posts 1 - 15 of 28
freemanjud
Boston, US
Posts: 205

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!)

SleezMoth
boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

Controlled through the screen.

Milgram's experiments show human's reaction to authority as well as the ability to commit actions that would not be possible without the fact that the blame is not put on the doer. The humans who have the power will be in charge of the humans without the power, as humans will subconsciously look up to the human with power for protection and guidance. For that protection and guidance humans will do almost anything if they are assured that they will not be held accountable, even killing and torturing strangers. Throughout history people in authority who have power over the average person have been able to bend the peoples will to match their own agendas with human's need for protection. People like Hitler as well as other leaders held power over a group of people and used this to do awful things to others because the humans under influence of these leaders were told that it was for a positive outcome.

In the modern day this can be seen everywhere on a much smaller scale. Social media has given random people fame and therefore 'power' when compared to the average American. This gives them at least a small amount of control. When say an instagram influencer drops merchandise, most people who see the sale will at least consider it. This on its own shows a level of influence through the phone.

softballgirl18
Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 16

how we are controlled today

Like said in a previous post, my classmate said that social media is a major factor in controlling our society today. Not only is there rumors about the government listening to us and monitoring us through our social media, but theres also the idea that because of social media, you have to look and act a certain way, which is super damaging to ones mental health.

I believe that if Miligram's experiment were to be run today through social media, the outcome would be similar, because people can be ruthless on the internet, but others can be super caring. How do you think the outcome of the experiment would be if it were run today?

dewdropdoll
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 20

Are we all just a bunch of sheep?

Milgram’s experiments revealed something that I had never really thought about before, and how we, as a society, are like a bunch of sheep following the general crowd with little to no individual thought of our own. To be honest, I was not expecting the study to be about obedience, and was really concerned when I saw that there was a shock machine that went up to a voltage that was deemed dangerous or deadly. I was even more surprised when the “teacher” in the video continued to go on with the experiment despite what seemingly sounded like someone had just died, yet despite his concerns, he chose to continue on after confirming that somebody else would take the responsibility if something bad were to happen. The experiment as a whole reveals an evil nature that it seems the majority of people have, and that is the ability to freely obey and do something terrible to someone else when told that there will be no consequences to them. Although there were other studies conducted with a change in setting, and the results revealed that less people were willing to obey, it goes to show that when given the chance to perform these acts on others in an environment they trust and understand that someone else will definitely take the blame for it, people will obey. That to me is the scariest part of it all.


I think that @Sleezmoth brings up a good point about this exact “sheep” behavior shown in social media today, and especially with influencers and their fanbases. It’s pretty crazy how much of an influence these people have over the behavior of their fans; they could get a tweet trending on twitter in just a few minutes the second they tell their fans to do so, and it starts to get dangerous when fans start to believe they must do everything they can to help out their favorite influencer and do things they believe they would like. For example, sending death threats to another content creator because they simply interacted with their sacred idol, and therefore “contaminated” them. Most of them do so with no fear of the consequences of their own words because they are hidden behind a screen, with no real identity attached. Although it is not to the same extent as actually killing someone, the behaviors people act upon when they know they won’t be held accountable is still scary. This also ties into the Asch Conformity experiments as even if one person doesn’t really believe in something themselves, if they see that a large part of the fanbase is targeting someone for interacting with their content creator, they will simply go along with the crowd because they believe that is the right thing to do if everybody else is doing it, and they also fear that if they speak out, everyone will go for them instead.


To answer @softballgirl18’s question, I think that the outcome would sadly be the same if it were run today, that is if the experiment was conducted without any recording of their faces. Since social media does play a huge role, if the experiment were to be conducted in the same manner, I think more people will not obey but only because they have a face to their actions (and a lot of people worry about how they are viewed on social media). However, if the experiment were to be conducted where they are either not recorded or there is no attachment to their identity (both with voice and face), I am sure they will go to the full voltage with no real care.


What I am curious about still is whether or not this behavior is innate or something that is learned through social conditioning. I would like to believe that it is not innate, and this can be “unlearned” because it is quite scary to think about how it is possible someone could have an innate desire to inflict harm on others when given the chance. Of course society does not allow us to do this legally, but with these experiments, it is shown that people would do it without any real problem. So, do you believe that this behavior is innate or do you believe it is learned and can be changed?

mellifluously
Allston, MA, US
Posts: 23

Conforming to Reduce Pressure

As a scientist, despite Milgram’s poor representative sample (of only white males), there is a level of veracity in his results, especially with some replications (as described in Harris’ article) further solidifying his results. His study is what helped grow social psychology and what created the psychological idea of obedience and conformity. As a result, yes, his study did indeed give us an insight into human behavior behind these types of actions. It not only explains Hitler’s side and how he was able to convince thousands among thousands of Nazis to commit such horrendous acts, but also the people who actually committed these deeds, and even the actions of people today. A lot more context is needed, however. Milgram’s experiment is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to detailing why these people did what they did and whether or not we can apply these theories to a larger population, such as our own.

SleezMoth gives a good interpretation of Milgram’s study: “The humans who have the power will be in charge of the humans without the power, as humans will subconsciously look up to the human with power for protection and guidance. For that protection and guidance humans will do almost anything if they are assured that they will not be held accountable, even killing and torturing strangers.” Although it did appear that way in the video depicting Milgram’s study, it is much more complex. Various topics such as cognitive dissonance and the foot-in-the-door phenomenon help explain why humans do these things. The most basic explanation, though, is the simple fact that we as humans want to reduce societal pressure induced by others. This pressure can then in turn produce anxiety within us, and as most of us know, anxiety can cause a plethora of mental and somatic symptoms. And of course, to reduce it, all one has to do is just follow what that person in the lab coat says. Or the person wearing the high-ranking uniform.

It is somewhat of a “survival of the fittest” idea. While still using SleezMoth’s interpretation, you help that person of control, they help you and give you protection. And in helping them, you also reduce your own internal pressures and save yourself from that mental anxiety of having to decide: do I save this person, or do I follow what this person says—do I follow their ultimate cause that they have claimed to have spent so long to obtain? It becomes more interesting when you look at it from that perspective.

If we look at our own times, all I have to say is that despite the fact that Trump has not committed any genocides (surprisingly, seeing his ideology and the things he has done), he still falls well under Milgram’s description of the person in power who would control other people. His words have divided people to no end and have pushed people to do astonishingly depressing things in order to marginalize or attack other races, cultures, sexualities, etc. It is absolutely depressing, but in the end, it further proves Milgram’s study.

Nonetheless, ethically, Milgram’s study would be considered as emotionally detrimental to a subject and thus be disapproved by an IRB. But without it, we would not have the branch of social psychology like we do today. That in itself is a moral dilemma to ponder about.

Referring to softballgirl18’s question, “How do you think the outcome of the experiment would be if it were run today,” I believe that it would be very unlikely that the experiment would be conducted again today with the plethora of guidelines ruling ethics, such as the Nuremberg Code. However, in the event that it could, I do not expect that the results would be any different. As Harris wrote about in his article, the study has been replicated to varying extents with a strict mindset of keeping the study ethical, and it has indeed warranted similar results to that of Milgram’s. Nothing much would change. We are still capable of obeying people that feign power.

And finally, to the next person, my question to you is: the brain is considered to be one of the most powerful things; for example, it technically has the capability of storing 2.5 million gigabytes of memory. In that case, it is very capable of learning new things. So then, I ask: do you believe that we as humans are capable of learning how to prevent being controlled? To prevent being the one to follow orders, to be obedient? And if so, do you think it would be an easy process or a difficult one? Would we have to work on it ourselves or would we have to have someone else condition us into that type of behavior? And what would be the outcome of doing so if the majority of humanity went through this? Would we be capable of war? Of genocide? What do you believe?

P.S. Sadly enough, lol, as I was typing this out, drewdropdoll posted, so I will also reply to their question as to whether or not this behavior is innate or if it can be learned and/or changed. My question above infringes a bit on what they wrote, but it goes further into depth.

Anyway, it is definitely innate. I always tend to fall on the side of believing more the evolutionary psychology side of things (since I am a huge biology zealot). Take it as a basic animal survival situation. Follow the orders of an animal that, say, is the “head of the pack,” and do what they want, then you would because it not only progresses the pack but also protects you (again, similar to what SleezMoth wrote about). But now, I will save the remaining part of that question for the next person. The part as to whether or not this can be changed, as it does fit in with my question.

plaidplatypus
Boston, Ma, US
Posts: 18

Is Obeying Important

I think Milgram’s experiment and obeying is the logical next step in our bystander conversation from earlier this year. It’s not that big a step to obey when somebody asks, after doing nothing when you see people doing wrong. I think Milgram’s experiment proves that a majority of people will listen to authority without thinking, probably since that’s what we’re taught to do our whole lives. I mean as soon as we understand what they’re saying we’re supposed to obey our parents, then our teachers, and eventually our bosses. We are conditioned to obey, so it shouldn’t be surprising when we do. I think this also relates to our discussion on othering and discrimination, maybe it’s not innated, but we are taught it from such a young age that it becomes part of us.


I think the most interesting application of explaining behavior with Milgram’s experiment today, has to do with wearing masks. While masks are proven helpful by science, and people who trust scientists as the authority wear masks, those who believe Trump and conservatives are the authority listen to them and don’t wear masks despite the evidence. I find it so interesting that today people believe different authorities, from my perspective people who don’t wear masks aren’t listening to authority, and are not willing to listen to authority, but when you step back and look at it they have blind faith in their authority, and are willing to risk safety for it.


I think @dewdropgirl brings up a good point about how the teacher was afraid to be responsible, and it was clear that he was willing to do something he didn’t want to as long as he wasn’t responsible. I think this also ties in to the discussion of social media, how people are willing to say things they’d never say in real life anonymously because they aren’t held responsible.


In response to @mellifluously’s question, I think that being controlled is probably a learned behavior, but I don’t necessarily think that being disobedient will solve any problems. If we all refused to listen to anyone the world would be super chaotic. Governments wouldn’t be able to function, and laws would constantly be broken. I know some laws and government agencies are super pointless, but without any government nothing would function and our current society would collapse, and well it’s certainly not perfect, I think it’s better than nothing.


My question is do you think faith authority leads to partisanship, and if so can we break out of the hyperpartisan world we are in?

berry
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

Human nature

After watching the video, I think I learned more about human behavior. The video made me reflect on myself and what I’m willing to do for others. I would never be able to do something that puts others in emotional or physical harm. In the video you can see what it does to some people. I think we sometimes forget what some people are capable of doing. I also think we forget how much we can be controlled and influenced by others whether it's out of affection, fear, trust, etc. I agree with @SleezMoth that in today’s age, social media has given a lot of people fame which also gives them influence over their followers. I think social media is an example of how we do things for people out of affection. You look up to these people and adore them. If they ask you to vote for them for an award for instance, you’ll vote for them because you like them. We might do things for people out of fear because we expect there’ll be a punishment if we don’t. Whether it’s a small punishment or an extreme punishment. For example if your parents tell you to clean the dishes and if you don’t, you know they’ll take away your phone. We also tend to listen to the authority of those we trust, such as our parents or sometimes friends. There is a level of trust where you feel as though they have your best interest at heart, so you’ll listen to them.

At the time I’m typing this @plaidplatypus is the person before me, so to answer their question, I do think faith authority leads to partisanship. I think that when a group of people is in favor of a leader and follows their authority, there is an immediate separation between those in the group and those who aren’t. The separation causes favoritism to those who do follow the leader and their authority. This separation is what creates partisanship. I’m not sure if we will be able to break out of the hyperpartisan world we are living in because so many of our country’s systems have a leader or a group of leaders that have influence over or are able to control a group of people. There is also so much separation between us that has been created by our former president. I’m guessing that this sort of hyperpartisan world won’t change in my lifetime, but eventually I'm hopeful it will.


My question for the next person after me is: Do you think as humans we just naturally listen and follow authority? Or is it something that becomes a habit after being drilled into our brains from an early age?

fignewton11
Boston, MA
Posts: 20

Blind and Blissful Obedience

While humans often ask how people “let the Holocaust happen,” it’s a rather hard question to answer. We could say all we want that we would have done something differently, that we would have spoken out, but the truth is, we’ll never really know. It is impossible to know what we would have done had we been put in those shoes. I think Milgram’s experiment, whether it was ethical or not, speaks volumes about the kind of people we are. Milgram’s experiment showed that humans often care more about how their actions reflect on them than they do about the harm they could do to others. The “teacher” in the video did express concern for the “student,” but his concern was more about whether he would be held responsible for his actions. He was anxious to give the volts, but he cared less once he was assured the doctor would be responsible. The doctor was stern in his instructions, and the man didn’t even think to go check on the man himself. He questioned the authority, but he didn’t fully reject it. In response to @dewdropdall saying it reveals an evil nature, I’m not sure I fully agree with this. I think wondering whether humans are inherently good or evil is certainly something to consider when discussing how genocides come about, but I am not sure if this experiment really shows an evilness in humanity. I think the teacher certainly cared more for preserving himself rather than for the safety of the student, but I do not think this makes him evil. I think it simply makes him obedient. As Meyer put it, “not blindly obedient, not blissfully obedient, just obedient.” We are conditioned to follow authority: lawmakers, parents, teachers, etc., and often people don’t question authority. Even if they do question it, they may not feel confident enough to fully reject it.

We’ve seen through history that humans are capable of doing absolutely horrific things to fellow humans, but I think answering why is near impossible. People could do things for any number of reasons: money, power, anger. I think Milgram’s study showed that if someone merely acts confident, people will believe them. The teacher questioned the doctor, but the doctor remained firm in his directions. At a certain point, the teacher sort of gave up arguing when he knew he wouldn’t be responsible. Again using the Holocaust as an example, when Hitler talked, people listened. Perhaps because they too wanted to blame others for their incompetencies, but also because Hitler was an authority. We have been trained to listen to authority or often be punished. Once Hitler gained enough traction, people went along with it. Speaking out is often easier said than done. I think this study and history shows that people are capable of doing terrible things if they believe they are only acting on behalf of someone else. Through this, people can do a lot of harm with little remorse because they do not view the actions as their own. I think today, people are often blindly obedient, despite Meyer's comment. Particularly in politics, people blindly follow propaganda and orders of the President without even thinking twice.

I think this experiment helps to explain humanity’s selfishness. No matter how compassionate or selfless a person is, there is always a part of us that is self-serving. In today’s society of cancel culture and social media, people are often consumed by others’ perceptions of them. The teacher in the study represents this same emotion. He cared if the study would make him look cruel, and less so about the student. People care more about their own self-interests than other people’s. Humans are inherently flawed and inherently selfish. That the majority of teachers went along with the experiment when the doctor was in the room shows how much value we place in authority and how little people cared for others. Unfortunately, I think if this study were done today it would yield the same results. Particularly when people have to make split decisions as they did in the study, I think people would listen to the doctor.

In response to @berry’s question, I think listening to authority is taught. We face authority in our homes, our schools, our government, practically everywhere. If we do not listen to authority, we face consequences. People are conditioned to avoid these consequences and do what they are told. Unfortunately, however, I think this is unavoidable. A society without any authority feels unrealistic and possibly chaotic. I don’t think authority is the problem, but rather, whether this authority ends up in the right hands. Unfortunately, it ends up in the wrong hands more often than it should.

My question is this: Do you think the biggest takeaway from Milgram’s experiment is that people are obedient, or that people care most about self-preservation?

slothman
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

Obedience. Good? Bad?

Milgram's experiment was very eye-opening and informational and is something that can have a lot of importance today, even though it would be illegal to carry out in this day in age. A lot of people see problems in this experiment, as in it's not morally right. Though that is true, it provides a lot of insight into human characteristics and attitudes.

Obedience is something we all know, we were most likely learned it when we were young when our parents told us something quite simple like, "make sure to eat your vegetables" and we did it because we were told to, it's something that you become used too. Obviously, this is vastly different, there's still the basic principle, you're following something someone, who has better knowledge than you in that particular area or overall, says. The psychologist in this instance, is the parent, someone with higher knowledge than you, telling you something to do. And your inclination is to obey them. The behavior that's shown is following a figure you know as more knowledgable and you, and you're putting your trust in them. You aren't taking charge, and aren't an upstander in society, but a follower and a bystander.

I think if you went to an average American town, you would find a lot of followers. Americans these days are automatically followers and want to follow. This can be from following celebrities and what they do and obsessing over what song they put out. Or, all teenagers these days know the term "followers" like heaven. If you have followers on social media, it becomes an ego boost and almost like electronic dopamine. Personally, I follow 800 people on some social media, it's just embedded into our electric society. And with that in mind, the amount of upstanders or people in this situation who would stop the expeirment, would be very slim.

gibby
Posts: 21

Authority

Milgram's experiment was surely disturbing. I think that this does not prove anything conclusive about humans as a whole, but it does pose some interesting points. This experiment shows how much people have a tendency to submit to an authority, especially if it is the only authority telling them what to do. This truly scares me. This can certainly explain some of the darker events in world history, but more importantly shows how few humans resist even hurting someone when someone else is telling them to do it. Humans are not inherently independent creatures; we tend to thrive when we do not have to make every decision for ourselves. But seeing how readily people were ready to hurt other human beings at the simply whim of another person was shocking. This is how I believe extreme and horrific historical events begin to take place; if all people in a society do not step up and do anything about events like these, there will become this almost collective unconscious about what is happening. Like, "well if this was so bad surely someone would be doing something about it, right?". But if the majority of a society says this, bad things begin to happen, and their becomes a society-wide neutrality about horrific events,

With this being said, where do many people draw the line? It seems to me that a situation must be so extreme that to a person, there is no choice but to disobey authority and stand up for themselves or the victim. But our society cannot function under these terms. We cannot only stand up in only the most dire of circumstances. This is what scares me so much about the United States at this moment. There are nearly 75 MILLION people who voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 election. These people continue to follow him blindly, even after all of his insane actions and words. So, to answer Milgram's question about finding sufficient personnel in any medium-sized American town, I think he is completely correct. There are enough people who blindly follow authority and disregard all other information in this country that I believe this is accurate and plausible. Which is truly terrifying.

So I pose these questions: When do people begin to question authority, or more accurately when do they begin to disobey? If we cannot count on people to disobey authority even when it is hurting other human beings, when can we expect people to stand up and say no? In other words, where is the line? Is it too extreme in either direction?

gibby
Posts: 21

Originally posted by slothman on December 21, 2020 17:04

Milgram's experiment was very eye-opening and informational and is something that can have a lot of importance today, even though it would be illegal to carry out in this day in age. A lot of people see problems in this experiment, as in it's not morally right. Though that is true, it provides a lot of insight into human characteristics and attitudes.

Obedience is something we all know, we were most likely learned it when we were young when our parents told us something quite simple like, "make sure to eat your vegetables" and we did it because we were told to, it's something that you become used too. Obviously, this is vastly different, there's still the basic principle, you're following something someone, who has better knowledge than you in that particular area or overall, says. The psychologist in this instance, is the parent, someone with higher knowledge than you, telling you something to do. And your inclination is to obey them. The behavior that's shown is following a figure you know as more knowledgable and you, and you're putting your trust in them. You aren't taking charge, and aren't an upstander in society, but a follower and a bystander.

I think if you went to an average American town, you would find a lot of followers. Americans these days are automatically followers and want to follow. This can be from following celebrities and what they do and obsessing over what song they put out. Or, all teenagers these days know the term "followers" like heaven. If you have followers on social media, it becomes an ego boost and almost like electronic dopamine. Personally, I follow 800 people on some social media, it's just embedded into our electric society. And with that in mind, the amount of upstanders or people in this situation who would stop the expeirment, would be very slim.

How do you think modern social media interacts with obedience of authority? Do people make decisions based on what they see online, and who they follow? Are people becoming more dependent, or more independent?

therapeuticsoup
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 14

Conforming Against Ridicule

It’s easier to conform than to go against others, especially when you’re being ordered to do something which doesn’t directly affect you. But the guilt that a person feels lasts forever. Looking at Mildred’s experiment gives us evidence towards the idea that following orders is easier than disobeying them, and is even worse when the person is alone and can’t see who they’re affecting. 65 % of the ‘teachers’ gave all 450 volts to their learners when alone and being directed by the scientist. But when somebody else was in the room with them, none of the teachers went to the full 450 volts. This is because when alone, you have no one to argue and reason with. You have no one to back up your claims. You feel trapped, you're only escape being to continue following orders. I know this to be true because of my past experiences. Sometimes I would doubt myself when answering questions in class, but when my friend told me I was right, I would answer. If my friend wasn’t there, I most likely would not have answered. During the experiment, not only did the percentages differ with the number of people in the room, but they also differed when the learner was visible to the teacher. When the learner was in the same room as the teacher, 40 % obeyed. When the teacher had to physically put the learners hand on the metal plate, only 30 % obeyed. It appears that it’s easier to obey commands when the person can’t see who they’re affecting or the final outcome.

When I watched the video in class, I couldn’t help but notice how after the experiment was over and the teacher thought he killed the learner, the teacher put all his blame on the scientist who was ordering him to continue up to 450 volts. He was acting almost as if he wasn’t the one pushing the button to electrocute the learner, as if somebody else was in his body. As Milgrim had said “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…” This leads me to think that humans are capable of doing whatever they’re told, especially if all odds are in favor.

Today I feel like it is extremely easy to become a follower and conformer of society. Social media has definitely increased the notion of “wanting to be like that celebrity”, whether it be cutting your hair or buying new clothes because it’s “trendy”. “Oh, you don’t like (fill in the blank)? You’re weird.” But we never really question why certain things became a trend, or why people obsess over certain celebrities. It’s a way of life built into our mind, our life, and our society. So, because of not wanting to face ridicule, a lot of people conform. I think that it would honestly be difficult to find an up-stander in an American-town because of this way of living.

To answer @gibby’s question, I think social media has definitely made enhanced obedience among the masses. Honestly, with myself, I know that I will make decisions based off of who I follow on social media. I look up to a few people on instagram and practically want to be them. I think people are becoming more dependent on social media in their life as well as the verification from others.

My question is : How can people develop their own inner voice to be an up-stander and be more independent? In what ways can people become less doubtful in themselves? Is social media and authority always the culprit for a conforming society, or is it the people as well?

SwedishFish
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 24

Morality

In response to @gibby’s question, “How do you think modern social media interacts with obedience of authority? Do people make decisions based on what they see online, and who they follow? Are people becoming more dependent, or more independent?”. I would say that there are mixed reactions from social media. Many of us saw over the past 6 months in response to the Black Lives Matter protests, the Coronavirus, and the election. I think that many people adhere to authority but there are others who would deny the authority of policemen, task force leaders of coronavirus, and politicians in general. Social media is the easiest and fastest way to spread information to people across the globe, with this, leaves conspiracies and misinformation that could seriously harm the lives of others. For example the idea that there is a microchip in the vaccine so people won’t take it. The idea that Black Lives Matter supporters are radical ANTIFA members and terrorists, something that is enforced by the President of the United States and his supporters believe him. There’s also the enforcement that Joe Biden’s victory is a fraud, something also pushed by a substantial amount of republican politicians. This leaves the question of Who do we trust for information? Should we always be skeptical? Or should we listen to authorities because “they know what’s best”?

After visually seeing the torment in which the teacher was put under and thought he was inflicting on another human being, and still continuing to “harm” them, concerns me. Because even though he knew it was wrong he still continued… Why? We uncover that throughout this experiment that about 65% of people continued it, sixty-five percent. More than half of the teachers would continue to tortue someone because a scientist told you so. The experiment had variation in which he would step out of the room, and the percentage of people that continued dropped to 21%. This tells us that in the presence of authority the majority of citizens will abide, regardless of morality. What does this mean when there is not an experiment being conducted that is pre-planned in the way this one was? What does this mean when an adult is alone in a room with an evil authority figure who threatens to cover up a crime that they didn’t commit? There are so many layers that this experiment uncoers, and demonstrates how conditioned we are as citizens to abide by instruction whether or not it’s right or wrong. It helps us to understand how deeply rooted are obedience to authority really is, even from something we played as a fun game as kids called, “Simon Says”. It shows the significant power of authority and how easily it can be abused to their advantage. So I ask you, how do you think we are conditioned to listen to authority, regardless of morality?

blueslothbear
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

Authority Issues in a Pack Sense

I conclude that humans are predisposed to act against their better judgment when told to by a percieved authority figure. I think that it comes with the pack mentality, where the good of the community is seen as more important that the good of the individuals, and therefore when a leader, even if they are in title only, says that an action will benefit the community, the individual will almost always do the test. The issue begins when the second half of this issue arises, which is when the community member is asked to keep hurting the other community member when the benefit of the experiment is weighed against the downside of maiming or killing the other member of the community. When that comes into play, the person doing the test is likely to stop, as losing the peron who is being tested on is probably not worth the result achieved by the test. These tests can be used to explain why humans are able to say that the end justifies the means, as if its a net gain, then the means were worth it, even if it resulted in the death of one of the members of the community.


In response to @therapeudicsoup's question: The best way to develop the ability to be an upstander is to practice and self analyze- if you constantly practice being an upstander you are bound to improve at it, and will be a better person because of it.


My Question is: Do you think that this test overall was a net gain? This experiment, much like the test inside of it, involved sacrificing parts of the community (i.e. their mental health) to get more information. Do you think that it was worth it?

graphicmango
Posts: 21

Nature vs Nurture, Dislike of Milgram's Experiment, and Other Thoughts

Milgram’s experiment sheds an important light on the nature of obedience in behavior. That being said, after reading the essay on aeon.co I couldn’t help but wonder: is this nature or nurture? Are we obedient because we are born to be, or are we conditioned to by those in power? One paragraph, in particular, stuck out to me:


“In what he later called an ‘incandescent moment’, Milgram became more interested in the control than the test. He wondered how far people would go to follow his orders, and so he shifted the experiment’s focus from conformity to obedience. He planned to try it on Americans in New Haven, after which he would perform the experiment in Germany to see how the two compared. But once he saw the first results, Milgram knew the German comparison wouldn’t matter” (Harris).


Now, we already have discussed freedom and how its definition will vary from nation to nation, from community to community, and even from individual to individual. So why would obedience be any different? In the same way that we cannot arrogantly claim that every person desires freedom (as we Americans define it), we cannot claim that obedience is defined the same way nor is expressed/presented in the same way across populations. The capacity to obey is natural; the inclination to obey, then, is determined by one’s upbringing and the authorities (media, community, government, etc.) in it.


Disregarding Milgram’s experiment but still examining Nazi Germany and the nature of obedience, I recalled a famous photograph from 1936 of a vast crowd of Germans giving the Nazi salute in a shipyard. It was punishable not to, yet a man (retroactively identified as August Landmesser) in the top right corner of the photograph stands out as he crosses his arms and refuses to salute. If obedience were inherent then, without question, this would be an unremarkable photograph of a sea of salutes. Yet Landmesser demonstrates the extraordinary element of human nature to refuse obedience and pursue free will (and in this case, disobedience) in its stead. Therefore, while I do think the experiment lays the groundwork for humans all having the capacity to obey and establishes that an illusion of authority may increase the inclination to obey, it is neglectful to take its results and say “Oh, we could all be Nazis”.


Rather, I think that we all seek approval and that approval is also a motivation for obedience. Humans are social and thus, most commonly, we seek social approval from our peers, as seen in the Asch experiments; we value the acceptance and camaraderie of our fellow community members in school, at work, at home, etc. Human atrocities, then, can perhaps be explained by a combination of one’s upbringing (which results in inclination to obey) and one’s desire for approval. It takes a small number of those who obey to start a group which in turn pressures individuals to join out of desire to feel acceptance and approval.


To answer blueslothbear: if you phrase it like that I think this test wasn’t worth it. This test was merely a clinical rehashing of what we already knew from Nazi Germany, that humans, while not inherently evil, are capable of terrible things in the face of social and authoritarian pressure.


My question for the next person: is obedience like a placebo effect? That is if we are acutely aware that things (media, academia, etc.) are asking obedience of us (whether to the government, to a company, or to a specific worldview), does that make us less susceptible to them? If so, can we all free ourselves from that “nurtured” inclination to obey by critically examining everything we are exposed to? (Apologies for the loaded question!)

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