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Obey at any cost?

Conducted by Stanley Milgram
by

Robert Stucker

on 1 November 2012

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Transcript of Obey at any cost?

Stanley Milgram Obey at any cost? Hypothesis Stanley Milgram began to investigate the concept of obedience to authority and produced some disturbing new findings. Upon doing this he came up with this hypothesis:

People, in general, have a tendency to obey authority figures, even if the action they are being told to perform is morally reprehensible. Methodology Milgram designed a shock generator: an electric device with 30 toggle switches labeled with voltage levels starting at 30 volts and increasing by 15 volt intervals up to 450 volts. These switches were labeled in groups such as slight shock, moderate shock, and danger:severe shock. The main idea was that a participant could be ordered to administer electric shocks at increasing levels to another person. Participants The participants of this study were 40 males between the ages of 20 and 50. They consisted of 15 skilled or unskilled workers, 16 white-collar sales or businessmen, and 9 professional men. These participants were recruited through newspaper ads and direct mail solicitation asking for volunteers to be paid participants in a study concerning memory. Each man was paid $4.50 (1963). There were two other key participants in the study: a confederate (a 47 year old accountant) posing as another participant and an actor (dressed in a grey lab coat, looking official) playing the part of the experimenter. Procedure As participants arrived at the social interaction, each was seated next to another "participant" (the confederate). The experimenter told each participant a cover story explaining that this was a study on the effect of "punishment on learning." The participants then drew pieces of paper out of a hat to determine who would be the teacher and who would be the learner. This drawing was rigged so that the true participant always became the teacher and the accomplice was always the learner. Remember, the "learner" was a confederate in the experiment, as was the person playing the experimenter. The learner was then taken into the room next door and was, with participant watching, strapped to a chair and wired up with electrodes connected to the shock generator in the adjoining room. The learner was able to reach buttons that read a,b,c, or d in order to answer the questions being asked. "The Learning Task" The learning task was thoroughly explained to the teacher and the learner. It involved the learner memorizing connections between various pairs of words. It was a lengthy list and not an easy memory task. The teacher-participant would read the list of word pairs and then test the learner's memory of them. The teacher was instructed by the experimenter to administer an electric shock each time the learner responded incorrectly. Most important for each incorrect response, the teacher was instructed to move up one level of shock voltage on the generator. A measure of obedience was obtained simply by recording the level of shock at which each participant refused to continue to deliver shocks. Results There were 30 switches on the generator, so each participant could receive a score of 0 to 30. Participants who went all the way to the top of scale were referred to as obdient subjects, and those who broke off at any lower point were termed defiant subjects. Results Yale psychology majors were asked for predictions, these predictions averaged at about 1.2%.

In reality each of the participants continued shocking up to at least the 300 volt switch. 65% of the participants maxed out the volts even when the "learner" banged on the wall and begged for it to stop. Significance In the end, the findings perfectly matched Milgram's hypothesis. The participants reaction to authority was surprising in it's strength.Milgram also found that the result are nearly the same in female participants.

Milgram continued his research to find the limiting factors of authority, some of these were: distance from authority and the ability to see or hear the results of the participants actions. Criticisms The book references the ethical dilemma of the experiment, citing the high levels of stress and negative long-term effects.

We found that the participants of the study were not randomly selected or allocated. The participants were recruited through newspaper ads and direct mailing solicitation.
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