Apparently some american researcher decided to repeat Milgram's experiment recently to see if there'll be any change in people's responses after so many years.
BBC NEWS | Health | People 'still willing to torture'
For those who're unfamiliar with Milgram's experiment... It was first conducted in 1964 as a measurement of people's obedience to authority. In WWII people under the Nazi regime did a lot of horrifying things to prisoners. Milgram wanted to address the question of how they could be compelled to torture people. And whether these officers were simply being obedient to authority in carrying out orders.
In the experiment, the subject enters the lab with another "subject". Who's actually an unknown accomplice of the experimenter. The experimenter walks in and tell the subject a cover story. That this experiment is to look at people's abilities to learn under a stressful situation. He has a hat with two slips of paper within it and ask the subject to draw one from the hat. The person's name whose drawn will be assigned the role of the teacher. And the other person will be the student. In reality, both slips of paper contains the name of the subject. I.e. the subject is always assigned as the teacher.
The accomplice is then taken away into the "testing chamber". The experimenter then tells the subject to first recite a list of words through a telecomm system to the subject. Then ask the student to recall this list. Every time the student gives a wrong answer, he's given a electric shock. The severity of the shocks increases for every wrong answer. The shock was administered by a little box with a row of on-off switches. The switches are labelled by voltage and descriptor labels... mild shock, moderate shock, severe shock, extreme shock... the last switch was labeled "XXX" at 450V. The experimenter then has the subject experience a mild shock just to gauge its unpleasantness. The experimenter then let the subject start the "memory study".
The experiment was testing to see at what point does the subject refuse to continue administering electric shocks. Most subjects continued giving electric shocks even when the student was screaming to be let out. At the second to last shock... the student suddenly stopped responding. 65% of subject continued to delivered the 450V shock to the "unconscious" student.
Take a guess what the results of this repeat study might be? You've guessed it... After 30 years, the results were unchanged. People are still willing to give high voltage electric shocks to the student. (Only in this case, the experimenter stop the study and prevented the subject from continuing)
Some questions to ponder:
First of all, the obvious implication from this new study is that people are still (and probably will always) be sheep in presence of authority. What are your thoughts and feelings about this?
Have we made no improvements in terms of free-thinking and blind obedience for authority?
Finally, the most controversial... I've noticed that when faced with negative qualities about themselves, people's first reaction tends to be denial. Denial against the overwhelming evidence... saying those people who've participated in the study are abnormal and that they themselves would have stopped. When in reality, they'll probably have done the same as the participants. What does this say about people (other than the fact that everybody's a hypocrite)? And how can we overcome this tendency for denial?