posts 1 - 15 of 29
freemanjud
Boston, US
Posts: 221

Readings (referenced below):

Viewing: If you were not in class when I showed the Milgram Obedience experiment footage, please do the following: go to the Keefe Library home page (https://libguides.bls.org/keefehome/databases) and then in the left column, click on “Academic Video Online from Alexander Street (ProQuest)” and then at the upper right, search “Obedience.” You should see a black/white video that’s the first one in the top row (on the left), called “Obedience, 1962.” (45:17) When you open that video, you should watch two sections:


Time count 0:19 through 9:14 [this is also at the start of clip #1]

Then time count 21:59 through 39:16 [this is also at the start of clip #2]


Now that you’ve seen a portion of the film of Stanley Milgram’s 1961 experiment at Yale, you know that ordinary people are capable of doing startling things out of obedience to someone or to some sort of idea. Often we would identify these folks at the start as bystanders—people who would not initiate such an activity but who are somehow brought into it. They then have a choice whether to remain a bystander, become a perpetrator, or to become a resister or rescuer.


In Milgram’s experiment, people volunteered to participate in an experiment by responding to an advertisement. That happens all the time. But why do so many of the participants go through with the experiment? Why do so few object?


As background to this experiment, you should look at the reading by Philip Meyer, “If Hitler asked you to Electrocute a Stranger, Would you? Probably?” taken from Esquire (February 1970). (Here is a version that shows the PDF of the original article.) You should also look at an experiment conducted by Solomon Asch in the 1950s. Asch’s work preceded Milgram’s, although this experiment focuses squarely at conformity, a piece (but not the entire piece) of the issue of obeying authority. Take a look at Haslam and Reicher’s article discussing Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment (now discredited) and the BBC followups to that: “The Power of Tyranny,” Scientific American (2005). And finally, consider Malcolm Harris’ perspective in “The Psychology of Torture,” Aeon, 7 October 2014.


Some of the findings that are also important to know about that emerged from Milgram’s experiment:


• 65% of the volunteers (‘teachers’) gave the full 450 volts.

• When Milgram varied the experiment, so that the setting was less academic, only 48% gave

the full 450 volts.

• When Milgram had the authority figure give instructions by telephone (instead of being in the room), only 21% gave the full 450 volts.

• When more than one authority figure was in the room and the two argued over the experiment, no “teacher” continued to the end.

• When the “learner” was in the same room as the teacher, only 40% of the teachers “obeyed.”

• When the “teacher” had to put the “learner’s” hand on the metal plate to give the shock, only 30% obeyed the experiment.


Note what Milgram himself believed:


It is psychologically easy to ignore responsibility when one is only an intermediate link in a chain of evil action but is far from the final consequences of the action. … No one man decides to carry out the evil act and is confronted with his consequences. The person who assumes full responsibility for the act has evaporated. Perhaps this is the most common characteristic of socially organized evil in modern society. (Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority New York, 1974)


And in 1979, just a few years before his death (in 1984, at age 51, after his fifth heart attack), Milgram told 60 Minutes interviewer Morley Safer


“I would say, on the basis of having observed a thousand people in the experiment and having my own intuition shaped and informed by these experiments, that if a system of death camps were set up in the United States of the sort we had seen in Nazi Germany, one would be able to find sufficient personnel for these camps in any medium-sized American town.”


What do you conclude from Milgram’s experiment(s)? Does it give you any insight into human behavior? What will humans be willing to do, why they’ll do it, what they are capable of doing and not doing? Putting aside Hitler for the moment, what kinds of behavior does this experiment help to explain, not only in history but in our own times? To quote from Milgram’s 1979 CBS interview, would we “be able to find sufficient personnel…in any medium-sized American town”?


When you post, please be sure to reference other students’ posts in yours AND be sure at the end to pose a question for the next student to ask. (And be sure to reply also to the question that precedes your post!)

iluvcows
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

The Reasoning Behind Compliance

While watching this video during class I was horrified by the screams of the learner and the teacher’s compliance. This experiment as well as the articles written in response to it truly reveal a darker side to human behavior. Individuals seem to value the pleasing of others more than doing the right thing. In the Asch conformity experiment we see many people, although knowing the answer is incorrect, conforming to what others said. These subjects would rather evade judgement from their peers than choose the morally right option. Humans tend to remain guilt free in situations where others seem to be more at fault. In the video we see the man continually ask whether the experimenter would take responsibility for the harm inflicted upon the subject. Once satisfied by the response, the teacher continued to shock the learner.


In the beginning I questioned whether the “teacher” was aware of the pain imposed upon the “learner”. If they were oblivious to the true harm and intensity of the shocks this may have changed how far they continued. Then the video shows how the volunteer was given a test shock, demonstrating his understanding of what would take place. Additionally, “the board has verbal descriptions of the shock levels” indicating that the teacher was fully aware of what he was doing to this man. The fact that many of these subjects who volunteered to participate in this trial continued even after hearing the screams of agony and the silence of a possibly dead man is awful. The lengths that individuals would go to in order to obey someone above them is terrifying, and it is upsetting to think that the majority of people in our society would do the same.


This need to comply with authoritative figures is integrated in all aspects of society. From a young age we are taught to do what our parents say and never rebel against their wishes. In school environments students have to follow all the rules or else they will receive punishments. With this mindset engraved into our brains, humans struggle to challenge the dominant individual. They fear the retribution they are likely to face if they choose to disobey. Sixty-five percent of the volunteers continued the experiment all the way to 450 bolts. This could be due to this mentality that if they stop they will be penalized.


Sadly, I believe many humans will blindly follow any trusted authority figure, despite the true morality of the situation. This is seen in the Holocaust as individuals will go against their personal beliefs to support someone of a higher status. An example of this in the present day is Donald Trump's presidency. We see thousands of people backing up a man who has done horrific things to the country solely because of his power and elevated status. These supporters ignore the negative influence he holds, perhaps scared of the repercussions that could come with rebelling.


Additionally, the government as a whole has harmed and discriminated against various groups. Despite this blatantly racist behavior, the majority of white residents support and obey the government's rule. Compliance in the world has become more based on others' opinions and actions as well as authoritative figure’s beliefs than what is equitable and just.


To the question of would we “be able to find sufficient personnel…in any medium-sized American town”? I believe that it depends on the location. The amount of people willing to partake in experiments such as these is based upon the beliefs and experiences of the individuals. The backgrounds of those living in the area would strongly influence whether they choose to be complacent or refuse to engage in the assessment.


My question is what attributes make an authoritative figure trustworthy?

squirrelluver123
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 25

Who is Really Responsible?

Watching the experiment, not knowing what was going to happen was pretty upsetting. Watching it thinking that the teacher actually continues to shock the learner even as he keeps screaming is awful to watch. Unfortunately if you think more about it it is not all that surprising. As people, generally, we follow authority figures. Whether we want to or not, most of us follow the instructions of a superior in basically everything we do. The teacher in the experiment was just doing what the man in the lab coat was telling him to do.


I found it interesting that after World War II, Milgram originally thought that only Germans had “a readiness to obey authority without question,” that this would not be the case in Americans. It makes us feel better to think this way, that we would never do something like what happened during the war, that it would only be done by people who have a certain trait or “flaw” that causes them to act this way. It only takes one person in a position of authority that people look up to, to carry out horrific acts by everyone who follows them.


All our lives we are taught to respect our “elders” and trust authority. We are taught to believe everything we see on the internet or on the news. Nevertheless, people have been losing their respect and trust in authority. Especially in the current state of the country, I think many people on either side of the political spectrum would have a harder time trusting an authority than in the 60s. Without the situation exactly the same, the experiment would never work again. This experiment would only work when people do not know that they are part of an experiment.


As well as listening to whatever a person in authority says, we have a tendency to follow what everyone else around us is doing. People have a great need to want to blend in with everyone, to not stand out or seem different. This type of behavior was also evident in other experiments such as the Asch conformity experiments. People who were “in on” the Asch experiment acted a certain way to see if others would follow. People after stated that sometimes even though they knew that the answers were wrong they did not want to be embarrassed for saying something different from the others. It stated that this is influenced by people’s wish to blend in with others, as well as their beliefs that other people are smarter than them.


Even if you think there is something that you would never do, being put in a situation where you have to go against what an authority figure is telling you to do can be difficult for anyone. Regardless of your beliefs, we are taught to trust people in authority, and it may be hard to see if they are making you do something wrong. It does help to possibly explain some of the actions and crimes that people commit in wars or other situations. Nevertheless it is interesting to at least think about when learning about wars and past events and thinking about why these people did these awful things. While some people may always believe what they are doing is right, some people could be scared to oppose authority for fear of punishment, or simply because someone is telling them what to do.


What was most interesting to me about the experiment was that the teacher kept asking Milgram if he would be held responsible for what happened to the learner. r He would only continue after being reassured that the man in charge would be the one held responsible for whatever happened. It is interesting to think about how this relates to real life. I agree with iluvcows, people often think they are guilt in situations where someone else is telling them what to do, they feel as if they have no choice but to do what they say. My question is: How can people justify committing horrific acts because someone else is taking responsiblity or is telling them what to do?


Responding to iluvcows’s question “What attributes make an authority figure trustworthy?” I think in general we look to those above us for authority. For example people often believe everything their doctor tells them to do, while often doctors can be trusted, they can also persuade people to get treatments they may not actually need simply to get more money, because people put their trust in them. Oftentimes people also trust politicians, they think that they are supposed to be looking out for their best interests, but sometimes politicians are just looking out for themselves. Whether it is someone in politics or someone with a higher degree, we look up to those who are smarter than us or wealthier than us.

iluvcows
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Originally posted by squirrelluver123 on December 17, 2020 14:57

Watching the experiment, not knowing what was going to happen was pretty upsetting. Watching it thinking that the teacher actually continues to shock the learner even as he keeps screaming is awful to watch. Unfortunately if you think more about it it is not all that surprising. As people, generally, we follow authority figures. Whether we want to or not, most of us follow the instructions of a superior in basically everything we do. The teacher in the experiment was just doing what the man in the lab coat was telling him to do.


I found it interesting that after World War II, Milgram originally thought that only Germans had “a readiness to obey authority without question,” that this would not be the case in Americans. It makes us feel better to think this way, that we would never do something like what happened during the war, that it would only be done by people who have a certain trait or “flaw” that causes them to act this way. It only takes one person in a position of authority that people look up to, to carry out horrific acts by everyone who follows them.


All our lives we are taught to respect our “elders” and trust authority. We are taught to believe everything we see on the internet or on the news. Nevertheless, people have been losing their respect and trust in authority. Especially in the current state of the country, I think many people on either side of the political spectrum would have a harder time trusting an authority than in the 60s. Without the situation exactly the same, the experiment would never work again. This experiment would only work when people do not know that they are part of an experiment.


As well as listening to whatever a person in authority says, we have a tendency to follow what everyone else around us is doing. People have a great need to want to blend in with everyone, to not stand out or seem different. This type of behavior was also evident in other experiments such as the Asch conformity experiments. People who were “in on” the Asch experiment acted a certain way to see if others would follow. People after stated that sometimes even though they knew that the answers were wrong they did not want to be embarrassed for saying something different from the others. It stated that this is influenced by people’s wish to blend in with others, as well as their beliefs that other people are smarter than them.


Even if you think there is something that you would never do, being put in a situation where you have to go against what an authority figure is telling you to do can be difficult for anyone. Regardless of your beliefs, we are taught to trust people in authority, and it may be hard to see if they are making you do something wrong. It does help to possibly explain some of the actions and crimes that people commit in wars or other situations. Nevertheless it is interesting to at least think about when learning about wars and past events and thinking about why these people did these awful things. While some people may always believe what they are doing is right, some people could be scared to oppose authority for fear of punishment, or simply because someone is telling them what to do.


What was most interesting to me about the experiment was that the teacher kept asking Milgram if he would be held responsible for what happened to the learner. r He would only continue after being reassured that the man in charge would be the one held responsible for whatever happened. It is interesting to think about how this relates to real life. I agree with iluvcows, people often think they are guilt in situations where someone else is telling them what to do, they feel as if they have no choice but to do what they say. My question is: How can people justify committing horrific acts because someone else is taking responsiblity or is telling them what to do?


Responding to iluvcows’s question “What attributes make an authority figure trustworthy?” I think in general we look to those above us for authority. For example people often believe everything their doctor tells them to do, while often doctors can be trusted, they can also persuade people to get treatments they may not actually need simply to get more money, because people put their trust in them. Oftentimes people also trust politicians, they think that they are supposed to be looking out for their best interests, but sometimes politicians are just looking out for themselves. Whether it is someone in politics or someone with a higher degree, we look up to those who are smarter than us or wealthier than us.

Answering @squirrelluver’s question, individuals seem to find ease in escaping their guilt by placing the fault elsewhere. If they are told the liability falls on another person, this allows them to feel as if their participation in the act is insignificant. Hearing that the other person involved will face the repercussions causes them to evade any remorse.

ernest.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 30

Milgram Study Shows Our Potential for Evil, but No Definite Conclusions

To begin with, I will state the obvious: the only thing we know for certain from Milgram’s study is that if male adults are placed in a lab setting at Yale University and asked to deliver electric shocks in the name of science, while being egged on by a researcher to go up to a fatal amount, 65% of participants will obey. The fact that even slight modifications to this experiment had drastic effects on participants’ responses shows that the lesson of this experiment is more that we all have the potential to follow orders to a disastrously submissive extent, and that we cannot make any broad and decisive conclusion about what other circumstances people will be just as obedient in, such as when the government is involved. And on that note, I would add that people are significantly more skeptical and weary of the government than of science. There are still many people who are mistrustful of science, as we all well know during this time of a massive vaccination mission, but far more are the people on both sides of the political aisle who see the government as by nature corrupt or bad, so this adds more complications to the idea that this shows people will blindly obey the government as well.

Given this, I think Milgram’s claim about finding personnel for a death camp in any medium American town is tenuous at best. His study shows that this has the potential to be true, but it far from proves it, as shown with how variable people’s reactions were depending on minor factors, like whether the learner was in the same room or not. I would also like to respond to @iluvcow’s claim:

“An example of this in the present day is Donald Trump's presidency. We see thousands of people backing up a man who has done horrific things to the country solely because of his power and elevated status. These supporters ignore the negative influence he holds, perhaps scared of the repercussions that could come with rebelling.”

I do not believe Trump’s base supports him just because he is of a high status and therefore merits more obedience. Trump supporters do not just mindlessly obey/support him, they actively and fervently believe in what he preaches and his rhetoric and ideology clearly has a strong resonance with them. So I think that situation is different, and has more to do with appealing to grievances, reactions to change/progress, and deep-rooted beliefs/biases American society conditions people to have. What is similar, perhaps, is Republicans’ recent refusal to acknowledge Biden’s victory- even though the clear moral choice was defying President Trump, the potential cost was enough to keep many of them in line. They knew that going against Trump could anger their constituency and Trump, costing them their next election, and they fear of going against a (de facto) boss and being the one to step out worked together to create their embarrassing response.

And we see this ourselves all the time in our own lives. No one likes going against the grain, as much as we all say we do. If we do try to be “different,” it is usually in a socially acceptable way. For example, many people these days call out the government for its wrongs (which is a good thing), but this is not exceptional or a valorous case of being an upstander since calling out the government is trendy and even mandatory nowadays. Another example is the homework tonight. Ms. Freeman assigned 4 readings on top of the post, which is unlikely to be finished within even 45 minutes (as of the time of my writing this, I have been working on this assignment for over an hour). Yet, few of us are likely to speak up or reach out to Ms. Freeman (except, apparently, in meta and indirect ways such as this) because we want to avoid confrontation/conflict, and fear being judged, rejected, or perhaps most of all, just seeming annoying. Even though it is not actually easier to just do the assignment, speaking up requires us to fight against social code, so we don't speak up.

And, even though obviously getting too much homework and being asked to kill someone are totally different scenarios, the dynamic of obedience is the same. It is far more stressful and frustrating to complete an excessively difficult project, math worksheet, whatever, yet something within us overrides the clearest way out because it involves the confrontation of authority. I agree with @iluvcows that this in part comes from society telling us to obey authority, but here’s the problem: as the 1st Meyer reading pointed out, we HAVE to learn to obey authority in order for society to work. So what’s the solution? How can we construct a society in which we still teach people to obey authority, but also teach them to be upstanders and override social pressures (demonstrated in Asch’s conformity study)?

Finally, responding to @squirrelluver123’s question, I believe the justification for committing evil because we were commanded to do it lies in Meyer’s idea of “agency," wherein we give up our conception of ourselves as individuals and instead see ourselves as people simply executing the orders of someone else, the culpable figure. It is easy for all of us to sit at our desk, watching the study through our computer alone in our rooms and tell ourselves we would not do the same. But, as Meyer points out, being in specific social situations has the power to completely alter our frame of mind, and situations of strict authority is one of these. This means that in reality it’s really difficult to predict how we would have done ourselves in that study, because the participants were in a vastly different frame of mind than we are, calmly watching it unfold.

Cookie Monster
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 27

Stanley Milgram wasn't expecting the results he got. In 1962, the scientist set out to study what made members of society more obedient to authority and what made them more rebellious. As a Jew, he wanted to prove the theory that there was something different about the German people that made them more blindly submissive to leaders in power. Milgram created an experiment in which there are two roles, the teacher and the learner; the former is asked to shock the learner continuously with as much as 450 volts of energy. The procedure became so meticulous that the learner became in on the experiment with a prerecorded audio of them "screaming" in pain from the shocks. Milgram, as well as a group of Yale psychology majors, believed that most people would end up quitting mid-way through the experiment, and that the data would form a bell curve graph. After all, member of American society lived in a world with a large emphasis on individualism and the liberty of freedom. However, the results painted a very different picture of human behavior across the board. What the conclusion seems to be is that human nature acts similarly no matter what culture is taken in by an individual. Obedience to experts and people believed to be "authority" is distinctful and deep rooted in everyone throughout any global society. Milgram didn't even bring the experiment to Germany as he was planning to because the data he collected in America showed a high level of obedience as well. According to his observations, any human has the capability to kill or torture anyone to death as long as people with authority or a large consensus in society is urging them to.

As we were watching the video documenting Milgram's experiment in the 1960s in class today, I couldn't stop thinking about two events in recent memory that I felt had a strong correlation with this behavioral trend in the human psyche. Yes, Hitler and other dictators such as Mussolini were able to coalesce their constituents in the name of their authority to commit terrible atrocities of extermination and genocide. Today, those same methods that Hitler and Mussolini used in their authoritative personas can be seen in North Korea with Kim Jong Un, as well as in Russia with Vladimir Putin. However, these authoritarian and dictatorship-esque elements are present anywhere in the world, and in the U.S. we have seen a significant rise of the domineering, nativist roots that are seen in places like North Korea. The election of Donald Trump is a case study in how these dark undercurrents of western society can accumulate into governmental actions similar to those in developing nations. Throughout his long-lived career, Donald Trump has infamously lashed out at his perceived enemies in often scandalous ways. As the 45th Republican president of the US and the closest thing that we have had to an authoritarian in generations, Trump had vehemently attacked his political adversaries to the point where he was calling for their arrest. These harsh strikes can create extreme views among an authoritative leaders' followers, as Milgram's experiment explored, because they may singularly listen to their orders due to their significant presence in society. Over the tumultuous year that has been 2020, the Democratic governors of Michigan and Virginia, both of whom belong to the opposite political party as Trump, could've been assassinated because of murder plots planned out by a group of the President's supporters that were eventually infiltrated. However, although the plots weren't successful, this behavior is a living example of how elements of Milgram's experiment cumulate in real life. An authoritative figure's implications and statements can greatly effect their constituents based on their high presence in the community they are a part of. In 1979, Milgram stated that "if a system of death camps were set up in the United States of the sort we had seen in Nazi Germany, one would be able to find sufficient personnel for these camps in any medium-sized American town." If the authority in a group of people is heavily relied on by the surrounding community, why wouldn't members of that society follow through in serving that figure in the name of hate?


Cookie Monster
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 27

Originally posted by ernest. on December 17, 2020 17:41

To begin with, I will state the obvious: the only thing we know for certain from Milgram’s study is that if male adults are placed in a lab setting at Yale University and asked to deliver electric shocks in the name of science, while being egged on by a researcher to go up to a fatal amount, 65% of participants will obey. The fact that even slight modifications to this experiment had drastic effects on participants’ responses shows that the lesson of this experiment is more that we all have the potential to follow orders to a disastrously submissive extent, and that we cannot make any broad and decisive conclusion about what other circumstances people will be just as obedient in, such as when the government is involved. And on that note, I would add that people are significantly more skeptical and weary of the government than of science. There are still many people who are mistrustful of science, as we all well know during this time of a massive vaccination mission, but far more are the people on both sides of the political aisle who see the government as by nature corrupt or bad, so this adds more complications to the idea that this shows people will blindly obey the government as well.

Given this, I think Milgram’s claim about finding personnel for a death camp in any medium American town is tenuous at best. His study shows that this has the potential to be true, but it far from proves it, as shown with how variable people’s reactions were depending on minor factors, like whether the learner was in the same room or not. I would also like to respond to @iluvcow’s claim:

“An example of this in the present day is Donald Trump's presidency. We see thousands of people backing up a man who has done horrific things to the country solely because of his power and elevated status. These supporters ignore the negative influence he holds, perhaps scared of the repercussions that could come with rebelling.”

I do not believe Trump’s base supports him just because he is of a high status and therefore merits more obedience. Trump supporters do not just mindlessly obey/support him, they actively and fervently believe in what he preaches and his rhetoric and ideology clearly has a strong resonance with them. So I think that situation is different, and has more to do with appealing to grievances, reactions to change/progress, and deep-rooted beliefs/biases American society conditions people to have. What is similar, perhaps, is Republicans’ recent refusal to acknowledge Biden’s victory- even though the clear moral choice was defying President Trump, the potential cost was enough to keep many of them in line. They knew that going against Trump could anger their constituency and Trump, costing them their next election, and they fear of going against a (de facto) boss and being the one to step out worked together to create their embarrassing response.

And we see this ourselves all the time in our own lives. No one likes going against the grain, as much as we all say we do. If we do try to be “different,” it is usually in a socially acceptable way. For example, many people these days call out the government for its wrongs (which is a good thing), but this is not exceptional or a valorous case of being an upstander since calling out the government is trendy and even mandatory nowadays. Another example is the homework tonight. Ms. Freeman assigned 4 readings on top of the post, which is unlikely to be finished within even 45 minutes (as of the time of my writing this, I have been working on this assignment for over an hour). Yet, few of us are likely to speak up or reach out to Ms. Freeman (except, apparently, in meta and indirect ways such as this) because we want to avoid confrontation/conflict, and fear being judged, rejected, or perhaps most of all, just seeming annoying. Even though it is not actually easier to just do the assignment, speaking up requires us to fight against social code, so we don't speak up.

And, even though obviously getting too much homework and being asked to kill someone are totally different scenarios, the dynamic of obedience is the same. It is far more stressful and frustrating to complete an excessively difficult project, math worksheet, whatever, yet something within us overrides the clearest way out because it involves the confrontation of authority. I agree with @iluvcows that this in part comes from society telling us to obey authority, but here’s the problem: as the 1st Meyer reading pointed out, we HAVE to learn to obey authority in order for society to work. So what’s the solution? How can we construct a society in which we still teach people to obey authority, but also teach them to be upstanders and override social pressures (demonstrated in Asch’s conformity study)?

Finally, responding to @squirrelluver123’s question, I believe the justification for committing evil because we were commanded to do it lies in Meyer’s idea of “agency," wherein we give up our conception of ourselves as individuals and instead see ourselves as people simply executing the orders of someone else, the culpable figure. It is easy for all of us to sit at our desk, watching the study through our computer alone in our rooms and tell ourselves we would not do the same. But, as Meyer points out, being in specific social situations has the power to completely alter our frame of mind, and situations of strict authority is one of these. This means that in reality it’s really difficult to predict how we would have done ourselves in that study, because the participants were in a vastly different frame of mind than we are, calmly watching it unfold.

I believe a good solution for this problem comes from the construct of labeling who holds authority and who doesn't. In the United States, government officials are supposed to work and advocate for their constituents needs. Every congressperson in the House of Representatives is responsible for the task of representing the people who make up the population of their congressional district in the best way possible. Every member of the U.S. Senate is assigned with the duty of serving a state and advocating for everyone who lives there no matter what social status they belong to. The President of the United States and their administration is supposed to respond adequately to all the issues of the American people, who were the sole reason they hold that high office at all. However, this isn't how are American institutions operate and isn't even close. The benefits of the U.S. government are heavily skewed to the wealthiest and most privileged members of American society. This result can be diagnosed with the factors of money in politics, as well as the idea of disenfranchisement. Lobbyists for large corporate companies or industries pay out lawmakers to curry favor and to get what they want out of them. The politicians then use the funds they received from corporations to run for reelection, and this whole construct perpetuates itself into even deeper roots of our institutions. In diverse communities, there is a deep mistrust in government and American society. This leads to the most engaged members of the community being of more privileged classes, leading to less representation and advocacy for groups who need the most help. In order to create a society where the people are the authority and a small group of people don't dictate everything, we must take money out of politics and make our institutions more accessible to everyone.

BLStudent
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

would you flip the switch?

Obviously this video was shocking and made a-lot of us in the class uncomfortable watching what we thought was a man slowly dying and i think we would all say that if we were in that situation we would never go all the way to the end or would criticize the "teacher" for not just standing up and walking away but its not that simple. Its easy to say that could never be us flipping the switch but like the study shows even after Milgram added as much as he could to increase disobedience 65% of participants went all the way to the end. Many participants clearly objected to the experiment like the man in the video but still ended up giving into the authority of the "researcher" and went all the way.

Majority of the test subjects went all the way to the end with no personal motives attached simply because of the presence of an authority figure in the room. You can only imagine how high the percentage of people would be who went to the end had they had something to gain or lose. And this is how we see tragedies unfold if most people are willing to do the unthinkable because of an authority figure its shouldn't be that surprising as unfortunate as it is that people would do far more if it meant protecting their family or improving their own financial stability.

This can be directly applied to a lot of the problems involving the police recently where the "good cops" who go in the job with good intentions to help people and would never intentionally hurt an innocent person but end up standing by doing nothing as innocent people are hurt, wrongly arrested or killed by other officers.

I think the human nature element to this is that human nature is to survive and be selfish and the easiest way to do this is to limit your empathy and mind your own business which is why its much easier to obey orders from someone higher up than to potentially put yourself at risk in someway and be disobedient. However as pessimistic as that sounds i think this conflicts with another part of human nature which is our ability to empathize with each other very closely. This is why whenever some sort of atrocity is occurring there is people following along for their own benefit or fear or general obedience but there is always people on the other side taking huge personal risks making huge sacrifices to the right thing even when the odds are stacked against them. We see horrible acts of violence which expose the worst of humanity but almost immediately after we see humanities healing process which shows the best of humanity. Human nature is incredibly complex and to say its entirely good or entirely evil is false when its clearly capable of both.

i have two questions, The first is Do you think anything has changed? Would the results be the same today? and my second question is would you flip the switch? and if you said no how can you be sure?

Responding to Squirrelluver's question: "How can people justify committing horrific acts because someone else is taking responsibility or is telling them what to do?" I dont think they do justify because to justify would be to admit that they are the ones doing the action, i think rather than justifying it they try to disassociate themselves from the action as much as possible to most people they aren't killing the person by flipping the switch but rather the researcher is killing them by giving the order.

cherryblossom
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 29

One's Willingness to Obey

I was very surprised and horrified by the video of Milgram’s experiment in class. Even though the “teacher” heard the learner’s screams from the other room and eventually silence after 300 volts, he was still compliant in the experiment. The results of this experiment and of Milgram’s other experiments point out how most people are obedient in the presence of authoritative figures. Like @ernest, I believe that people fear conflict with authority and the idea of being wrong and the best way to avoid those situations is to obey individuals of authority. They think that the knowledge and directions of a professional make their judgements wrong. In this way, authority overrules their moral principles. In this specific test, the man was willing to continue because he trusted the specialist’s instructions and skill and was assured that the subject's death would not be his responsibility. This suggests that naturally people follow directions and rules in fear of punishment and other consequences. According to the article from Aeon, 40% of participants still went to 450 volts when the subject was in the room and 12 out of 40 participants reached 450 volts when they were required to hold down the subject’s hand on the shock plate. These findings demonstrate the extent that people will go to in order to follow the “orders” from individuals of authority.


Milgram carried out these experiments to see if Germans had a greater tendency to be obedient than other people, referring to the atrocities in concentration camps during World War II. These concentration camps were an effort to separate the Jewish community from German society and eliminate them through dehumanization, which included deprivation of food, exploitation for science, and punishment for normal human responses. Moreover, Milgram’s experiments also reflect people's willingness to dehumanize others because the agony of the subject did not stop many participants. The experiments tested one’s inclination to hurt an innocent person for the sake of authority.


To answer @BLStudent’s first question, people’s willingness to obey orders is still very much present in our society. Like @iluvcows said, Trump’s administration has demonstrated this as many of his followers are extremely loyal. I think that their loyalty reaches the point of obsession and idolization. Donald Trump dehumanizes many groups of people, including African Americans, Asians, and Latinx people, through his policies and rhetoric. Some of his supporters are so influenced by him that they are willing to harm others. The rise of nationalist groups and hate groups in the past four years highlights the presence of extreme actions from his followers. Science also shows us that almost nothing has changed since Milgram’s studies. In 2007, a study within ethical guidelines conducted by Jerry M. Burger at Santa Clara University saw the same level of compliance as discovered nearly 50 years ago in spite of the disclosures and alerts given to participants.


Then, to answer @BLStudent’s second question, I honestly think that I would have flipped the switch because sometimes I am afraid of being wrong and want to avoid conflict with authoritative figures. However, I would have not gone to 450 volts. I would probably refuse to continue at a certain point because I tend to feel guilty easily. Even though the subject’s injury or death technically would not be my responsibility, the guilt of me taking part in it would have eaten away at me and compelled me to stop.


The Milgram experiment has been replicated many times in different countries, like South Africa and Germany. Milgram's deep passion for this phenomenon allowed him to establish his experiments in a way that would interest many scientists and other specialists. I found Milgram’s background particularly intriguing. His parents were eastern-European Jews who were able to escape the Nazi camps in Germany and reside in New York. As a result of his family’s fortunate circumstances, he grew up troubled with survivor’s guilt, thinking that he should have died in one of the concentration camps. Ultimately, this anxiety and his knowledge of the Holocaust drove him to carry out his studies. This left me with a question: If he had a different background, do you think his approach to the experiments would have been different and would this have affected the popularity of and people’s fascination for these experiments?


Fruit Snacks
Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 27

To Obey or Not to Obey?

Obedience is an acquired trait, and it doesn’t apply to everyone. For example, we’ve all had substitute teachers and we tend to categorize them based on their looks. Depending on the category the substitute teacher is put in decides the level of obedience the class will have. If they are on the older side and seem passive, then the students might pull out their phones and be obnoxious, but if they are old and intimidating the students might choose to be productive and do their work. Ultimately from the moment the teacher walks in the student is already trying to test out the limits for leisure in the classroom. It isn’t necessarily to try and be disrespectful in most cases, but it is to see the extent of what the student can do without being disobedient. This habit begins with the parents and guardians. Little kids are always tempting their parents to see what they can get away with, and for the rest of their lives at each milestone. Personally it was taught to me that authority is never questioned when I would get shunned by my parents for asking why I couldn’t do something. Or why something was the “wrong thing”. Too much authority makes people deceitful, but it all depends because it can result in loyalty too.


Milgram’s experiment proves the idea of compliance to a given authority. It’s not human instinct to disobey instruction, unless there is experience and background knowledge to hint that the instruction is harmful. In this experiment it was testing the middle man. The middle man was doing the harm in theory, but the responsibility went to the man giving orders. This notion of not having any responsibility or consequences makes it easy for humans to forget that they are causing damage because it’s not their fault, but it is. This explains why people were capable of killing other innocent people, i.e. the Holocaust, but it doesn’t justify it. I think a lot of Americans are doing better about rebelling against authority, but it was inspired by all the minorities being tired of getting treated like garbage. Sometimes it’s easier to be passive, but that’s because doing the right thing isn’t always easy.


I do believe that there’s sufficient personnel in a medium sized American town because everyone boils down to the same thing. Obedience is universal, therefore a lot of people will listen if they’re being told by a man that they will live if they kill someone else. It’d be too naive to believe that out of a whole town everyone would revolt. It’s just the world we live in today. Of course there’s always exceptions.


What pushes a person to say no and actually act on their no?

Noodles
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 24

"But he said it was ok"

We all think we would be that person who would say “no” and refuse to obey a command we deem morally incorrect. But as shown the results from the Milgram experiment and the Asch conformity experiment, the validity of that statement is circumstantial. When forced to confront an authority, people are 3 times more likely to follow through with an order that they deem morally wrong if they have to face the authority figure in person than over the phone. The Asch conformity experiment showed that in a group setting, people will change their answers to that of the group’s even if they believe it to be wrong in order to avoid disapproval. The majority of people would only speak out after someone else questions the group’s answer. Social experiments like these show that humans are social creatures and will change their beliefs and morals in order to fit in and gain praise from others. But to answer if I would be able to say “no” and disobey an immoral order, I can’t say with 100% certainty that I would be able.


In the Milgram experiment, the teacher would continue to knowingly inflict harm on the learner because he believed he was doing it for a good reason—to further scientific understanding. Who was he to question the decisions of a man in a lab coat who told him that the electric shocks would not harm the learner? In the moment, he was viewed as the one incorrect by those around him (that being the instructor). But when there were two instructors arguing over the experiment, no teacher was able to continue the experiment not just because there was uncertainty about the safety of the test, but because the person was no longer being judged or looked upon as incorrect by questioning the order.


The well known phrase of “I was just following orders” is the only way to describe how all the participants responded after they ended the experiment, especially for those who went all the way to 450 volts. Once they realized that what they did was being viewed as wrong, they instantly turned on the authority figure, blaming them for their actions and for not listening to them when they raised concern for the safety of the learner. The teachers were finally able to confront the authority figure only after the experiment because someone else had validated their complaints. To tie this back to history, during Nazi Germany SS officers thought that their actions were correct, and even if they did have concerns, they never openly questioned or confronted their orders or bosses due to fear of being wrong and having history shun them for their decisions. Although paradoxical and extremely ironic given the full history that we have now, the results from the experiment seem to back that up. It is far too easy to look back and understand what we should have done or should have realized, but in the moment there is no way of knowing how history will view you. Another example would be the parents and students who opposed the integration of BPS as although they were completely in the wrong, they must have believed that they were on the right side of history while protesting.


Although many SS officers may not have openly questioned or refused to obey their orders, I do not believe that personnel for a death camp can be found in any medium-sized American town. There is a stark difference between pulling a lever and zapping someone without the intent to harm or kill them and knowingly sending someone into a gas chamber to be killed. That being said, I do believe that one could find personnel for an internment camp within American towns as the morals are more ambiguous and less oblivious. Though there would have to be some event that brings some sort of “justification” for its purpose.


I would also like to respond to @ernest’s response of @iluvcow’s claim: “Trump supporters do not just mindlessly obey/support him, they actively and fervently believe in what he preaches and his rhetoric and ideology clearly has a strong resonance with them.”


While there are definitely Trump supporters who may full heartedly believe in everything Trump says, many of them only believe in those things because Trump says them. They go along with what he says just as the prison guards in the Stanford Prison experiment went along with beating and tormenting the inmates—they just want to fit in and have a community/group to be a part of. I do agree that Trump appeals to them because he raises the same grievances that they have but never felt confident or brave enough to speak out about. Just like in the Asch experiment, once one person goes against the group the others are more likely to raise their concerns too.


To answer @cherryblossom’s question, this would bring up the whole argument about nature versus nurture. There is the possibility that he conducted the experiment wanting to find out if the SS officers were just normal people tricked by society into doing bad things, but he also could have been genuinely interested in psychology and wanted to study human behavior. The way that his experiment was conducted by not allowing the two participants to really talk or connect with each other too much (at least from what can be seen in the video) is similar to how the SS officers never really interacted with the prisoners in a way that allowed them to see the prisoners are real human beings. But then again, the experiment could have been set up with even less interactions between the two participants. As for the question about how it would have affected his popularity, I am unaware if he was criticized or attacked for conducting this experiment after having fled from Nazi Germany. Although there may have been some implicit bias involved due to antisemitism.


History used to view those who opposed questioning the government as dangerous and wrong. Yet in the modern day, those who do not question the authority of the government are viewed as wrong. It is interesting to try and think about how history might portray a movement that we support as being wrong.


This brings up my question: What modern movement or trend do you think will be viewed as wrong or incorrect by future generations and future historians? You can choose one that is currently viewed as wrong (such as Trump), or you can try and think about a movement or trend that is currently viewed as good (such as the loss of privacy on the internet or exam schools).

Fruit Snacks
Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 27

Originally posted by cherryblossom on December 17, 2020 22:19

I was very surprised and horrified by the video of Milgram’s experiment in class. Even though the “teacher” heard the learner’s screams from the other room and eventually silence after 300 volts, he was still compliant in the experiment. The results of this experiment and of Milgram’s other experiments point out how most people are obedient in the presence of authoritative figures. Like @ernest, I believe that people fear conflict with authority and the idea of being wrong and the best way to avoid those situations is to obey individuals of authority. They think that the knowledge and directions of a professional make their judgements wrong. In this way, authority overrules their moral principles. In this specific test, the man was willing to continue because he trusted the specialist’s instructions and skill and was assured that the subject's death would not be his responsibility. This suggests that naturally people follow directions and rules in fear of punishment and other consequences. According to the article from Aeon, 40% of participants still went to 450 volts when the subject was in the room and 12 out of 40 participants reached 450 volts when they were required to hold down the subject’s hand on the shock plate. These findings demonstrate the extent that people will go to in order to follow the “orders” from individuals of authority.


Milgram carried out these experiments to see if Germans had a greater tendency to be obedient than other people, referring to the atrocities in concentration camps during World War II. These concentration camps were an effort to separate the Jewish community from German society and eliminate them through dehumanization, which included deprivation of food, exploitation for science, and punishment for normal human responses. Moreover, Milgram’s experiments also reflect people's willingness to dehumanize others because the agony of the subject did not stop many participants. The experiments tested one’s inclination to hurt an innocent person for the sake of authority.


To answer @BLStudent’s first question, people’s willingness to obey orders is still very much present in our society. Like @iluvcows said, Trump’s administration has demonstrated this as many of his followers are extremely loyal. I think that their loyalty reaches the point of obsession and idolization. Donald Trump dehumanizes many groups of people, including African Americans, Asians, and Latinx people, through his policies and rhetoric. Some of his supporters are so influenced by him that they are willing to harm others. The rise of nationalist groups and hate groups in the past four years highlights the presence of extreme actions from his followers. Science also shows us that almost nothing has changed since Milgram’s studies. In 2007, a study within ethical guidelines conducted by Jerry M. Burger at Santa Clara University saw the same level of compliance as discovered nearly 50 years ago in spite of the disclosures and alerts given to participants.


Then, to answer @BLStudent’s second question, I honestly think that I would have flipped the switch because sometimes I am afraid of being wrong and want to avoid conflict with authoritative figures. However, I would have not gone to 450 volts. I would probably refuse to continue at a certain point because I tend to feel guilty easily. Even though the subject’s injury or death technically would not be my responsibility, the guilt of me taking part in it would have eaten away at me and compelled me to stop.


The Milgram experiment has been replicated many times in different countries, like South Africa and Germany. Milgram's deep passion for this phenomenon allowed him to establish his experiments in a way that would interest many scientists and other specialists. I found Milgram’s background particularly intriguing. His parents were eastern-European Jews who were able to escape the Nazi camps in Germany and reside in New York. As a result of his family’s fortunate circumstances, he grew up troubled with survivor’s guilt, thinking that he should have died in one of the concentration camps. Ultimately, this anxiety and his knowledge of the Holocaust drove him to carry out his studies. This left me with a question: If he had a different background, do you think his approach to the experiments would have been different and would this have affected the popularity of and people’s fascination for these experiments?


When I read this question, I thought simple no nothing would change, but there's many layers. I believe that if he had a different background the approach to the experiment would be very similar because the problem in many situations is because of authority. However the publicity would be way different if it was conducted by anyone who wasn't Caucasian just because of the times.

Noodles
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 24

Its Their Choice

Originally posted by Fruit Snacks on December 17, 2020 22:40

I do believe that there’s sufficient personnel in a medium sized American town because everyone boils down to the same thing. Obedience is universal, therefore a lot of people will listen if they’re being told by a man that they will live if they kill someone else. It’d be too naive to believe that out of a whole town everyone would revolt. It’s just the world we live in today. Of course there’s always exceptions.


What pushes a person to say no and actually act on their no?

The SS officers were never told that they would die if they didn't work as guards in the concentration camps. It was entirely their choice to take the job.

To answer your question: It differs from person to person and is entirely circumstantial for each instance, but for the teachers in the experiment who disobeyed the order to shock the learner, their "no" was most likely caused by their guilt of causing pain to another human being. Being social animals and driven by the need to belong and fit in, they probably felt a bigger obligation to help the person in pain than the researcher who was telling them to continue on with the experiment. During the clip that we watched in class, the teacher stood up multiple times and voiced his complaint but he never fully acted on it. All he had to do was start moving and follow what his gut was telling him, and that is how someone can act on their decisions to say "no."

babypluto9
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

It's a Mental Choice

From Milgram’s experiments we can conclude that the choice to do what's right and wrong is up to the particular person. I don't believe the findings from Milgram’s experiments tell us anything concrete. The people who were experimented on could have given different answers in different scenarios. I think the only thing that the experiments confirmed were that the more sure they were about a decision the more likely they were to preform on it. This comes from "When more than one authority figure was in the room and the two argued over the experiment, no “teacher” continued to the end." This shows that when the action has not been fully agreed on then it's not going to happen. In my opinion wether a person decides to do good or bad is already made up by what they have taken in. "When the “learner” was in the same room as the teacher, only 40% of the teachers “obeyed.” "When the “teacher” had to put the “learner’s” hand on the metal plate to give the shock, only 30% obeyed the experiment." These findings show that the "teacher" already made up their mind even though new factors were introduced.

In my opinion, humans are willing to do anything if they think its the right thing to do. The previous two results of the experiment shows that this is true. Fueled my many factors, humans will do what they think is right regardless of the consequences. What decides if a human is able to do something is themselves. Humans will determine what they think is right and preform that action. Their decisions can be fueled by those around them or influences from their past.

I don't think a middle sized American town will give universally accurate results. Everybody is influenced by different factors and usually those from a middle sized American town have similar influences. Some that come to mind when thinking of a middle sized American town are religion, community, etc. These influences wouldn't be the same for those in coastal cities or those in more developed areas. The results of a experiment would be inaccurate and would tailor to a specific way of life. To have more accurate results, more variety needs to be incorporated.

Answering Noodles question: I think in the future "cancel culture" can be seen as wrong. Even now "cancel culture" is debated and it has created division from what's right and wrong. For those who don't know "cancel culture" is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles - either online on social media, in the real world, or both. This happens when a person is viewed to do something significantly incorrect. I see both pros and cons to this. "Cancel culture" can do good and provide justice to many victims but it has a equal chance of doing harm.

My question is how do people determine what to trust and how does what we trust affect our view of the world?

yvesIKB
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 32

Obedience: Where Doubt and Trust Collide

In ninth grade, all Boston Latin School students were required, for the first time, to try to write a research paper on a novel, which would constitute much of their grade for the year. I remember the novel I chose was based on the French Revolution, and I wrote of the dangers of unanimity and bending to the crowd. It seemed rather simple — all the French peasants, after years of oppression, went mad to the point that they could not recognize the barbarity of their actions and even beheaded their regents. Yet, it is not, as we are still asking to this day how common people could have participated in the Reign of Terror, the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, or the slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda. Moreover, is this type of social obedience a pitfall that “could happen to anyone”? Or, is it already in everyone?


Every day we can find ways to either affirm or doubt our judgments. @ernest., for instance, brought up a simple example of this homework assignment, that perhaps asking for an extension would be out of the question as a student might want to avoid “confrontation/conflict, and fear being judged, rejected, or perhaps most of all, just seeming annoying.” All these reasons which might talk one out of reaching out, I think, comes from the doubt that they might be unreasonable, that they would be in the wrong. Clearly, it turned out not to be unreasonable after all, as the deadline was indeed extended (which I’m very grateful for!), but this is also a present example of how numbers work to build credibility. Because many students came together to ask for an extension, this request seemed more of a “right” decision, which makes sense in other aspects of our lives as we consider the successes of petitions for change. If students hadn’t privately consulted with their friends and peers, however, it could very well be that this deadline would not be extended, that no one would’ve spoken up at all in their doubt for this particular course of action.


Doubting also comes into play with both Milgram’s and Asch’s experiments. When Asch’s results showed that participants followed their group’s incorrect answer about a third of the time, they found that sometimes participants actually doubted their correct answer due to the consideration that others might be smarter than they were and knew better. In Milgram’s experiment, one participant claimed he continued to flip high voltage switches because he thought it was proper for someone who “knows a little about this machine and stuff to say whether to go or not” (Obedience, 00:38:25). These participants know they are in an experiment, so perhaps their continuation had to do with their confusion or shock at the notion that the learner might be seriously hurt in a supposedly safe environment. They look to the experimenter, the authority, in their doubt, but Milgram reassures them. I think participants get the idea that they themselves are not actually controlling the learner’s suffering, that they are following the requirements of the experiment. Additionally, in “The Psychology of Torture” by Malcolm Harris, there is the point that perhaps the payment gave participants a sense of obligation, of reciprocation through compliance. I think both their confused doubt and incentivized commitment are what cause so many participants to follow through with the experiment, instead of objecting. Perhaps, in real life, without the context of it being an experiment (therefore, their actions being “fake”) or something participants voluntarily commit to, we would have different results.


Or, maybe not. Real life has its contexts too. This is so important, since, as Philip Meyer points out, “The meaning of your action is altered.” We’ve seen this historically, as in the Chernobyl disaster. In that context, men obeyed authorities because they believed in following roles of social structure and they knew disobeying could threaten their lives. We also see this now, with police officers wrongfully acting quickly — in the context made by their training that their lives are constantly in danger — and soldiers performing without pondering ethics of every action — with the context that “one can do his duty… and leave the agonizing to others” (Meyer). All these contexts have made it so that obeying is a habit, adopted as one tries to protect oneself in some way.


I think we can see how in many instances, obeying is a sign of trust. To address @babypluto9’s question, I think that people can determine to trust someone if they respect them. Maybe that occurs when someone has authority that we don’t, that they are a person we are not. In Milgrim’s case, he finished his doctorate at Harvard and experimented at Yale — I’m not sure many of his participants could say they have these “qualifications,” so perhaps they wouldn’t challenge him. This, for me, brings up the question of how obedience in subjects would vary if the experimenter were a woman, or a person of color, or didn’t have a Ph.D. from such a prestigious institution. I think this is proved to be effective when, in Milgram’s experiment, a test subject seemed extremely distraught and tried to protest continuation, but still addresses him as “sir” and says that he “[doesn’t] mean to be rude” by speaking out.


Another way this could occur, I think, is if the opposite were true, and respect is established because you related to someone and understood them. We see examples of this with identity politics, how you might trust that someone understands you better because of a shared trait, and, therefore, you respect their policies and judgment. This is also why I think, as @ernest. put it, “people on both sides of the political aisle who see the government as by nature corrupt or bad.” It makes sense that we are often distrustful of the government as a body, because many bureaucratic functions are unknown to us. I think perhaps people would be less likely to be antagonistic towards a single government official, maybe since they are more approachable and relatable, so it is easier to trust a fellow human than a controlling body.


As for the second part of @babypluto9’s question, I think that what we trust impacts almost every aspect of how we view the world. Once we trust someone or some thing, we subscribe to a certain idea, and once we’re in, it’s difficult to get out or, sometimes, to even see merits to an opposing side. For instance, Trump. I think in 2016, people trusted him because he would voice what no one dared to. At that time, people related to his ideologies, so they knew he would govern in their favor and have grown to follow him. After deciding to trust him, we can definitely see a surge in the far-right who view the world with Trump’s word — liberals are socialists and mail-in ballots are fraudulent. More recently, as @ernest. brought up, we see this with results of the election. Many Republicans who support Trump chose to abandon Fox News, even after listening for years, simply because they believed in Trump and his claims and were willing to shut out any opposition. Some Trump supporters also declared that they would only believe this was a just election or accept Biden as President when Trump himself declared it. This is a huge escalation from merely sharing common ideas with this man — it is now unconditionally obeying him. I think this really does show, as @babypluto9 also pointed out, that people can do anything if they trust that they are right. This aligns with Milgram’s reflections that “‘probably there is nothing the victim can say’” for participants to stop their “torture” and rebel, at least not once they believe that, in the context, they’re obeying the right course of action.


But sometimes, this context is shattered. A new one forms, one where they are in the wrong. Before, there is a conviction that by obeying, they are doing something right. What happens when this is flipped on its head, like in the Milgram experiment? Well, I think @noodles made an apt observation that, “once they realized that what they did was being viewed as wrong, they instantly turned on the authority figure, blaming them for their actions and for not listening to them when they raised concern for the safety of the learner.” Being wrong makes us defensive, it makes us uncomfortable and angry. As well saw in the video “Obedience,” a participant never actually accepted his role in “torturing” the learner, insisting agitatedly that the experimenter “made him” do it.


The question I am left with is this — in our real lives, where there is no experimenter to peel back the veil, how do we shift our minds from trusting in a certain context, to admitting that we’re wrong in another? Is this “shattering” able to happen through some climactic epiphany, or are we utterly helpless and only time can tell? How can someone like August Landmesser see the greater context for actions while being surrounded by conformers? This is extremely important now, where we are in such polarizing climates that we can obey impulsively. Whether it is something as innocent as quickly posting a black square, or something more drastic like pointing guns at peaceful protesters, people will come to realize the context for their actions might not match that of those around them.

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