Aim and Context
Milgrims study stemmed from the nazi atrocities during WW2, where Hitler relied on the co-operation of millions to carry out his plan to create the perfect race and be rid of all the jews. Adolf Eichmann was the man who came up with the final solution a plan to exterminate all undesirables. Arendt who wrote about the trial of Adolf Eichmann described the man as dull, uninspired and saw himself as a cog in the machine.She claimed it may have been of more comfort if he appeared to be a monster but instead he was like most nazis just ordinary people following orders. Another example of obeying authority is the Mai Lai Massacre in which American soldiers opened fire and killed innocent, helpless men, women and children in a small village on vietnam because they had been ordered to do so.
Milgrim originally wanted to test the hypothesis "Germans are different" that they have a personalility trait that makes them obey to orders without question. However, after the pilot test in american this proved the hypothesis wrong and the study in Germany was unnecessary. Milgrim on these new findings decided to investigate if ordinary people will obey authority even when asked to injure another person and also answer questions such as who puts obedience before human life? would we have acted the same way? and could these people be me and you?
40 American male volunteers who replied to an advertisment in a newspaper, participants were ages between 20-50. The experiment took part at Yale university and all participants were paid just for turning up. The experimenter was a stern looking man who informed the participant that they would be taking part in a memory and learning experiment, because little was known about punishment and learning. The victim was played by a 47 year old likeable man who introduced himself as Mr.Wallace. Participants drew slips of paper to determine who would be the learner and whom the teacher, it was fixed so the participant was always the teacher and Mr.Wallace the learner. The learner was strapped to a chair and paste was applied to prevent burns. The experimenter states electric shocks are painful but wont cause any tissue damage at this point the learner says that he has a heart condition but not too serious. The participant is given a test shock of 45V in order to see how it feels, this is the only shock given in the experiment. The teacher is told to read out series of word pairs and then 4…