This simple experiment demonstrates how people behave in concrete situations. It tested how much pain an ordinary citizen could inflict on another person simply because he was commanded by authority. Stanley Milgram experiment was conducted to shed light on how the Nazi used the apparatus of Germany to exterminate Jews and other nationalities who were considered undesirable by the Nazis in Europe during the war. Social psychologists believe that at that time the only fringe segment of society is capable of extremely moral irresponsible behavior.
Milgram disproved this assumption when he showed that ordinary people are also capable of committing violence. People obeyed the authorities even as it conflicts with internal personal beliefs. This paper looks at the ethical aspects and the contributory areas which the study helped especially in the field of psychology.The ExperimentThe “teachers” in the experiment served as subjects and were recruited by Milgram through the newspaper ad. He offered $4.50 for one hour’s work. The “teachers” were then told that they were to take part in a psychology experiment investigating memory and learning.
They were introduced to two experiment collaborators, the stern-looking experimenter, and the friendly co-subject who was an actor here. The co-subject and the “teacher” draw lots in a rigged manner that results in the “teacher” assuming the role of the real subject. To reinforce the authenticity of the experiment, the “teacher,” and “learner” were given a sample shock of 45 volts from the chair in which the “learner” will be strapped. The “teachers” were then told that the purpose of the experiment is to explore the effects of punishment for incorrect responses on learning behavior.
The “teacher” was told to use a shock generator capable of producing a 15 to 450 volt shock with a 15-volt increment for wrong response. After the experiment, they were given the real debriefing of the experiment. Most subjects were shocked to discover that they were capable of such a deed and some even developed psychological problems. The results revealed that of the 40 subjects (“teachers”) in Milgram’s experiment, 68 percent delivered the full 450-volt capacity. Of the 40 subjects, 15 performed the task with nervous laughter.Implications of the Results of the StudyThe results of the study revealed that: 1) The person who is in authority is significant because the subjects were under his command to perform as tasked. 2) There was a gradual commitment that was observed which resulted in seemingly insignificant increase in commitment building. 3) The experiment had to be done as objective as possible because the prestige of Yale was on the line. 4) The delegation of authority shifted some of the moral weight of the experiment from the subject to the “experimenter.”Experts questioned this because they say that experiments require the experimenter to seek informed consent so that subjects will know what they will be doing before they do it. Furthermore, as the experiment was conducted in other countries, the experiment was incorporated in the US military training as a required psychology course as part of command training. The experiment had a questionable ethical structure.
Yet it contributes to psychology and the study of the behavior of man. This is in relation to the amount of regulation or supervision that parents undertake with their children. Controlling/demanding parents place limits on their children’s freedom of expression by imposing many demands and actively surveying their children’s behavior to ensure that these rules and regulations are followed. Uncontrolling/ undemanding parents are much less restrictive; they make fewer demands and allow children considerable freedom to pursue their interests and to make decisions about their own activities. This experiment points to the authoritarian parenting which is a very restrictive pattern of parenting in which adults impose many rules, expect strict obedience, rarely if ever explain to the child why it is necessary to comply with all these regulations, and often rely on punitive, forceful tactics (that is, power assertion or love withdrawal) to gain compliance. Authoritarian parents are not sensitive to a child’s conflicting viewpoints, expecting instead for the child to accept their word as law and to respect their authority.Putting this in the context of the Milgram experiment, we find that anything that is forced upon an individual and curtails his freedom is unethical and is not the best way to effect a change.Even in the military, war is a socially sanctioned and approved form of violence. The military services of many nations, including ours, drill young men over and over until they perform the act of killing automatically and choicelessly when a certain signal comes. When the war is over, nothing is done to extinguish this conditioned readiness to kill so that, under stress, the ex-soldier may turn it even toward his own countrymen.
He also often lives with a lifetime of prejudice toward people he learned were “the enemy.”The experiment leads us to the ethics of it and sends the message that man is indeed capable of violence when forced to do it. Violence has long been a part of our human tradition. An innate tendency toward acting violently exists in every one of us. Where we get into trouble is through the many ways our culture approves of the vicious expression of violence. By vicious, I mean destructive, non-problem-solving reactions that ultimately lead to further violence in a self-perpetuating way. We have too often tried to solve complex, frustrating problems with oversimplified response of the gun or the A-bomb.Other Ramifications on the issueThe issue of the quest for knowledge and the respect for people definitely can be made more distinctive in experiments such as these. The initiators need to spell out the boundaries in conceiving of an experiment. The Milgram experiment shows to all how the psychology of man and how his mind works. In a way, I have to realize as I ponder on the ramifications of the experiment that the essence of much of our violence, is this: We project the cause of our own unhappiness and dissatisfaction outward onto others, and try to attack it and eradicate it there.ConclusionsOur violence is a symptom of a deeper psychological disturbance within us. It goes back to fear and pain and punishment. In my psycho-logic, I equate my “enemies” with those who punished and injured me when I was a child, with those who had little love for me, and with those who create conditions that make it easy for my life to be empty and loveless and unsatisfying now. In the end, Milgram states it succinctly, “For a man to feel responsible for his actions, he must sense that the behavior has flowed from the self.” It is only then that true change happens.;