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Social Psychology essay

Asked by blossom12 | Oct 4, 2007 | University Level > Sociology > Homework
blossom12 asks:

I have an essay to write "People will naturally obey authority" Discuss
based on the Stanley Milgram(1963) experiment
of 100 wods

etutor answers:

I have described the experiment below, which raises obvious ethical questions - not least whether the 'teachers' involved here were really exercising coercive power rather than authority.

Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University, conducted a study focusing on the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience. He examined justifications for acts of genocide offered by those accused at the Nuremberg War Criminal trials. Their defence was often based on "obedience" - in other words, that they were simply following the orders of their superiors. In the experiment, so-called "teachers" (who were in reality the unknowing subjects of the experiment) were recruited by Milgram. They were asked to administer an electric shock of increasing intensity to a "learner" for each mistake he made during the experiment. The fictitious justification provided for these "teachers" was that the experiment was designed to explore the effects of punishment (given for incorrect responses) on learning behaviour. The "teacher" was not aware that the "learner" in the study was actually an actor, who merely indicated discomfort as the "teacher" increased the intensity of the electric shocks. When the "teacher" asked whether increased shocks should be given he/she was verbally encouraged to continue. 60% of the "teachers" obeyed orders to punish the learner to the very end of the 450-volt scale. No subject stopped before reaching 300 volts.

At times, the worried "teachers" questioned the experimenter, asking who was responsible for any harmful effects resulting from administering shocks to the learner at such a high level. Upon receiving the answer that the experimenter assumed full responsibility, teachers seemed to accept the response and continue shocking, even though some were obviously extremely uncomfortable in doing so. The study raised many questions about how the subjects could bring themselves to administer such heavy shocks. Ethical issues are clearly raised by such an experiment. What right does a researcher have to expose subjects to such stress? What activities should be and not be allowed in the pursuit of marketing research? Does the search for knowledge always justify such "costs" to subjects? Who should decide such issues?

I hope this is helpful.

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