Thursday, February 11, 2010

Milgram Experiment

One of my goals that developed for this blog was to spread knowledge. Ignorance is an excuse that we turn to very easily when mistakes happen. I want to present to you, my fellow readers, an interesting experiment that was done in the 1960's by Professor Milgram. He was conducting an experiment on authority. How far would an individual go to obey an authority figure if it went against their personal conscience? As you watch this, it may be easy for you to say, "oh, I'd stop" but shockingly about 60 - 65% continued to do so.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

What does this show? Why is this important? This study has been used to compare to the infamous Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse. Soldiers took their power and the lack of responsibility a little to far when they were asked by the higher ups to get any information possible. Even if it meant they would be doing this to innocent civilians. Of course, another way to look at this would be not when it comes to physically hurting people directly, but indirectly. The Enron scandal comes to mind where people continued to lie about numbers, following the orders from their authority figure because they thought the blame would be shifted to them.

Thank you for reading.

More info at wiki

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous then a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
-Martin Luther King Jr


Megs said...

Wow thats actually kind of scary! Where did you first hear of this experiment? and thanks for sharing it with us :)

Kris said...

I find it extremely interesting that despite the participant's conscience telling them they should stop, they went on with the experiment when the authority figure said to, even if that meant giving that 450 volt shock, which could be deadly, even though, in actuality, there was no victim or "learner".

I honestly do not know how I would react in such a situation. I would honestly like to say I'd stop despite the urging to go on, but I really don't know if I would, because I would feel as if I had to obey the authority figure. It gives me something to think about.

Thanks for posting this!!

White Russian said...

I picked up this book about famous social experiments sometime ago, and then yesterday while I was watching TED it was mentioned. This also compared to Stanfords famous prison experiment which had to be stopped after 6 days because the subjects had emotional breakdowns.

J.Marie said...

I read your blog earlier this morning and I was just about to leave you a link to a website that talks about the Stanford prison experiment... but I see you've read up on it. :) We went over this and Milgram's experiment in a couple of my psychology classes... interesting stuff.

Maria said...

wow..very interesting. We talked about stuff like this in class but its a little different to watch it. Thanks for posting

selfportraitgirl said...

This was incredibly enlightening, but also appalling! Our society today doesn't teach people to think for themselves and to stand up for their principles and morals. I can honestly say that I would NEVER have finished that experiment! I've always been an independent thinker, to the point that some people think I'm just stubborn. Call me what you want, but at least I can say that I listen to my conscience when it speaks to me!

What's really disturbing to me is that the professor didn't even give them a proper reason to continue. He just told them that it was necessary for them to continue, so they did just that. What made them believe that this guy was so trustworthy that they could inflict pain on someone for no reason?

You know what would be really interesting? If someone conducted the same experiment, but using family members or loved ones as the "students". It might be easy to say that most people would refuse to continue the experiment, but after watching this, do you really think they would? Would it make a difference if the professor still insisted that there wouldn't be any long-term damage? I'd like to find out.

Fieryse said...

I remember learning about this back in psychology class and still now, I get shivers running down my spine reading about it.

Would today's results be the same? Most likely, humans haven't changed all that much in the last 40-50 years. But I still hope that maybe one person out of so many would stand up and say "No, I'm not doing this."

White Russian said...

Thanks for the comments everyone...I think as far as family members or loved ones are concerned people would probably stop. I think the stranger helps ease your mind into continuing to shock them.

Now, I am an only child but I have seen enough sibling rivalry where I think a brother might shock his other brother for fun until he he hears his brother crying for help. Then he might stop.

The biggest stun is that people continued to shock after the student went silent. Almost to signify that they went unconscious.

Yes, I think people that for the most part a majority would still obey the authority figure, but I also know that education is key when it comes to this. Educating yourself about what society is capable of, might help make you the right choice in the future.

Other big social experiments is the mob mentality of relying on somewhen else to do something. There was a big case where a woman was raped. No one called the police because they thought someone else was doing it. The scary thing...there was something similar to that recently and it was during the daytime. Some guy was raping a woman in broad daylight while people were driving by in their cars doing nothing. I saw this reported on the news a few weeks ago and can't remember what happened. I just thought the news did a poor job at reporting the story.

JokerQuinn said...

Thanks for sharing. Very insightful.

I think there are a lot of factors as to why some people stopped and most did not. The scientist was saying it was ok, so then these people must have thought it was ok. These people didn't know the learner, therefor it could have been easier to shock them. Perhaps they thought that continuing with the experiment was for the greater good of science. I would really like to sit down, one on one with these people and figure out what they were thinking and why they did it.

Here is a story about a 15 year old girl who was at a homecoming dance. There were as many as 20 people present at the raping. Some of the bystanders even joined in! Some just stood and watched. Interesting article, I hope you read it. I think it kind of plays a part in what you were saying.

selfportraitgirl said...

I would definitely like to think that people would stop the experiment sooner if the student were a family member of theirs, but after learning about this experiment, I'm not so sure. I think it would be interesting to see how people reacted differently. Maybe they could do the experiment first with a stranger and then with a family member? Or maybe they could test different family relations? Would someone react differently if the student were their cousin than someone else whose student is their sibling? I don't know. Maybe not. Maybe most people would stop the experiment early on and regardless of their family relations. This whole experiment just brings up more questions about people's ethics and there are a thousand different ways to look at it.

My mind is branching off into so many directions, but I don't want to get too off topic! This is certainly horrific, though. Question everything, folks, and don't ever let someone talk you into doing something you're not comfortable with!

WatchingStars said...

While watching part 1 and 2, I couldn't help thinking about how many German Nazi's were told to do certain horrific things to the Jews because of the authority over them. Then one of the men in part 3 mentioned it..It's amazing how conditioned we are to respect authority and have fear of certain authority. It's not like this man was holding a gun to their heads saying, "Do it or I'll shoot you" was their choice really. It was disturbing to see the 19 yr old girl laughing when she had to give the shocks. It's like she didn't realize what exactly she was doing. Ignorance maybe? Perhaps, but I think a huge part of it is influence. How much do we influence others and how much do we let others influence us? That is a constant battle we play in our lives every day, in order that we do the "right" thing.
Thanks for sharing, definitely got me thinking!

Kris said...

I, too, am an only child, but I know for a sure that if it were my brother or sister, or any other family member in there, I definitely wouldn't continue. I can't stand the thoughts of others being in pain, and despite some authority figure urging me to go on, I can honestly say I'd stop "torturing" my family member.

I watched a documentary on the torture of the Abu Ghraib prisoners, and it was terribly disturbing. What really struck a chord with me was the fact that the ones doing the torturing didn't seem to care or even think of what the prisoners were going through, unlike the people in this experiment, who did show concern.

This also brings to mind a part in the book "Night" by Elie Wiesel. One of the Germans working in the concentration camp was a younger fellow, and he was the only one who showed any remorse for the torture the Jews were being put through, yet, when the leader came around to watch the beatings and torture of the Jews, this young German participated in it without showing any signs of remorse whatsoever.

J.Marie said...

Just when I thought I was going to be in bed early for once you had to bring up the bystander effect and get my mind going again... All fascinating (and unnerving) topics you have brought up with this entry. My psychology, sociology and criminology courses were some of my favorites during my early college years.

I agree with you on the family/loved one angle. I think it would be a different situation if it involved family and not strangers. My brother and I definitely had the sibling rivalry thing going on fairly bad growing up, but despite all of that I would lose it and become a crazy person if anyone ever tried to hurt him... I'd take the shock myself any day before actually administering one to him.

3kh0 said...

I found it amazing that the people followed the authority even without him having a way to enforce it. He is a scientist not a policeman. Makes you think about the authority figures in your own life and how far you would follow them. Most gave a lethal shock and didn't stop to think about it till it was to late. killing by flicking a switch because he told me to. wow scary and shocking as ppl driving by a rape.

Tiffany Van Goey said...

oh my lanta Serg - shocking - but this reminds me a bit of zeitgeist and zeitgeist addendum... check them out if you haven't seen them....

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard reference to this experiment since I was a child, few believed me when I referenced it without it's proper name. It's interesting to see it repeated, thank you for bringing it to the eyes of many once again.

It did shape my choices in life, I believe the results of this experiment can bring awareness and change.