To investigate obedience in a real life situation (job interviews) where people had the time to think about the situation and their actions.
24 Dutch participants were asked to interview applicants for a job. They did not know that the applicants were confederates. Holland had a high unemployment rate at the time of this exxperiment, so failing the interview would have been disasterous to the applicants.
During the interview, participants had to make 15 stress remarks such as 'If you continue like this you'll fail the test', or 'This job is too difficult for you. You are more suited to lower functions'.
The participants were told that the job required people who could handle stress, so the remarks were necessary. The remarks increased in severity. Participants were instructed to make all of the remarks, no matter how much the applicants complained. If they halted, they were prodded by the experimenter.
At the start of the interview applicants appeared confident and at ease. They became increasingly distressed as the interview went on. They complained that the remarks were ruining their chance of getting a job and got very angry. By the end of the interview they were in a state of dispair.
Despite stating that they thought the interview unfair and humiliating to the applicants, 22 out of 24 of the participants made all of the remarks.
This experiment shows that obedience studies are applicable to real life situations. In a further study (where participants were given 1 weeks notice of the interview with full details of what they were expected to do) still 22 out of 24 of the participants made all of the stress remarks. This indicates that having time to consider their actions did not have any bearing on the obedience rate.
The study was only relevent to Holland at that time. It was unethical because they could have been psychologically harmed by giving the remarks.