Stanley Milgram's Ethically Controversial Experiments

1006 Words 5 Pages
In 1963, there was one of the most ethically controversial experiments ever conducted. The reasoning behind it? The actions of Nazi Soldiers during World War 2. At its helm was Stanley Milgram, a Harvard Graduate, who had the intelligence and foresight to create an experiment that would, with minimal bias, put to the test the compliance of human nature. His experiment would prove the true “nature of obedience.” (Milgram, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View, 1974)

Milgram began the testing process by reaching out into the community via newspaper ads and direct mail to try to get as large a pool as possible. In the end he had amassed 40 viable candidates for the experiment. The men ranged from ages 20 to 50, and all lived
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In an attempt to see if German people were excessively obedient or if it was just an innate part of humanity, Milgram set up an experiment to see if ordinary individuals would carry out orders at the expense of others (McLeod, 2007). Roles
The experiment involved three people: the authority, teacher, and learner. The authority was an actor running the experiment who instructs the teacher and learner gives orders to the teacher if they try to stop the test. The teacher and learner were the ones being experimented on. The test was made to seem like there two test subjects, but one was really an actor. Unaware of this, the real test subject would draw lots with the actor to determine who got the role of learner and who got the role of teacher. The draw was rigged so that the test subject always got the role of the teacher (McLeod, 2007).
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The first was that Germans (such as those in the Nuremberg trials) weren’t different from the average person around him. 65% of the people in his study did exactly what the controversial Germans had done during World War Two. The people who perpetrated the genocide argued that they simply followed the orders of a higher authority and as they were just following orders, they can’t be held responsible for their own actions. While the courts disagreed with that statement, Milgram did not. Without a doubt, Milgram’s Experiment showed the true nature of human obedience in the same way that every genocide, murder, or even a simple mishap had for the last 1,900 years. Most ordinary humans would have followed the orders to turn on the gas chamber, pull the trigger, or steal from the corner store “irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience.” (Milgram, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View,

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