Milgram Essay on "The Perils of Obedience"

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Obedience is a fundamental instinct. In Stanley Milgram’s essay, “The Perils of Obedience,” he shows his readers that adults will basically do anything they are told to and he tries to figure out why this is. In order for his experiment to be successful, the subject has to be placed in a situation where their values are in conflict with each other. The experiment has three main people in it, the “learner,” who is an actor, the “teacher,” and the instructor (106). The instructor tells the teacher that this is a memory test and if the learner misses a question then the learner will be shocked with voltages varying from 15 volts to 450 volts. The only way for the teacher to quit the experiment is to refuse to obey the instructor. The first subject does just this, as expected, and refuses to continue the experiment. Milgram asked various people for their predictions about the experiment. They predicted that the teachers would stop, not going past 150volts, while only one in a thousand would actually go to 450 volts. They were proved wrong because 60% of the teachers went to 450 volts. This experiment was duplicated in other countries and their results were even higher. Some of the subjects refused to continue, yet would do so anyway. Others did not feel that they even had the choice to stop, when in reality there were no incentives and neither were they threatened to stay. Some tried to explain these reactions by saying that all people have violent and aggressive desires. But, this theory was proved wrong by simply allowing the teacher to choose the voltage of the shock to the learner. Thirty-eight out of forty stopped at the first sign of pain. Milgram discusses this experiment and explains these results as, “Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs…” (113). This shows us that it does not take an evil person to get caught up in the wrong group of

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