The Stanley Milgrim Study Essay

1002 words - 4 pages

From the day we are born, we are taught to obey figures of authority. When we are young our parents tell us what we can and cannot do. When we begin school, our teachers also demand that we obey; requiring that we raise our hand to speak, walk in a single file line, and hand in our homework on time. Once we become adults, we are obedient to our employer, the law, our doctor, and sometimes maybe even our spouse. Normally, these people are highly regarded and well respected. Unfortunately, there are situations when authority takes their position too far. It seems that even if people know what they are being asked to do is wrong, they will continue to do it anyways because of the power held behind those orders.In 1974, Stanley Milgram conducted a study that proved how well people obey authority figures. The experiment involved a "teacher" and a "learner". The learner was placed in one room, hooked up to electrodes, and asked to answer questions administered by the "teacher". The "teacher", in the other room was told to give an electric shock to the "learner" every time he answered incorrectly. In addition to the shock, the "teacher" was to increase the shock 15 volts every time the learner responded incorrectly. The voltage levels ranged from 15 to 450 volts. The "teacher" was informed that the shocks would hurt, but would not cause any damage to the "learner" (Psychology: Obedience).As the voltage increased with each shock, the "teacher" could hear the "learner" cry out in pain. At 300 volts, most of the "teachers" would question the nature of the experiment, and then were reassured by the experimenter and told to go on. As the voltage of the shocks increased, the "learner" would pound on the wall and continue to cry out. Even though many "teachers" struggled to give the shock; some sweating, becoming agitated, or trembling, most administered the shock up to the 450-volt level (Social Influence: Obedience to Authority).Fortunately, no real shocks were given in this experiment. The "learner" was pretending to be shocked (Psychology: Obedience). The only true shock of this experiment was the morality of the "teacher". In all of the situations, the "teacher" was a normal person. In one situation, the "teacher" was a devout catholic, who hesitated to give the shock, but once she was told to go on by the experimenter, she continued to the 450-volt shock (Psychology: Obedience). Amazingly, sixty five percent of the "teachers" went all the way to the 450 volts (Social Influence: Obedience to Authority).So does this experiment conclude that a large majority of our population is unethical; absolutely not. It proves that people tend to respect and comply with the demands of authority figures. In many cases, that respect has been abused in such situations of the holocaust. Not every Nazi soldier agreed with Hitler and happily exterminated millions of Jewish people. Not every person who is told to lie by a respected individual...

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