The purpose of the experiment was to take a teacher to administer electric shocks to a learner who failed to answer multiple choice questions correctly. The objective being to see if the teacher would continue to administer increased high voltage shocks (obedience) at the request of the authority figure (professor) or whether they would stop the process on humanitarian grounds. The two participants were lied to and told the experiment was about conducting memory tests with a punishment for failure and not an obedience control experiment. (You Tube, 2012)
ETHICAL AND LEGAL ISSUES
In carrying out this experiment there are both ethical and legal considerations involved. From a legal perspective those carrying out the experiment are guilty of misrepresentation, deception and possibly liable for conducting unethical experiments that might do harm. In my opinion this invalidates the experiment on both ethical and legal grounds. Milgrim was interested in trying to address the problem after Adolf Eichmann’s trial that he was just following orders. i.e. “Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders”? (Cherry, K. 2012). One of the main ethical canons in the medical profession is “First do no harm” and it could be argued that this ethical consideration was breached by allowing continuous severity of electric shocks to another human an act not dissimilar to torture.
The experiment conducted by Milgram has been widely accepted as a classic in psychology. As such demonstrating the dangers of obedience. The experiments results indicated that situational variables have a stronger sway than personality factors in determining obedience. Whilst others in the psychology field have disputed this stating that obedience is more influenced by both external and internal factors, such as personal beliefs and overall temperament.
It is considered that most human beings would not torture another human being purely on the grounds of I was just following orders. You would need to have a degree of sadistical tendencies and total lack of regard for your fellow man i.e. no humanity, in order to pursue such a course of action. The excuse of blind obedience but forward by the Nazi hierarchy is a thinly veiled excuse for purse sadism. Nevertheless, the Milgram experiment illustrated that 65% of the participants continued administering shocks because they were ordered to do so. More alarming because these were ordinary people by random selection. (Experiment Resources, 2012). No experiments of this kind would be permitted today on pure ethical grounds alone.
Cherry, K. (2012, 1 31). The Milgram Obedience Experiment. Retrieved from about.com: http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/milgram.htm
Experiment Resources. (2012, 1 31). Stanley Milgram Experiment (1961). Retrieved from Experiment Resources: http://www.experiment-resources.com/stanley-milgram-experiment.html
You Tube. (2012, 1 31). Milgram Experiment. Retrieved from You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcvSNg0HZwk