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What can we learn from the Milgram experiment

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  • blobby green style avatar for user palcas
    Very interesting. However i think alot of what Milgram found in the experiment could also be deduced in the treatment of African Americans and other people of color in the US. Whether institutional--educational, socio-economic/political or interpersonal. Slavery/ Genocide of N.Americans just like the holocaust was a bunch of people "following orders". I think he just proved that prejudice and discrimination can exist in even seemingly moderate populations. Its very interesting to draw parallels between this study and what we see now in the internal conflicts of the US. Is it correct to assume that this is merely just experimental evidence for prejudice
    (5 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Jacey Buss
      Hi palcas,

      I do not think Milgram set out to find experimental evidence of prejudice, rather he found the opposite. An individual does not need to possess a personal prejudice in order to carry out horrifying acts. This is opposed to what clinical psychologists previous thought.

      I say this because the individual doing the "shocking" is not doing so because of a dislike of the confederate, they are doing so because of the phenomenon of obedience. His experiments did not contain any variables to measure prejudice in any way, or at least I see it that way.

      Maybe Milgram could have told the "shocker" what the ethnicity of the individual behind the wall was prior to delivering the shocks to test this.

      That said it is fascinating to wonder what percentage of people who participated in historical genocidal events did not contain any form of prejudice for the affected population, but were rather "carrying out orders".
      (24 votes)
  • duskpin sapling style avatar for user mirandamasonville
    Has a similar experiment ever been carried out with children? I would be curious to see if inflicting pain like that in the Milgram experiment is a learned behavior from years of having to conform to society's rules.
    (6 votes)
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  • piceratops seed style avatar for user Zoup
    Good soldiers follow orders.
    (3 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user p53 rocks
    Why would that 35% of people not conform I wonder
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Rosendo Saldana
    Would the results be different if the learner were to be a female?
    (2 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Rebecca Barrett
      I don't know about the learner being female. That might have made a difference, especially in the 1960s when there was a lot of paternalism toward women. I do know that when women were the "teachers" they actually conformed more than the men. In a replication women conformed around 80% of the time. I think perhaps the women were conditions to obey men, and were thus more obedient to the researcher.
      (2 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user John Bodnar
    Why was the experiment unethical? Considering the shocks were fake, the answer does not seem obvious to me...
    (2 votes)
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    • winston default style avatar for user Arieda
      It looks like there's still a bit of debate about whether this was ethical or not, but there are reasons an IRB might not approve it, mainly because the "teacher" participants showed signs of extreme distress after the study (although these signs lessened after being debriefed) and because their right to withdraw from the study at any time was violated (all four prompts from the experimenter highly pressured the people to continue with the experiment)
      (2 votes)
  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user ff142
    Would the outcomes have been different if the confederate shouted "I will file a lawsuit against both of you"?
    (2 votes)
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  • leaf red style avatar for user beyonce tilbanie
    Stanley Milgram made specific choices to present evidence from his obedience experiments in a certain way. Explain those choices and their effects.
    (1 vote)
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  • old spice man green style avatar for user eurocrat_au
    SHAME is a big thing. Yes, shame does make us rationalise a lot.
    I wonder if people think or know the world is unfair - might be less likely to use Just World?
    Just World - is this more for experimental design?
    Passing/bucking responsibility - "were we just following orders"?
    [1] aware of Just World. [2] stop making judgements about why. [especially hard enough/care enough].
    [3]. avoid placing blame on others - SELF SERVING BIAS. Even after we have put ourselves and seen our peers in these "right situations" [some in and some out].
    Identify how WE behave and the ways we guide and are guided.
    Learn from our upset and those of victims and aggressors.
    We can make reasonably informed guesses or heuristics.
    (0 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Brianna Mackey
    I didn't ask for a lecture on MY morals and values. A little uncalled for.
    (0 votes)
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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] The Milgram Study is one of the most famous studies in all of psychology, and it demonstrated that regular everyday people will comply with an authority figure even if it means going against their own moral values and harming others. But what can we take from the study? What can we learn from it? Well the first thing that I wanna mention is that the study has been replicated. And when it has, the results remain about the same. No matter what country or time period this has been tested in, full compliance has always hovered around 61 to 66%. I also wanna note that today we think of this study as being highly unethical and assume that that wasn't the case back when it was created. But this study was perceived to be unethical in the '60s as well. In fact, Milgram was denied tenure at Harvard and kept from entering a number of academic institutions possibly because of negative perceptions associated with the experiment. But let's look a little closer at these results, let's look a little bit closer at the 65% number. One thing that Milgram found when he interviewed participants following the study was that many of them were ashamed of what they had done. They really felt horrible about it. But some of the participants, even some of the ones who were ashamed, tended to speak poorly of the victims, claiming that he wouldn't have been shocked if he had been smarter or if he had answered more questions correctly. And this is often known as The Just World Phenomenon: the idea that the universe is fair, so people must get what they deserve. So good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. And it seems that some people use this tendency to justify their actions. Assuming that things had gone wrong for the victim because he was deficient in some way. Another thing that seemed to have a strong effect on participants' willingness to shock to the end was their ability to shed responsibility. Many participants seemed much more comfortable when the experimenter indicated that he would take full responsibility for what happened and that the participant would not be responsible for any harm that he had done. And really think of this as it relates to the term: I was just following orders. And of course, this is the excuse that we see not only in the Milgram Study, but in many cases where people commit atrocities. They say: "I was just following orders", implying that someone else is responsible for what they have done. But is there any way that we can fix this? Is there anything that The Milgram Study can tell us about how we can stop ourselves from obeying authority in these kinds of situations? The first is to be aware of the two things that I've mentioned here. We should try to be aware of The Just World Phenomenon, we should try to stop ourselves from making judgements about why people are in the situations that they are in. We need to stop thinking that people are poor, or didn't do well in school, or don't have a job because they didn't work hard enough or care enough. We need to be more aware than that. And we also need to remind ourselves to take responsibility for our own actions to avoid placing blame on others. We also need to caution ourselves against a self-serving bias, which is the notion that we ourselves could never commit horrible acts like these. Because apparently, when put into the right situations, most of us would. Another is to steer clear of The Fundamental Attribution Error, which is our tendency to assume that others, or individuals in an out-group, behave a certain way based on inherent characteristics or personalities or flaws, all the while saying that we, or our in-group would only behave this way because of the situation that we're put in. And I think that that's what the real takeaway of the study is. It shows us how easy it is to think that others who commit atrocities are evil, while people who are like us would only perform evil acts because they're misguided. Because in the end, we are all misguided, we are all susceptible to authority in ways that many of us would find upsetting. And so it is important to have compassion for all people, both victims and aggressors because you don't actually know how you would react if you were put in their place. But at the same time, be skeptical when you hear that someone was just doing their job or just following orders, and try not to fall into that trap yourself.