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Ethics of Milgram and Zimbardo's studies.
Transcript of Ethics of Milgram and Zimbardo's studies.
Right to withdraw from study
Protection from physical or mental harm
Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment (1973)
Zimbardo tried to create his own prison to see if the situation people are in can effect their behavior.
In this experiment Zimbardo broke some of the key ethical guidelines.
The participants did sign a consent form to participate in the study.
However, they were not aware of some aspects of the study. For example being arrested outside their own homes in front of their neighbors and friends. They were also unaware of how realistic the experiment was going to be.
Withdrawal from a Study
Zimbardo would not let some of his participants leave, even when they asked.
He only let the participants leave when they had a mental breakdown.
He had to end the experiment after 6 days, in stead of 2 weeks because of the stress and damage it caused.
Protection from physical or mental harm.
Although Zimbardo set rules to prevent any physical harm on his participants, he didn't protect them from any mental harm.
As a result they suffered greatly, and this led to some participants having mental breakdowns and suffering great levels of stress and anxiety.
Despite the unethical aspects to Zimbardo's study, he did debrief his participants. He debriefed them for days, weeks, and years after the experiment took place to ensure there was no undue stress after the experiment.
The length of the debriefing process gives an indication of how much stress and anxiety the participants suffered.
Milgram wanted to investigate how far people would go to obey an authoritarian figure. In his experiment he asked participants to give an electric shock to a student (an actor) after every question they got wrong. They could not see the participants but they could hear them. These electric shocks weren't real but the participants thought they were. The shocks went from 15 to 450 volts. They were continuously supported by prompts from a man in a lab coat.
Milgram's study of Obedience (1963)
Milgram deceived his participants, he told them the experiment was to test the punishment of learning. They were also deceived to think that the electric shocks were real. This deception caused them considerable stress.
Lack of informed consent
Although the participants in this experiment agreed to take park in the study, they were not fully informed of the nature of the study. This is another unethical aspect of the study. However, the experiment would not have worked if he had given them more detailed information.
Right to withdraw from experiment
Some participants said they were not told that they had the right to leave the experiment at any point if they wished to. Although, Milgram said he informed them of this and said they would be paid regardless. The guy in the lab coat also encouraged the participants to continue when they were considering stopping or questioning the ethics of the experiment. The man would repeat “It is absolutely essential that you continue”.
Protection from mental and physical harm.
No physical harm was conducted on the participants although the stress and anxiety that the participants felt when participating was ethically wrong. They genuinely thought they were putting a man through such extreme pain that he was screaming and then fell silent, potentially causing his death. Even after the experiment, when they were told it was all set up and no harm was done, the participants were still mentally scarred with the thought that they were capable have killed someone when obeying an authority figure.
Justification and evaluation of Zimbardo's experiment
The results of this experiment were extremely surprising to many people and contributes to many theories that have developed since. Before the experiment Milgram asked his psychology students to estimate how many participants would continue to 450 volts. They guessed below 3%. The final results showed it was 65%. This information shocked many as it showed how obedient humans are when given instructions by an authoritative figure. In the present day I don't think we could ever justify an experiment due to the psychological harm done to the participants. However, the information is incredibly valuable in understanding human obedience and conformity.
Justification and evaluation of Milgram's experiment.
The knowledge we gained from this study justified the means
Overall, I think the knowledge that we gained on situational behavior from this experiment overrules the ethical guidelines that were broken. The fact that this is one of the most important or well known studies of the 20th century, demonstrates its importance within the field of social psychology. Despite, the truly awful days that the participants had to go through in this experiment, most of them say that they don't wish they hadn't taken part in it.