Ethics and Milgram's Experiment

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An experiment conducted in 1963 sent shockwaves though the academic community and beyond. Through alarming methods, researcher Stanley Milgram had made advances on the topic of obedience. He was pursuing the idea that a whole nation could fall under the authority and spell of one person, leading to the extermination of another race. He wanted to establish that the blind, sickening obedience during the Holocaust was not just a freak happening, but rather a common phenomenon (Milgram, 1963). The experiments began three months after the start of the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Milgram devised the experiments to answer this question: "Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices (Milgram, 1963)?" A poll conducted at Yale before the experiment showed that it was generally believed that people would act according to their own will and conscience when it came to being told to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality (Milgram, 1963). Milgram hypothesized that relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority- or just someone in a white coat, a symbol of authority. The results of the experiment showed that in Milgram's first set of experiments, 65 percent (26 of 40) of experiment participants administered the experiment's final 450-volt shock, though many were very uncomfortable doing so; at some point, every participant paused and questioned the experiment, some said they would refund the money they were paid for participating in the experiment. No participant steadfastly refused to administer shocks before the 300-volt level (Milgram, 1963). This experiment not only shocked the world, but scared some as well. It also raised questions about the ethicality of inflicting guilt and emotional pain on those who
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