Stanley Milgram's Research on Human Obedience

From many points of views, obedience is exactly the opposite of the dominance. Social influence is often criticized by the psychologists as being a negative effect in the society and is described as processes of which an individual’s attitudes, beliefs or behaviour are modified by the presence or action of others.  Although, general claims that motivated reasoning can distort scientific thinking have long been recognized, the focus of the article is the obedient behaviour and social influence on politics.

The human character has indulgence starts when conforming to the social norms. People can follow orders rather than interior empathy they give more attention to authority rather than human race. Following the 2nd world war, The Holocaust in 1941, when 6 million people died because of one single set up mind of Hitler who could not have killed them all but ordered to the German people to execute. In Milgram’s study the obedience, is principal and he tried to answer the question: are Germans different? The results showed that we are all surprisingly obedient to people in authority. It is reliable that to obey authority, the obeying person must accept that is rightful for the command to be made of them.

According to obedience is the psychological mechanism that links individual action to political purpose who has the authority effect. The Milgram’s research confirms this statement in 1963 when he conducted the obedience study. He was inspired to clarify the cultural difference of German and American people using the history background of his fellows who suffered and died in the 2nd world war in the death camps. Stanley Milgram wanted to test the hypothesis and observe the social instance in what the ordinary people would behave the same when facing an authority figure. The authority effect is the variable that is tested in ordinary people, to demonstrate that cultural difference is vague evidence for Germans.

Milgram conducted a laboratory experiment and the subjects were selected from volunteers who had responded to a newspaper article, the sample was self-selecting. The famous laboratory experiment was carried out at Yale University in 1961. The sample was made of 40 males between 20-50 years old, occupation range from not finish elementary school to doctorate. The sample were let to know that they take part of a memory project, a theory that says that many people learn through punishment and paid $4 for their time. Punishment administered by means of a shock generator with 30 graded switches ranging from slight shock to danger.

Participants drew 2 slots of paper from a hat, to share the roles in the experiment. Milgram employed a confederate Mr Wallace, in his 40s, pretended to be another participant. They did a fake coin-toss, Mr Wallace became the leaner and the naïve participant became the teacher. Milgram watched the experiment through a one-way mirror, the experimenter role was taken by a biology teacher in a grey lab coat, Mr Williams. The naïve participant watched Mr Wallace being seated into an electric chair. The teacher was administered a sample shock, 45 V to prove that the shock generator was real. Participants were assured that the shocks would not cause tissue damage but were painful.

The teacher and the learner were separated by a wall, and in the next door was the shock generator, with switches ranging from 15V to 450V with labels like, slight’’ to,, danger shock’’.

The teacher job was to read words into a microphone followed by four options for the second pair-word. Mr Wallace had to indicate the answer by pressing a button, and if the answer was wrong the teacher had to administer an electric shock, for every mistake the shock went up by 15V. Mr Wallace had pre-set answers and his cries of pain was recorded. At 300V the learner banged on the wall and stopped answering, and the experimenter had pro-scripted prods for the teacher who required the teacher to continue to give shocks to the learner and classify the ,,no answer’’ as ,,wrong answer’’. For example, one prod: ,, you have no other choice, but to continue!’’

The results showed that only twenty-six out of forty continued to the full 450V, (65%); all participants were obedient to 300V and on completion many obedient participants showed signs of relief, extreme stress like trembling, sweating, and laughing nervously.

Recently several people has started to question the mechanism of obedience and how people can obey evil orders? At the same time, many historians have come to see the banality of evil account as problematic. Eichmann and his ilk did not come to murder Jews by accident or in a fit of absent-mindedness, nor by blindly obeying orders or by being small cogs in a big machine. They worked hard, thought hard, took the lead over many years. They were the alpinists of evil.

However, this is a very valid study which demonstrates that you don’t have to be a psychopath to obey immoral orders, Milgram had clearly answered and has valid evidence that is not about a specific culture or ethnicity envy and that obedience is a social factor inherited in our human species. The sample is acceptable in terms of the occupation range but is insufficient due to gender. Only males are studied, there is no evidence for women attitudes towards obedience in his study, therefore it is called androcentric study because female behaviour is not studied.

On the other hand, this study has unethical issues such as deception, the real experiment was hidden by the participants. And low in ecological validity, the lab experiment does not prove the real-life behaviour. There is insufficient image of obedience, the variables controlled in the study are unethical, the prods used by the experimenter indicates manipulation and in context of the Holocaust is exactly the same, there is similar social instance, to oppress other people with tyranny. The immoral actions has a start from the political corruption, the participants obeyed because they felt obligated to do so, with good intention, to develop the science, their border mind passed the crying of Mister Wallace and administered the shocks up to 450V.

The psychologist professor, Stanley Milgram concluded that ordinary people are able to obey even the abhorrent orders, but this study has been on research lately by Peter Baker who wrote in Pacific Standard in 2013, ‘’ Milgram ‘s early research has come to serve as a kind of all-purpose lightning rod for discussions about the human heart of darkness’’. My belief is that, adults presents willingness to complete evil order, when it comes from the authority figure side, even Milgram said that ,, I have discovered such a submissive spirit, that made me not to repeat the experiment in Germany.’’ I want to justify that, obedience is a short pattern of mind, The sacrifice that Abraham has made came from long struggle and relinquishment of his own desires, it’s a bible example but obedience is the focus of the anecdote. Human nature is generated to obey commands, is inherited in our subconscious. I want to conclude that, generally it’s beneficial and destructive to follow a leader, an authority figure. Winston Churchill declared once that if you already are in hell, at least, do not stop’’. This quote, makes me realize that following a leader, it’s beneficial even though it’s a hard situation, gives you assurance and safety, because the authority has this power of escaping you from something. Also, I want to explain the analyse of obedience pattern of people. To be submissive, it does not require you to think for your actions, you only have to go on the line of the trend. And if you do not think, then this is dangerous, because you become reactive. Therefore, you can miss the exit, staying captive in the authority cage.              

07 July 2022
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