Milgram Obedience Experiment

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Perhaps the most widely discussed example of dishonesty in research design are the Milgram obedience studies conducted between 1960 and 1964. Stanely Milgram, wanted to know if "following orders" was a genuine explanation and justification for actions that individuals would not ordinarily perform independently. Milgram couldn't reconstruct the situations of World War II, but he thought he could invent an analogue for examining whether people will follow orders under the presence of authority. He recruited several participants for a study that was allegedly on the effects of punishment on learning. When participants arrived, they were "randomly" assigned the role of "teacher" and another participant was assigned the role of "pupil." The task…show more content…
Whenever the pupil answered incorrectly, the teacher was instructed to throw one of the switches, starting at the lowest voltage and progressing to the higher voltages. The pupil, of course, was not actually receiving shocks, but he would act out preplanned mistakes and feign pain upon receiving the "shocks." About midway through the series of switches, the "pupil" would complain loudly that he wanted to stop, kick the wall, and scream. At the highest levels of shock the pupil would remain silent. All the while, the experimenter, wearing a white lab coat and carrying a clipboard, would instruct the teacher to continue with the "learning experiment." No answer was to be considered a wrong answer, and objections raised by the teacher/participant were answered with continued prompts to continue the experiment. Once the teacher reached the highest voltage switch or refused to go on after repeated prompts by the experimenter, the experiment was ended. At the end of the experiment, the teacher/participants were told the real purpose behind the experiment, that the voltage switches were not connected, and that the "pupil" was unharmed, never having received any…show more content…
In 1964 he was awarded the American Association for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS) prize for research, and his work was seminal for psychological studies about obedience to authority. However, his experiments were also highly criticized for being unethical. Diana Baumrind was one of the first to argue that Milgram's experiment did not provide adequate measures to protect participants from the stress and realization that they were capable of brutal actions; that the entire experiment should have been terminated at the first indication of discomfort in the participants; and that because of the intensity of the experience, participants would be alienated from future participation in psychological research. Others, such as H. C. Kelman, argued that the use of deception in these experiment were not necessary because other, non-deceptive methods could have obtained similar results. Milgram defended his work, arguing that adequate measures were indeed taken to protect participants; participants could withdraw from the study at any time; and that the deception was explained at the conclusion of the experiment. He argued that deception was necessary as evidenced by the mistaken predictions of the results. Furthermore, Milgram maintained there were no indications that the stress undertaken by participants had any lasting or injurious effects. In fact, in follow-up questionnaires and interviews, several months and a year after the

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