One of the most famous studies of obedience in psychology was carried out by Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University. He conducted an experiment focusing on the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience. Their defense often was based on " obedience " - that they were just following orders from their superiours. The experiments began in July , a year after the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Milgram devised the experiment to answer the question:. Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders?
|Published (Last):||4 December 2018|
|PDF File Size:||20.53 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||15.7 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
If an authority figure ordered you to deliver a volt electrical shock to another person, would you follow orders? Most people would answer with an adamant "no. During the s, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of obedience experiments that led to some surprising results.
These results offer a compelling and disturbing look at the power of authority and obedience. More recent investigations cast doubt on some of the implications of Milgram's findings and even question the results and procedures themselves. Despite its problems, the study has, without question, significantly impacted psychology. Milgram started his experiments in , shortly after the trial of the World War II criminal Adolph Eichmann had begun.
In his book " Obedience to Authority ," Milgram posed the question, "Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices? The participants in the most famous variation of the Milgram experiment were 40 men recruited using newspaper ads.
Milgram developed an intimidating shock generator, with shock levels starting at 30 volts and increasing in volt increments all the way up to volts. The many switches were labeled with terms including "slight shock," "moderate shock" and "danger: severe shock. Each participant took the role of a "teacher" who would then deliver a shock to the "student" whenever an incorrect answer was given. As the experiment progressed, the participant would hear the learner plead to be released or even complain about a heart condition.
Once they reached the volt level, the learner would bang on the wall and demand to be released. Beyond this point, the learner became completely silent and refused to answer any more questions. The experimenter then instructed the participant to treat this silence as an incorrect response and deliver a further shock.
Most participants asked the experimenter whether they should continue. The experimenter issued a series of commands to prod the participant along:. The measure of obedience was the level of shock that the participant was willing to deliver. How far do you think most participants were willing to go? When Milgram posed this question to a group of Yale University students, it was predicted that no more than 3 out of participants would deliver the maximum shock.
Of the 40 participants in the study, 26 delivered the maximum shocks while 14 stopped before reaching the highest levels. It is important to note that many of the subjects became extremely agitated, distraught, and angry at the experimenter, but they continued to follow orders all the way to the end. Due to concerns about the amount of anxiety experienced by many of the participants, everyone was debriefed at the end of the experiment.
The researchers explained the procedures and the use of deception. However, many critics of the study have argued that many of the participants were still confused about the exact nature of the experiment.
Milgram later surveyed the participants and found that 84 percent were glad to have participated while only 1 percent regretted their involvement. Why did so many of the participants in this experiment perform a seemingly sadistic act when instructed by an authority figure? According to Milgram, there are some situational factors that can explain such high levels of obedience:. Later experiments conducted by Milgram indicated that the presence of rebellious peers dramatically reduced obedience levels.
When other people refused to go along with the experimenter's orders, 36 out of 40 participants refused to deliver the maximum shocks.
Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority," Milgram explained in "Obedience to Authority.
The research suggests that situational variables have a stronger sway than personality factors in determining obedience. However, other psychologists argue that both external and internal factors heavily influence obedience, such as personal beliefs and overall temperament. In , researchers conducted a study designed to replicate Milgram's classic obedience experiment. Yet because Milgram's procedures are clearly out-of-bounds by today's ethical standards, many questions about the research have gone unanswered.
Chief among these is one that inevitably surfaces when I present Milgram's findings to students: Would people still act that way today? Burger made several alterations to Milgram's experiment. The results of the new experiment revealed that participants obeyed at the same rate that they did when Milgram conducted his original study more than 40 years ago. The January issue of American Psychologist also contained discussion from other psychologists about the possible comparisons between Milgram's experiment and Burger's study.
According to Arthur G. Miller, Ph. However, Alan C. Elms, Ph. Elms pointed out that while "direct comparisons of absolute levels of obedience cannot be made between the volt maximum of Burger's research design and Milgram's volt maximum, Burger's "obedience lite" procedures can be used to explore further some of the situational variables studied by Milgram as well as to look at additional variables," such as situational and personality differences.
Psychologist Gina Perry suggests that much of what we think we know about Milgram's famous experiments is only part of the story. While researching an article on the topic, she stumbled across hundreds of audiotapes found in Yale archives that documented numerous variations of Milgram's shock experiments.
While Milgram's reports of his process report methodical and uniform procedures, the audiotapes reveal something different.
During the experimental sessions, the experimenters often went off-script and coerced the subjects into continuing the shocks. Milgram's experiments have long been the source of considerable criticism and controversy. From the get-go, the ethics of his experiments were highly dubious. Participants were subjected to significant psychological and emotional distress. Milgram suggested that the subjects were "de-hoaxed" after the experiments.
However, Perry's findings revealed that of the or so people who took part in different variations of his studies between and , very few were truly debriefed. A true debriefing would have involved explaining that the shocks weren't real and that the other person was not injured.
Instead, Milgram's sessions were mainly focused on calming the subjects down before sending them on their way. Many left in a state of considerable distress. While the truth was revealed to some months or even years later, many were simply never told a thing.
Another problem is that the version of the study presented by Milgram and the one that's most often retold does not tell the whole story. The statistic that 65 percent of people obeyed orders applied only to one variation of the experiment, in which 26 out of 40 subjects obeyed.
In other variations, far fewer people were willing to follow the experimenters' orders and in some versions of the study, not a single participant obeyed. Perry even tracked down some of the people who took part in the experiments as well as Milgram's research assistants. What she discovered is that many of his subjects had deduced what Milgram's intent was and knew that the "learner" was merely pretending.
Such findings cast Milgram's results in a new light. It suggests that not only did Milgram intentionally engage in some hefty misdirection to obtain the results he wanted but that many of his participants were simply playing along. Perry later explained to NPR that retracing the steps of Milgram's research upended her attitudes and beliefs about one of the most famous and controversial figures in psychology.
More recent work by researchers suggests that while people do tend to obey authority figures, the process is not necessarily as cut-and-dry as Milgram depicted it. In a essay published in PLoS Biology , psychologists Alex Haslam and Stephen Reicher suggested the degree to which people are willing to obey the questionable orders of an authority figure depends largely on two key factors:. While it is clear that people are often far more susceptible to influence , persuasion , and obedience than they would often like to be, they are far from mindless machines just taking orders.
So why does Milgram's experiment maintain such a powerful hold on our imaginations, even decades after the fact? Perry believes that despite all its ethical issues and the problem of never truly being able to replicate Milgram's procedures, the study has taken on the role of what she calls a "powerful parable. Milgram's work might not hold the answers to what makes people obey or even the degree to which they truly obey.
It has, however, inspired other researchers to explore what makes people follow orders and, perhaps more importantly, what leads them to question authority. Ever wonder what your personality type means? Sign up to find out more in our Healthy Mind newsletter.
More in Psychology. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Sign Up. What are your concerns? Article Sources. Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles.
Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. All Things Considered. National Public Radio. August 28, Burger J. American Psychologist, ;64 1 Elms AC. Obedience lite. American Psychologist. PLoS Biology. Miller AG. Perry G. Discover Magazine.
Related Articles. Obedience Research and Meaning in Psychology. Controversial and Unethical Psychological Experiments for Reasearch.
Un punt de vista experimental. El participant voluntari agafa el seu i veu que diu "mestre". Si el "mestre" expressava a l'investigador el seu desig de no continuar, aquest li indicava imperativament i segons el grau:. L'experiment consistia a mostrar-los la sortida als ratolins, dins d'una caixa de parets electrificades. El primer que es va preguntar el desconcertat equip de Milgram va ser com era possible que s'haguessin obtingut aquests resultats. D'altra banda eren plenament conscients del dolor que havien estat infligint, ja que en preguntar-los quin patiment havia experimentat l'alumne la mitjana va ser de 13 en una escala de Tanmateix, no tots els participants van experimentar aquest canvi en la seva vida.
Milgram's Experiments and the Perils of Obedience
If an authority figure ordered you to deliver a volt electrical shock to another person, would you follow orders? Most people would answer with an adamant "no. During the s, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of obedience experiments that led to some surprising results. These results offer a compelling and disturbing look at the power of authority and obedience. More recent investigations cast doubt on some of the implications of Milgram's findings and even question the results and procedures themselves.
The Milgram Shock Experiment