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  1. #1
    ish red no longer *sad* nightning's Avatar
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    Default Milgram's obedience experiment - "take 2"

    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?

  2. #2
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    I remember writing a long thesis about this, the Stanford experiment, "free will", ethics and jurisprudence about 2 1/2 years ago, but can no longer find it. Argh.

  3. #3
    not to be trusted miss fortune's Avatar
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    People are people- I think that it's an engrained urge to follow whatever the authority tells us to do in general. People have followed different leaders to do horrible things throughout the history of civilization, so I don't see why there would be a reason that we would change so much in our behavior within a century.

    The advent of modern religions, often preaching peace, did nothing to stop people from following thier leader to do something horrid.

    The enlightenment did nothing.

    The increased understanding of human behavior and psychology hasn't changed anything.

    A leopard doesn't change it's spots, and humans will continue to be humans.

    It's not to say that there aren't exceptions to this rule- and there always have been exceptions. Some people disagree for the sake of disagreeing, some because they think that it's wrong. This hasn't changed either.

    It's just that a majority of people will tend to follow authority.
    “Oh, we're always alright. You remember that. We happen to other people.” -Terry Pratchett

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    The article that you posted also neglected to mention that the "testers" were encouraged verbally by a "scientist" sitting next to them to carry on. And that with increased physical proximity to the "testee", the percentage of people who would go to the maximum voltage decreased rather dramatically.

    I think apart from being a statement about obedience to authority, it's also a statement about empathy and the context of our capacity for it.

    *edited to add: I am surprised that someone managed to get an ethics board to approve this experiment. I thought it possible in the 1960s, but not today.

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    ish red no longer *sad* nightning's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nonsequitur View Post
    The article that you posted also neglected to mention that the "testers" were encouraged verbally by a "scientist" sitting next to them to carry on. And that with increased physical proximity to the "testee", the percentage of people who would go to the maximum voltage decreased rather dramatically.

    I think apart from being a statement about obedience to authority, it's also a statement about empathy and the context of our capacity for it.

    *edited to add: I am surprised that someone managed to get an ethics board to approve this experiment. I thought it possible in the 1960s, but not today.
    The article is missing a great deal of detail... Right now I'm too lazy to hunt out the actual paper for this study though.

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    Don't pet me. JAVO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nonsequitur View Post
    I think apart from being a statement about obedience to authority, it's also a statement about empathy and the context of our capacity for it.
    Interesting... empathy with authority as the mechanism for unquestioning obedience.

    Quote Originally Posted by nonsequitur View Post
    *edited to add: I am surprised that someone managed to get an ethics board to approve this experiment. I thought it possible in the 1960s, but not today.
    Exactly what I thought!

    But, now I have a whole list of similarly interesting experiments I want to conduct! At one time, I seriously considered pursuing a PhD in social psych, concentrating in the area of nonconscious social cognition, especially as it relates to moral decision-making. Most of that goal was inspired by the Milgram study.

    Here's another article:

    Replicating Milgram: Most People Will Administer Shocks When Prodded By 'Authority Figure'

    The full journal article is published in January's American Psychologist.

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    12 and a half weeks BerberElla's Avatar
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    How strange, we were discussing this briefly at my forum today, someone presented it during a discussion on the validity of the MBTI system, which pretty much introduced me to the whole thing since I hadn't known about it.

    It's not surprising I guess, there are many sheep who blindly follow rules and authority figures out there in the real world, I think something like 60% were prepared to do it to the maximum voltage requested of them, and only 1 person refused to do it after a point no matter how much prodding was given.

    Was really an interesting read.
    Echo - "So are you trying to say she is Evil"

    DeWitt - "Something far worse, she's an Idealist"

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    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nonsequitur View Post
    The article that you posted also neglected to mention that the "testers" were encouraged verbally by a "scientist" sitting next to them to carry on. And that with increased physical proximity to the "testee", the percentage of people who would go to the maximum voltage decreased rather dramatically.
    Yes, I wouldn't just call it "submission to authority" in the sense of "free will versus mindless compliance," there is a "good faith" issue in that someone who has asserted they are trustworthy and who you've agreed to help is asking you to do things that you assume on some level are still benevolent or being done for "good cause" ... regardless of the direct data/feedback you're getting from the test subject.

    Which, as I type, seems remarkably similar to religious faith -- your faith has worked for you in the past, the people you've dealt with might have seemed good and trustworthy, so even when life experience is telling you something is wrong, the more deeply you're immersed in that culture and philosophy the more you're likely to still give it the benefit of the doubt and press on. Some people will bail early, others will continue to have faith in the authority figure/doctrine.

    I think apart from being a statement about obedience to authority, it's also a statement about empathy and the context of our capacity for it.
    There's that as well, and yes, the proximity of the tester impacts persistence... i.e., if the feedback is negative and the authority figure is not there to gently say that it's okay to continue, people will start to react to the feedback and stop doing what they were doing.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAVO View Post
    Interesting... empathy with authority as the mechanism for unquestioning obedience.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    There's that as well, and yes, the proximity of the tester impacts persistence... i.e., if the feedback is negative and the authority figure is not there to gently say that it's okay to continue, people will start to react to the feedback and stop doing what they were doing.
    I think part of the reason for the disparity between what people expect would happen (few people would go through with it) and the reality is down to social expectations of empathy. If we think of social expectation as the "authority figure" in a functioning society, the results make sense when it's removed and replaced with another authority figure in the form of a "scientist".

    There is a variation of the experiment that I'd like to conduct, with the tester having an audience besides the "scientist", with this audience reacting with horror and disapproval and/or encouragement to be "scientific". I would like to see the effect of competing/reinforcing social expectations with the supposed "authority figure".

    Quote Originally Posted by JAVO View Post
    But, now I have a whole list of similarly interesting experiments I want to conduct! At one time, I seriously considered pursuing a PhD in social psych, concentrating in the area of nonconscious social cognition, especially as it relates to moral decision-making. Most of that goal was inspired by the Milgram study.

    Here's another article:

    Replicating Milgram: Most People Will Administer Shocks When Prodded By 'Authority Figure'
    I'm very interested in social psych as well, but with a less ethical slant and more directed towards public policy-making and the judicial system. I was intrigued by the results of the Miligram and Stanford studies during my sophomore year of college; it dovetailed with my interest in comparative mythology and social roles. Joseph Campbell was once quoted as saying that it was "unreasonable" to prosecute soldiers as civilians for acts performed during war because they are "playing a role". I made the connection between this "role-playing" and "learned helplessness", where people decide that they cannot take responsibility because they have no effect on the outcome.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Yes, I wouldn't just call it "submission to authority" in the sense of "free will versus mindless compliance," there is a "good faith" issue in that someone who has asserted they are trustworthy and who you've agreed to help is asking you to do things that you assume on some level are still benevolent or being done for "good cause" ... regardless of the direct data/feedback you're getting from the test subject.
    Hmm. I refer to the paragraph above. It seems that you're describing exactly that - ascribing "responsibility" to the "authority figure" on "good faith" so that the individual can avoid taking personal responsibility.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Which, as I type, seems remarkably similar to religious faith -- your faith has worked for you in the past, the people you've dealt with might have seemed good and trustworthy, so even when life experience is telling you something is wrong, the more deeply you're immersed in that culture and philosophy the more you're likely to still give it the benefit of the doubt and press on. Some people will bail early, others will continue to have faith in the authority figure/doctrine.
    Funnily enough, related to a thread that I just started on faith and how malleable it is. Also, how an existing paradigm and subliminal messages can change the "data" that is taken in by a person. http://www.typologycentral.com/forum...d-science.html

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