Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Stanley Milgram's Experiment 18

Virtually anyone who has taken an undergraduate course is familiar with Stanley Milgrams' Experiment 18, the experiment that asked students to administer increasingly painful and dangerous shocks to fellow students while an authority figure stood by and increasingly insisted they do so even while observing the test subject in visible, possibly dangerous levels of pain. 

In the experiment, 26 of the 40 participants administered the highest level of shock to the subject, 450 volts, even though many showed sign they no longer wanted to comply. But they did. And they didn't know the test subject, the confederate, was an actor simulating the affect of a 450 volt shock. All they knew was they were being told to press a button to deliver a dangerous shock to another human being. 

The results were shocking. It stood social psychology on its ear. Many academics wanted to disprove the results of the experiment or tear down its methodology, but in the end they had to accept the results. 

People obey. It's what they do. It's what you do.

There's no point feeling badly about it. You're probably just not interesting or special. Few are. Don't beat yourself up over it. Just press the button. Pin It

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