Stanley Milgram's Explanations For Obedience

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In 1963, a psychologist at Yale, Stanley Milgram, performed a study on the obedience of humans. The purpose of the study was to research “how easily ordinary people can be influenced into committing atrocities” (McLeod). The main research question was “for how long will someone continue to give shocks to another person if they are told to do so, even if they thought they could be seriously hurt” (“Milgram Experiment”). To study this, “40 males, aged between 20 and 50, whose jobs ranged from unskilled to professional, from the New Haven area” were selected to participate in a study they were told was on “memory and learning” (McLeod). Milgram’s confederate and each participant drew straws to determine who was the “learner” or “teacher.” It was always fixed so that the confederate was the learner. Another actor was also there who pretended to be an experimenter. The learner was told to memorize words in pairs and the teacher was told to shock the patient with increasingly dangerous voltages each time the word pair was repeated incorrectly, which was often because the confederate purposefully failed the tests. As the voltages increased, the prerecorded responses of the confederate became more and more distressed. In response, the …show more content…
In the article, it is said that Milgram believed people are in an autonomous state (where they take responsibility for their own actions) until they go through the agentic shift and enter an agentic state (where they pass responsibility to a superior) (“Explanations”). In the study, when participants asked “who was responsible if anything would happen to the learner” the experimenter would answer that he was responsible (“Milgram Experiment”). Having that scapegoat allowed the participants to enter the agentic state and blame the researchers rather than

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