I am writing to you regarding your research into obedience. After carefully analysing your study, I have concluded that, while it is very interesting to read, your case has many ethical and theoretical flaws. Primarily, you deceived your participants by using confederates that were thought to have been given real shocks when, in fact, they were not. This clearly is not a good way to start an experiment. You also revoked their right to withdraw, often saying things that would make them feel intimidated, such as, ‘You have no choice, you must go on.
’ The participants should have been able to say comfortably that they did not want to continue. I read your statement on the topic of the participants’ protection, where you claimed that you had no way of knowing how much stress the study would cause. However, I would have to disagree. As a psychologist, I would have thought it instantaneous for you to consider the psychological effect the study would have on your volunteers. Honestly, I just cannot see how you could not predict these reactions (if you need me to refresh your memory – anxiety, horror, disgust, trauma).
It is not irrational to feel horrified that you had ‘administered’ a fatal dose of shocks several times, and then ashamed when you were told that it wasn’t real, or disgust at the fact that you are capable of killing someone in the first place. Could you not have created a scenario in your head in order to see a potential outcome? Your study lacked ecological validity, as nobody would actually be put in that situation in real life.
It is also possible the volunteers acted the way they did because it was an experiment, and so they presumed it was not real, and they would not actually do that in real life. Finally, you only used male participants, therefore the study lacked representativeness, as it is possible that women would have been more unsettled by the shocks and would have dissented both verbally and physically, so you cannot generalise the findings. I hope you take these criticisms into consideration the next time you decide to carry out an experiment.