In Stanley Milgram’s article “The Perils of Obedience” the author finds that adults have the capability and willingness to go to extreme ends, even inflicting pain on others, to follow orders and show obedience. Through the author’s extensive experiments he has found time and time again that average, ordinary people will inflict pain on other human beings when ordered to do so by a person in authority. Dr. Milgram says that obedience is rooted deep into the human psyche and can be a more powerful force on a person’s actions than their learned behaviors of “ethics, sympathy, and moral conduct” (693).
Milgram’s experiments consisted of an “experimenter” that was overseeing the process, a “teacher” and a “learner”. The subjects were informed by the experimenter that they were involved in a study on “the effects of punishment on learning” (693). Both the experimenter and learner were informed that wrong answers would result in an electric shock of increasing voltage that would be inflicted by the teacher. What the teacher was not informed of was that the learner was an actor, there was no electric shock, and the teacher, not the learner, was the real subject of the study.
The purpose of the experiment is to see exactly how much pain someone is willing to inflict on another person in a controlled environment when ordered to do so. The author points out that when the learner begins to show signs of discomfort, the teacher begins to have conflicting feelings about proceeding. The study also shows that the more pain that is inflicted, the more difficult it is for the teacher to continue with the experiment. Each time the teacher wants to stop, the “experimenter” overseeing the process orders the teacher to continue.
The lone dissenter in the group of teachers, Gretchen Brandt, asks on several occasions, “Shall I continue?” before finally objecting at 210 volts. At this point in the experiment, Brandt’s concern for the learner’s health and notion of free will is...