Stanley Milgram Experiment Results

What was the Stanley Milgram Obedience Experiment? What was the Purpose behind it? What was the Result and Conclusion of the Experiment? What were the Ethical Issues with the Experiment?
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There have been numerous experiments to understand the psychology of living beings. Every human being has a different mentality but at the same time, there are situations where most of them will respond the same. Stanley wanted to prove one such situation that led to that controversial experiment. Today you will get to know the Stanley Milgram experiment results and the Milgram experiment ethical issues. You will see what was the purpose of the Milgram experiment and how the Stanley Milgram experiment results made an impact.

1. What was the Stanley Milgram Experiment?

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It was the experiment to study obedience in psychology. It was a series of obedience experiments that led to some surprising conclusions. The experiment was about an authority giving orders to perform certain tasks to the participants. The task was to give dangerous electric shocks to another person. (See What is Personalization Cognitive Distortion?)

2. Who was Stanley Milgram?

He was an American social psychologist born to Jewish parents. His parents emigrated to the United States after World War I, after which he was born. He did his Ph.D. in social psychology at Harvard University, after which he became a professor at Harvard University, Yale University, and later at the City University of New York-Graduate Center, in his last years. He was influenced greatly by the events during the Second World War and especially the Holocaust. (See Importance of Child Behavioral Psychologist)

3. What Influenced him to do such an Experiment?

Stanley, during his childhood, lost most of his immediate and distant relatives to the Holocaust and the survivors lived with him in his place in New York. After which the trial of Adolf Eichmann and his testament justifying his actions during the Holocaust made Stanley think of trying the experiment. He wanted to see through his experiment how an order from a higher authority closes the personal conscience of a man. (See Do you have the Rescuer Syndrome?)

4. What was the Purpose of the Milgram Experiment?

Before moving toward the Stanley Milgram experiment results, take a look at the purpose. The main aim of carrying out this experiment was to research how far people can go to obey an instruction. Will they continue to obey even if it involves harming another person? He wanted to figure out the possibility of what Adolf said in his statement regarding committing atrocities during the Second World War. (See What is S Delta in ABA?)

5. What was the Procedure?

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It would be interesting to know about the Stanley Milgram experiment results after understanding the steps. Let’s divide the procedure into respective steps in chronological order:

Step 1: Volunteers were selected from the New Haven area. There were 50 participants aged between 20 and 50 years. Some of them were professionals while others were unskilled at their jobs. Participants were paid $4.50 each for volunteering.

Step 2: Participants were introduced to each other. After which they have to draw the straw that will decide their role. The confederates of the Milgram became the learner and the volunteers were the teacher.

Step 3: Two rooms were assigned, one to the teacher and another to the confederate (learner). The teacher was accompanied by a fake experimenter, an actor playing the role of Milgram. The learner was given an electric chair while the teacher received the electric shock generator. It has 30 switches marked from 15 volts to 450 volts. The more the volt, the greater would be the shock. 

Step 4: The learners were strapped to the chair with electrodes. The learner was given a list of word pairs that he had to memorize. The teacher will then name a word and ask the learner to recall the pairing word from the given four options.

Step 5: The teacher was instructed to administer an electric shock to the learner at every wrong answer with an increase in the level of the shock each time. Most of the time learners were to give the wrong answer purposely and the teacher would give them a shock.

Step 6: With more mistakes and the increasing intensity of shocks sometimes teachers would refuse to give the shock fearing that they may hurt the learner. Also, the learner would plead to be released and some even complained about having heart issues due to the shock. As the teacher reaches the 300-volt level and goes higher, the learner used to bang the walls to get released.

Step 7: Once the 300-volt level shock was given, after this, the learner refused to answer further questions. The experimenter instructed the teacher to consider the silence as another wrong answer and continue giving the shock. But with an ongoing plea from the learner, the teacher was hesitant to continue with the shocks.

In this situation, Stanley Milgram has given 4 prods to the experimenter to read out to the teacher, which made the Stanley Milgram experiment results even more interesting. If the teacher does not follow the instructions after 1st prod the experimenter reads the next one.

The four prods were as follows:

  • Prod 1 – Please continue
  • Prod 2 – The experiment requires you to continue
  • Prod 3 – It is absolutely essential that you continue
  • Prod 4 – You have no other choice but to continue

6. What were the Stanley Milgram Experiment Results?

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The results of this experiment were as follows:

  • About 65% of the participants (teachers) delivered shocks up to 450 volts as per the orders.
  • The rest of the participants (teachers) stopped obeying the orders after they reached 300 volts level.
  • It shows that about two-thirds of the participants obeyed the orders given to them by the experimenter.

7. How Stanley measured Obedience through the Experiment?

In the Milgram experiment, the level of obedience was measured by the level of shock the participants were willing to give according to the instructions of the experimenter. While all of them became furious, angry, and distraught at the experimenter, they continued to follow the orders. Must read the Significance of CBT Anger Management Therapy.

8. What was the Conclusion of the Experiment?

The behaviors of the participants were influenced by the location and the presence of the experimenter. Some aspects related to it were, the formality of the location, the fact that it was an experiment, and they were volunteering for it, they will have to return the amount, or the experimenter’s behavior and position. With this, it was clearly concluded that ordinary people follow orders and obey someone who is their superior. They will keep following the orders even if it means killing innocent citizens. Check out the Uses of EMDR for Anxiety Reduction.

9. What were the Milgram Experiment Ethical Issues?

Stanley Milgram Experiment Results
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Milgram wanted to deliver his point of view on the worst genocide and atrocity in human history through his 18 variations of the experiment. The Stanley Milgram experiment results were influencing but have the following ethical issues.

  • Participants were Deceived: The participants who were instructed to give the shocks were unaware that the learners were the confederates of Stanley Milgram. They believed that they were electrocuting a real person, but they were not. Moreover, the learners were pretending to get the shock. Therefore, his experiment was considered to be an illusion and not factual.
  • Rigid for Participants: If the teacher refuses to continue to give shocks, then the experimenter gives him 4 prods and asks him to continue. This procedure was considered rigid by the authorities as it made the participants continue without their will. However, according to Stanley Milgram, prods were necessary as it was an obedience experiment. Also, it was not difficult for participants to leave because 35% of them did leave and refused to obey the instructions.
  • Psychological Stress to the Participants: Since the participants believed that they were electrocuting a real person, they becomes very stressed. Their stress levels visibly increased as the other person began to plead for stopping. Stanley mentioned that the participants were sweating, trembling, digging fingernails into their palms, biting their lips, stuttering, and laughing nervously.

But Stanley also mentioned that the stress levels of the participants decreased after they saw the other person was completely fine and was not actually electrocuted by him.

Despite the Stanley Milgram experiment results, his experiments were widely criticized. Were the Milgram experiment ethical issues really a barrier to the conclusion that was derived from it? What do you think? Do you remember what was the purpose of the Milgram experiment? (See What is Narcissistic Rage Silent Treatment?)

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