Psychology

Milgramyale Psychologist Torture Obedience



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'The Perils of Obedience' is Stanley Milgrim’s recollection of the experiment he conducted while employed as a Yale Psychologist in 1963. The set up of the experiment consists of a learner, a teacher and the experimenter. The learner was a hired actor whom would pretend that electric currents were running through his body every time they had answered wrongly while being asked word pairs by the teacher. The teacher was the focus subject in the experiment. Lastly the experimenter played by Milgrim himself. The learner was tested on their ability to remember the second word of a pair when they heard the first one again. When the learner makes a mistake of forgetting the second word of a pair, he was to be administered a shock of varying levels ranging from 15 Volts – 450 Volts, but in reality the actor made the teacher believe that an actual shock was be administered.

One of Milgrim’s first subjects was a recent Yale Medical Student named Brandt. Brandt had carried out the experiment as so ordered by Milgrim, up until the administration of 210 volts. Milgrim had stated that “her behavior is the very embodiment of what I envisioned would be true for almost all subjects”.

An Unexpected Outcome: Milgrim had consulted with a wide array of psychiatrists, of whom a majority of them had predicted that Milgrim’s results would reveal that most of the subjects would not administer anymore than 150 volts to the learner. Supposedly, out of the forty subjects in his first experiment twenty-five had obeyed the orders to the very end of the experiment. The end of the experiment was of course the administration of 450 volts to the learner no more than three times. Another outcome was to determine a difference between Yale undergraduate students in relation to the average individual living in New Haven, in respect to being fully obedient during the experiment and roughly all of 60% had complied fully. It was not until Milgrim tells of one of his subjects, Fred Prozi, that the concept of responsibility came into play. Prozi had asked the experimenter, “do you accept all responsibility”, and the experimenter accepted all responsibility.  

Peculiar Reactions: Morris Braverman, a 39 year old subject had given Milgrim a different reaction from the majority of the subjects. Braverman had responded to the experimenters orders with delayed laughter and amusement. Braverman was observed trying to cover his bemused laughter by covering his face with his hands.

The Etiquette of Submission: One of Milgrim’s interpretations was that that all individuals harbor “deeply aggressive instincts continually pressing for expression”. In this part Milgrim had reorganized the experiment, by allowing the teacher to choose which level of shock to administer upon the learner getting the word pair wrong. The average shock was surprisingly less than 75 volts amongst the 30 performed trials, when the choice of shock level was at teacher’s disposal. One of Milgrim’s conclusions was that an ordinary person shocked the victim while obliged to under the experimenter as fulfilling their duty to the experimenter. Milgrim believed that the most fundamental item to take away from the multiple of experiments is that ordinary people who carry out their designated while under a superior can possibly become individuals capable of torturous acts.

Duty without conflict: Milgrim believes that the teacher does not derive pleasure from the torture they are inflicting on the learner, but becomes satisfied by complying with the experimenters orders. A new aspect of the experiment was included, where the teacher would have to forcibly push the learners hand down on the mechanism that discharges the electric current. The results were concluded as that 30% of teachers were able to administer up to 450 volts in this manner.

In conclusion Milgrim states that when a person is carrying out the orders of another, they typically do not regard themselves as the responsible party for the actions performed. They often comply with authority but by doing so they see themselves fit for absolution of the act

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