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!)

SlothsPoopOnceAWeek
Chestnuthill, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 21

Obeying those they Trust

After watching the experiment and reading the articles regarding the experiment, I came to the conclusion that humans want to conform and please others. We saw a man shock someone, the victim asking him to stop, but he continued because a higher authority told him to continue. This reminds me of the videos regarding bystanders, and how if no one else did something to step in, the test subject in the test would not either. I believe that if human's trust the one telling them what to do, like a scientist at Yale, they will be more likely to do it. This is why when they moved the test from New Haven to another area, with a more sketchy location, the number of people who finished the test decreased. When near Yale, they thought that because of it's history and prestige, they would be safe and that it would be over seen. When they moved away from all of the prestige and the history, to a location some miles away, they were more hesitant, as they did not know about the establishment, and there was no background on it. This could be why people trust those who have a history of being "good," like Yale.

It applies to our current lives, as many minorities don't trust the government, as they have not helped them in the past. Regarding the Native American film we watched, it could also explain why few people wanted to participate in the past. After many years of the government betraying them, taking their children, land, and culture, it would be difficult to think that they suddenly changed. The government also has a lot of history going against treaties that they made with the Native Americans. This also applies to history, where many join the army for their country's, mostly because they want to show pride, but also because they trust their leaders that they are fighting for a good cause. This is often shown in shows, where people fight in wars for a cause that is not the true cause, and they continue because they trust their leaders. This is shown in the show, "Full Metal Alchamist : Brotherhood."

I pose the question, do you think white Americans trust the government? Do you think that if the time came, citizens would obey the leaders?

razzledazzle8
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 28

Conformity is Dangerous

I believe that Milgram’s experiment shows us a lot about human behavior towards authority and obedience but I don’t think it was right what they did to the people who were in the experiment. It was very disturbing to see what mental stress the man was going through while he thought he was killing someone. But the weird thing is he still did it. But I conclude from this experiment that humans tend to not care as much if they aren’t responsible for it. In the experiment, the teacher kept asking if something happens to the learner then he’s not responsible, right? I truly believe that if the man in the lab coat told him that he was responsible for it then he would’ve stopped, but he didn’t because the man said he would take full responsibility.

Also as humans we always obey authority stemming from childhood. We are taught this from a young age because we are always supposed to do what we are told no matter the task. As children we are punished if we don’t obey so that could transfer to when we are adults. For example, if our boss told us that we had to do some absurd task and then followed with ‘if you don’t do it you are getting fired’, you would do the task right? Punishment has been a key part of education and learning for centuries and has just started to end in the 2000’s. To avoid punishment you just do what you're told so that mindset stays for probably the rest of your life in my opinion. I believe that is why the teacher didn’t stop, it’s because there is that little part of everyone’s brain that thinks if they don’t do this then something bad will happen. I know that’s how I think like that even though I didn’t grow up with physical punishment.

This experiment shows how humans can really do anything if put under enough pressure. That man didn’t know he was walking in there to hurt someone but he still did because of pressure from authority. But this can also be tied to war and World War II because soldiers did anything they were told because their life and their country was on the line. This ties into Asch’s Conformity Experiment because these soldiers thought that other people believed these authority figures so why shouldn’t I. That is the danger of conformity.

I believe you are not “able to find sufficient personnel…in any medium-sized American town” because people have completely different experiences with authority and have completely separate ways of living. Like SlothsPoopOnceAWeek said, “as many minorities don't trust the government, as they have not helped them in the past.” You can’t get an accurate outcome of an experiment if you don’t have everyone from all walks of life. Many people have been wronged by the government like Native Americans and Black people, like SlothsPoopOnceAWeek said. I don’t think many medium-sized towns in America are diverse enough to carry out an accurate experiment. I think that’s why Milgram was trying to find people that were white and blue collar workers but I don’t think it was diverse enough to tell us an accurate answer.

To answer SlothsPoopOnceAWeek’s question, I do believe that white Americans are more likely to trust the government because they have rarely wronged them. I think that white men would be more likely than white women to obey but in the end I think both would be more likely to trust the government then a minority in America. I’m not 100% sure people in America would fully obey the government because of everything that has happened in 2020 has made people very uneasy with the government. So my answer is that some would but not everyone would obey.

My question is, do you believe that to some extents that conformity is dangerous, explain why or why not?

Bumblebee
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 27

Aversion to Responsibility

After seeing the behavior of the participants in the experiment and reading more information about it in the articles, I conclude that despite what they may want to think, most humans will defer to authority figures even if they know they’re wrong. In the video of the man partaking in the experiment that we saw in class today, he stated multiple times that he didn’t think it was right and he thought something could be seriously wrong. However, even though there were no immediate consequences and the man had already been paid, he still kept going at the command of the scientists. I think this shows us that humans are extremely susceptible to peer pressure. We can be taught our whole lives the difference between right and wrong, as the man in the experiment clearly was, and still not act on our gut instincts because someone else is telling us to do so.

Similar to @razzledazzle8, I also found it extremely interesting that the man repeatedly asked if the scientist would take responsibility for the experiment. I agree that if the man had been told he was responsible, he would’ve stopped. I think this shows that we are more comfortable going against our morals when we won’t be held accountable. This can be seen in many other examples as well, such as on social media. When able to hide behind a fake name and account, people find it much easier to spread hate and use language that they would never want associated with their real identities.

I think humans would be willing to do most anything that a trusted authority figure told them to do. We have already seen through both the participants in this experiment as well as in real events in history like the Holocaust that people will go against their morals at the instruction of someone in a position of power. If they are willing to compromise their values like that in one situation, I think that they will be willing to compromise them in any situation, regardless of what is being asked of them.

However, like @SlothsPoopOnceAWeek discusses, what qualifies as a trusted authority figure will vary. If some random, disheveled looking person on the street came up to someone, they most likely would not follow that person’s instructions. However, people with educational degrees, people with money, or people who are associated with reputable institutions, like Yale, with inherently garner more respect, and have the power to convince people to do what they say.

I think this experiment helps to explain why so many people have stood idly by during Trump’s presidency. Many of his actions over the past four years have been unprecedented, like firing staffers over Twitter, putting children in cages at the border, and disparaging the reputations of heroes who gave their lives in service to our country, yet the members of his party that serve in government continue to support him because he is in a position of power. I don’t think it is because they don’t know what he’s doing is wrong; I think it is because they are afraid of going against him because he’s in charge. The behavior shown in this experiment supports my belief. Additionally, given the fact that 70 million Americans also support Trump, I do not think it would be hard to find sufficient personal for internment camps in America.

To answer @razzledazzle’s question, I do believe conformity can be dangerous to some extent. We have already seen throughout history how “following the leader” can cause serious damage. Millions of Jews were killed in the Holocaust by people who had no personal quarrel with them simply because everyone else was doing it. In Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, she discusses a little girl who wanted to conform so badly she measured her face to see if she had acceptable dimensions and traced her entire family lineage to ensure she wasn’t at all different from what was approved. This kind of pressure does not benefit the majority as no one would be allowed to be themselves.

My question is what do you think it takes for people to trust someone as an authority figure?

butterfly123
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

Obedience and Compliance

Watching the videos and learning about Milgrims experiment was very interesting and eye opening. As human beings we all like to believe that we would do the right thing, we would be the ones to discontinue the experiment and refuse to inflict pain on another individual. However the results of this experiment are shocking, 65% of people in the experiment continued to the end, knowing that they could have possibly killed the learner. This experiment gives a very interesting perspective on human behavior. We have previously talked about morals and how from a young age, humans have the abilities to determine what is morally right and wrong. However even though the teachers knew that it was wrong to continue the experiment, and they knew that they were hurting the learner, they still continued because they were told to. This shows the extent that authority affects human behavior, and how obedience can override moral responsibility.


This experiment makes me wonder to what extent humans would go if instructed authority figures. What point would they stop? Honestly I do not know the answer to this question, and it is scary to think about what humans are capable of. While Milgram's experiment only dealt with one teacher at a time, it made me wonder whether the results would be different if it were combined with the Asch conformity experiment. Asch’s findings reflected that humans chose to fit in by choosing the wrong answer instead of the correct one, if that is what everyone else picked. If there were multiple teachers in the room and some of them chose to continue, would it affect those who wished to stop the experiment? Would it change the outcome?


Like @Bumblebee mentioned, I do think that this experiment can help to explain the complacency during Trump's presidency. When authority figures such as the President do questionable things, supporters refuse to question it because of his position. State senators obeyed Trump's laws and stood by every ridiculous statement despite many knowing that it was wrong. But they remained obedient. Regarding Milgram's statement about whether we would “be able to find sufficient personnel…in any medium-sized American town,” I think it depends. As @razzledazzle says, people have different experiences with authority. Some would obey, some might choose not to, it depends on the makeup and demographics of the town in question. People’s backgrounds must also be taken into account such as their childhood and past experiences.


To answer @Bumblebee’s question, I think that different people have different values that would lead them to trust an authority figure. Some people might trust someone from the moment they meet them and choose to obey everything they say. Others might be more skeptical and more independent, taking time to decide whether or not to trust authority. Everything from the “officialness” and “formalness” of the situation to the look of the authority figure could cause either trust or distrust. It all depends on the specific person, their background, and their past experiences.


My question is how would the results change if Milgram’s experiment was combined with Asch’s Conformity experiment?

239bid0073
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

Does "Authority" Real Do It's Job?

The results of Milgram’s experiment are contradicting to what I have always believed in human nature. Today more than ever we think we are living in a country of disobedience. This is also what Yale professors thought when predicting the outcome of Milgram’s experiment. “They agreed that very few would go all the way to the end” (Philip Meyer). This shows that the majority have faith that people will do the right thing even if it means disobeying. And this was not the outcome of Milgram’s experiment. So are we living in a world of unrest (due to disobedience) or obedience? Because as we can see obedience is not always the right thing.

This experiment tells us how obedient humans can be just as razzledazzle said. In Milgram’s experiment, the teachers took orders from a stranger, for no reason (because the money was given to them beforehand). Without knowing the person of authority they were willing to give up their morals and values because someone was giving them orders. This statement can also be seen in the experiment done by Asch. He found that people are willing to conform to the rest of their group/community. Both of these experiments reveal the high likelihood of humans being obedient to a fault.

But why do we not see this obedience in aspects of our world that make it better, and worth something? We see/saw faulted obedience in Nazi Germany, and gangs around the world among other places. But obedience would be much better used if we saw it amongst the laws if people were obedient to the golden rule of kindness, and obedience to the principles of accepting everybody for who they are.

What is the motivation for being obedient to a fault? Are humans that fearful of authority, or fear what might happen to them, or their loved ones, that they would go as far as to put someone else in danger? In the Milgram experiment, there seems to be no real motivation except that of fear. And then what does that tell us about our “authority”? Are they really telling us what to do to protect and maintain order or is it to instill fear? Because if it is to instill fear then it seems to be working but, not working for the benefit of society, and in the grand scheme of things. If authority really worked and kept people obedient (because isn’t that their job) then we wouldn’t see the unrest and chaos we see in our world today.

To answer the question of @butterfly123 one way to combine the experiment of Milgram’s and Asch’s is to have put multiple teachers in the room to “teach”. I think in this case with many teachers and one person of “authority” it would be much more likely that they would stop the punishment early in the experiment. Another way to combine the experiments would be to have multiple learners “learning” the words. I think this would lead to more resistance in the punishment and the teacher would feel more pressure to do something.

This honestly seems to bring up a lot more questions and complexities than answers now. But it has got me thinking about obedience to a fault, and where we see it in our society today. So my question to you is: What do you think the main job of authority is? If it is to maintain order and obedience then are they doing a good job at that?

crunchysnowball
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 20

Conditioned Conformity and Obedience

Based off of Milgram’s experiment and the others like it (Asch’s experiment on social conformity), I can conclude that humans use conformity and obedience as a safety net to protect themselves from feelings of fear and the feeling of being wrong. In Milgrim’s experiment the footage of the man or “teacher” who stops multiple times during the process to express his discomfort with shocking the “learner” was telling of this. He asks repeatedly if the man conducting the experiment will be held responsible for the pain he is causing the “learner”, not once getting up to check on the man, despite his consistent and very vocal displeasure with the situation. I think that we would all like to condemn this man for not taking the initiative in simply getting up himself to check to see if the “learner” was alright or for not taking a stand against the experimenter, because what was really stopping him from “doing the right thing”. In my opinion, this man is a representation of a majority of us who take the presence of authority very seriously. This probably has to do with the fact that this is just how most humans are raised. Regardless of culture, background, or belief, it is most commonly seen that we are taught to respect and honor the words and commands of those who hold power. When we do not obey these figures, there is a punishment waiting for us. Along with this, the fear of being wrong (as can be seen in the social conformity experiment), is also instilled in us at a young age: correctness yields reward and pride, incorrectness yields penilization and shame. We can fantasize as much as we want about rebelling against the “big man”, but in the end, most of us will not out of those two fears.


To go back to a point about trust that @Bumblebee made, I wholly agree that “humans would be willing to do most anything that a trusted authority figure told them to do”. It is pretty apparent that in the face of authority, humans would go to great lengths to obey; Nazi Germany as a prime example. These experiments can explain that there is an element of trust that has to be present in order for people to obey. We trust our parents, teachers, experts, the government to know what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad. It is through trust that people can get trapped with blindly “following the leader” (@Bumblebee). A modern instance of this is our attitudes towards the president. Each and every president has done something that is morally questionable (the 45th president more so than not), but there are still millions of people who follow their lead, give them support. Especially in the social and political climate that we are in and the sheer number of blind followers, there would be more than enough personnel to recreate something as horrible as internment or concentration camps.


To answer @239bid0073’s question, I think that the purpose of authority is to have a role model to look up to, to be the example in which everyone can follow in order to have a stable and secure society. Yes, it is to maintain order and obedience, but the question of how they do so is the important part. They should be the golden example of morality, that way society can be as organized and close to utopia as possible. A question I have is: Is there anyway to undo what we have learned in our childhoods and adolescence, as in, is there a way to decrease blind social conformity and obedience? Or is this all just part of human nature and we just have to live with it?

PatrickStar36
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 8

Should we trust Authority?

Milgram’s experiment explains to us why atrocities were committed and how humans behave. When we perceive someone to be an authority figure we are more likely to do something for them that you wouldn’t normally do. One may feel they have to appease someone in a more powerful position because you may be punished if you don’t comply. The Milgram experiment also shows us we act when trust is built between another person. In Milgram’s experiment some of the teachers say they don’t feel comfortable with the learners being shocked and ask what would happen if someone got hurt. The teacher probably would have stopped conducting the experiment if they were told that they would be responsible for any injuries.


Humans are willing to do almost anything as long as it is socially acceptable. Some people’s morals could stop this from happening but eventually anyone can be demoralized and just give up and comply. Most people will just conform to what is socially acceptable but they are some cases where people may be a resistor or rescuer. There are people who not give the nazi salute. Some of the southerners helped slaves escape by hiding them and guiding them to the north.


This experiment helps us explain why people do horrible things because they are told by someone they trust and who is in a position of power. There are many instances where the police or military do something wrong just because they are told to.

The 45th president did not receive backlash from his supporters when he did something wrong. Some people fail to recognize the mistakes made by someone if they are in a position of power and have gained their trust.


Bumblebee asks: “What do you think it takes for people to trust someone as an authority figure?

I think it takes people to trust someone if they are charismatic, convincing , and have made actual improvements to society.


Should we have authority in a society and if so how do we make sure the people are not being manipulated and lied to?

thesnackthatsmilesback
brighton, ma, US
Posts: 21

We Are Not Born Thinking White Coats Mean Authority

I had gone into the video as blindsided as the man. It was, of course, manipulative and I understand that this specific experiment would not happen in today’s setting. There were many instances where I myself had doubted the actions of the “teacher” and of the “scientist” that put me on edge during the whole experiment. The first thing that caught my attention was the amount of time that the scientist had shocked the teacher for, and how the teacher had carried it on to the student. I was surprised that during the experiment, the teacher was just as generous with the shock if not more generous during the first half. Even when the man had started yelling from inside the room, the teacher did not stop giving the voltage any less, but instead in increments afterwards started to push the button down quicker. Then by the end of the experiment where the student was not talking, he started to carelessly push the buttons down instead of the quick motions like before. The way I read this was that morally he knew the man was already unconscious if not dead and therefore did not feel as bad giving the extensive amount of voltage. There was also a time where he asked the scientist “are you talking full responsibility,” I was baffled. No matter who is taking legal responsibility, I was shocked by the lack of moral responsibility he had for the process. Justifying that the blame would not fall on himself made it easier to continue on with the experiment. The last shocking moment I want to point out is his reaction once he did understand that the experiment was rigged to test his obedience to authority. Through this, I observed his consciousness and his priorities in the moment. Although this was set in a completely different time period where questioning authority was more scandalous than it is now, I think it is clear to say he thought more as an individual trying to stay out of trouble than a person who felt like they had morally made a bad decision. He had never responded with an apology but instead with a sigh of relief and I wonder that if we watched the other people who had gone through the experiment and did not stop the process, what their reaction to figuring that the experiment was testing obedience instead of learning was similar to this one.

From this experiment, I feel like my point of view on the morality of people has shifted. I think being a student at BLS has taught me that people live as an individual, many people that I’ve met have tried their best to put themselves out as an individual in order to beat the competition or to be the best independently. In this experiment, I feel like it puts an emphasis on the priorities of many people, to focus on themselves and their own reputation or status. Especially at BLS we have been taught to respect authority and not to question their teaching, I think for me this is the first year where I have been able to express my own opinions in school without being scared to do so. In my mind at least, I feel like we all have the connotation of respecting people who are in charge, don’t question their decisions because they will ultimately control your future. I was so scared to give my own opinion for so long because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing and be judged either by my peers or worse, my teachers.

To state something that is obvious, we believe what we ourselves experience. Therefore what we see is what we choose to interpret as true, although as seen in this experiment it is not always correct. I think my first thought that came when I was watching the video was what if that isn’t a doctor? Once we make a connotation with that white lab coat coming towards us, we automatically make the connection between the two. I don’t think that we are born thinking that we need to respect people who are older and wearing long white coats. But we are taught as we get older, and through that process we are contained to one type of thinking. Since we learn it at such a young age, we don’t question it, and it becomes harder to speak up for ourselves and question authority when we grow older, and it is harder to unravel the idea because our brains stop growing by the time we are 25. I don’t think that it’s necessarily human behavior, but instead the system we are born into. Also when we are talking about the consistency of how authority has treated us, more often than not, we are given fair and equal authority that we usually look up to, so as a change of pace when we are told to do something morally wrong when an authority figure tells us to do so, we tend to follow what we are accustomed to.

I think humans are capable of good and bad things, it is just a matter of the status of the person who is telling them to do these actions. For instance if my mom was to tell me to do something, I would carry out the task, but if it was a person I do not respect, I would be more hesitant. I think the bonds that we make as human to one another create a sense of trust which can ultimately change what we are capable of doing. For some people it is easier to create those trusting bonds whether it’s by what they are wearing, or what they’ve been told, but I think that the more experiences you have with authorities that make them a bad influence, the more likely you will question what is around you.

To quote from Milgram’s 1979 CBS interview, would we “be able to find sufficient personnel…in any medium-sized American town”?

To answer Milgram’s question, I think that it is very vague to have an ideal personnel. Regarding the findings of the experiment we know that the majority of people had reacted by following the authority at hand. We also have to consider when in time he is asking this question, I think that if he had proposed this question to normal Americans during the time period of the experiment there would be very different answers as they are now if this type of experiment was conducted. I also agree with SloothsOnlyPoopOnce when they say minorities in the time we live in currently have a hard time trusting authorities due to the amount of inequalities that they have been born into and authority continues to follow. Also, we have to consider when and where this question is being asked. As talked about in “The Asch Conformity Experiments,” we are influenced by the people surrounding us, whether that means, because of our upbringing, the people we surround ourselves with, our environment, or simply are we being asked this question in a group. Due to the amount of holes in this question I don’t think that I would be able to give a concise and accurate answer.

To answer Patrick Star’s question, I feel that authority, although it has it’s problems, has created the society we have now, and I think if an authority figure would decline, so would the society that we live in. Because of how the United States is run by a capitalist society I don’t see it working in a balance because of the socialist history but also the history of the United States inequality that is prevalent today. I think that making sure people aren’t lied to and manipulated is a big topic to tack;e,, so instead I will provide an idea that could potentially improve the state we are all in. We are taught since we were little to respect our elders to respect authority, I understand the importance of teaching them these lessons, although, I think it is also important to give kids the freedom to express their opinions. Therefore I think it may be plausible to embed more opinionated classes into the curriculum as we grow from middle to highschool students in order to create a rate of growth in our independence and freedom of speech. By starting with the youth, we will be able to better the societies to come. Although there is also the inequity in the school system that we have, as we’ve talked about in the past couple of weeks. To ensure some change, I think it’s best to start small and deal with our own school, and give time for sixes to have more of an opinion in the place they are going to spend time in for the next 6 years.


As for my question, I would like to propose, what justifies his actions due to the time period that he was living in?


Wyverary
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 22

Banality of Evil

Since Nazi Germany, and the many systematic genocides which have since taken place, people have been grappling with what “normal” humans will do when given orders. Even Stanley Milgram, a highly intelligent and educated psychologist, believed that such tragedies only occur in places where the people have a certain inherent flaw - in the case of the Germans, a sense of obedience surely not possessed by others which would account for the atrocities committed under the Nazi regime. He, and the other reputable psychologists with whom he consulted, assumed that only one to three percent of subjects would continue the experiment to the end: in other words, only sadists would deliver a 450 volt shock to another person.

He had hoped to continue work started by Solomon Asch, who had done research which proved that people will frequently confirm opinions they believe to be wrong, just so that they could fit in. However, Miligan, and I while watching the video, was shocked to discover that 65% of the people he tested went all the way up to 450 volts, even as the mild-mannered man on the other side begged for mercy. I found the one video we watched to be particularly distressing, as the “teacher” seemed concerned by his own actions and wanted to help the man, but upon being reassured that he would not be held responsible for anything that happened to the other man, continued to administer shocks until he was asked to stop. Milgram had originally intended to administer the experiment to Americans and then Germans, but as Ross Anderson wrote, “Cross-cultural comparisons were beside the point if most Americans were already Nazis just waiting for the right orders.”

I think that this behavior is best described by Hannah Arendt; “the banality of evil”. Not everyone who participates in truly evil behavior is a complete sadist, or a cackling madman. Many are just people who did not feel morally obliged enough to stand away from or prevent evilness from happening (which one can argue, is just another type of monster). This is similar to issues we face in the United States today. There are hundreds of thousands of police officers, so one has to argue that surely there aren’t hundreds of thousands of officers who are racists or have complete disregard for human life. But enough of them stand by when their fellow officers murder people for slights such as running away from police or simply panicking, that innnumerable Americans have suffered from police brutality. I agree with Bumblebee and butterfly123 that these experiments also explain why millions of Americans decided that Trump’s violent racism and xenophobia was not a deal-breaker, and felt that their own personal gain was worth the hate crimes he encouraged and the suffering he brought due to lack of action.

To answer thesnackthatsmilesback’s question, if the “he” that you are referring to is Hitler, nothing, of course, justifies his actions. The real question is why so many thousands were willing to follow him and allow millions to die. Germany was in the midst of a crippling economic depression, and people were able to blindly follow a charasmatic leader who promised them better lives, and reassured them that all of their suffering had been caused by minorities such as Jewish and Romani people. By giving people an outlet for their anger, Hitler was able to convince most of Germany that millions of people were undeserving of any empathy or kindness.

For the next poster: do you think that Milgram’s experiment would have similar results if tested on present-day BLS students, and why do you think the results would be the same or different?


broskiii
Charlestown, MA, US
Posts: 18

Conformity is Human Nature

After having the opportunity to watch the experiment in class and read the articles, I conclude that humans will always submit to peer pressure, whether that be from a classmate, or from an authoritative figure. Conformity is human nature. We are all afraid of being judged and getting blamed for doing the wrong thing. We always try to turn away responsibility, if we are given the chance to. From the video, we saw that the man kept asking the researcher if he was going to be the one held responsible for the “learner’s” life. After the researcher replied, he continued with the test with a look of agony on his face. I truly believe that humans will always strive to do what is right, but sometimes the pressure of accidentally making the wrong move always triggers something in our ‘fight or flight’ response. Humans are willing to do anything to satisfy either their own beliefs or someone else's. In this case, although the “teacher” was in pain mentally, he knew that he had to keep executing the experiment. He didn’t want to risk making the wrong move and getting yelled at by the researcher. He didn’t want to risk the punishment he would receive by disobeying the authoritative figure. I believe that the man was capable of stopping the test; however, I don’t think that he would because I think, in that situation, he was just worried about himself and what would happen to him if he did. Putting aside Hitler, I think this definitely explains a lot about why so many people are always afraid of asking questions and wanting to know more about a topic. For instance, pretend you are in class and you do not understand something. You ask the teacher a question, and instead of them answering, they yell at you for delaying the class and for not paying attention. In this scenario, I would become so frustrated and angry at how asking a question would be so detrimental to the class and my mental health. Getting yelled at for asking a question really shuts down the opportunity for that student to ask for any other clarifying questions in class. Going back to the experiment, the “teacher” was afraid of the screams, but because they didn’t want to suffer a potential punishment from the researcher, they bore the pain and moved on. This relates to what razzledazzle8 said about “authority stemming from childhood,” and how the expectations of others outweigh your own. The expectation of adults is that kids would obey whatever they said, if not there would be some type of punishment to warn us that the next time this happens, the child would know better and react in a different way. That mindset of conforming and obeying has guided us our entire lives and has developed our morals and beliefs on raising children or working under a large authoritative figure.

I do think that we would find some personnel to do this in America because, as I mentioned before, conformity is human nature. The fear of rebellion causes someone to join the oppressor, even if they disagree with everything that is happening. Therefore, the fear of suffering a punishment yourself, is much larger than the pain you feel when someone else is suffering a punishment. Hearing the screams of the “learners’ made me really uncomfortable, but as a human being, I cannot imagine what I would do if I was placed in that situation. It would be great and amazing to say that I would stop the experiment right away, but the future is really unpredictable and so is human nature.

My response to Wyverary’s question is yes. I 100% believe that BLS students would provide similar results and conform to what the researcher says. If this test was done in BLS, I assume that the researcher would be teachers and the students would be the test subjects. Since BLS is a very competitive school, where grades are our top priority, I think that if the teachers were willing to make this as an assessment and grade us heavily on it, I think a lot of students would go at least half-way through. As I said before, I have no idea how I would react in that situation. It would be nice and great to say that I do not conform and choose not to press the switch anymore because I care about the student that is suffering. I would be in so much pain and agony just to press the first couple switches, but for others I think because of familial pressures and societal pressures to do well in school, they would go all the way and get that 100% on the test. I want to clarify that this is not targeting any particular student, but this is what I imagine would happen if it was ever tested on BLS students.

The question I propose to the next person is, if you were placed in a life threatening situation and the only way to save yourself was to perform this experiment on another student, would you be able to finish the experiment? Why or why not?

Dolphin42
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

Effect of Authority on Human Behavior

Milgram’s experiments present the effect of peer pressure and the lack of responsibilities on human behavior. In his experiments, the teachers are told to continue the experiment despite acknowledging the victim’s sufferings. This has to do with the environment and the authoritative figure giving the commands. If the authoritative figure was not present in the room as the teacher, then it lessens the pressure on the teacher to continue the experiment and it makes them more aware of the consequences of their actions. Also, the researchers stating they will take responsibility of the experiment takes away the guilt from the teachers. Instead of feeling like they are the one doing the harm, they feel like they are merely a tool or weapon being used by the researchers to experiment on the learner’s memory. Being present in the same room as the learners allows the teachers to see the consequences of their actions and provoke their sympathy towards the learners; therefore, they are compelled to rescue the learners from their sufferings.

I learned from watching Milgram’s experiment and reading the articles that stress and pressure from an authoritative figure can drive people to do things they know are unethical such as shocking someone. I agree with @razzledazzle8 that the possibility of a punishment is one of the things that influence people to obey someone else’s directions. There are always consequences to one’s actions. Whether it’s the consequence that the teachers might be punished for not following the researcher’s order to continue the experiment or the guilt and realization from knowing that they are hurting another human being, these consequences drive the teachers to continue or stop the experiment. Humans are more capable of doing unimaginable things when they know that they will be punished for their disobedience or when their lives are at risk.

Asch Conformity Experiments shows another form of peer pressure and the herd mentality. Humans are social creatures, which means that they rely on cooperation to survive and thrive. Performing an action against the social norm puts people at risk of being marginalized by the rest of the population. Therefore, although their instinct tells them that what they are doing is wrong, they will still choose to conform to the rest of the group.

As @Bumblebee mentioned, this experiment explains how Trump gains power and support from the people. It is obvious that his actions are wrong but people continue to support him due to fear or because they are conforming to the people surrounding them. You can’t wake up a person that is pretending to sleep. And neither can you inform a Trump supporter about the truth if they chose to ignore it. Many dictators in the past and present have used fear to gain obedience from their people. In addition, the issue of responsibility is mentioned in Milgram’s experiment. Today, people on the internet aren’t burdened by responsibility for their words because of their anonymity and they don’t see the effect it has on their victims.

In terms of Milgram’s statement that “be able to find sufficient personnel…in any medium-sized American town,” I agree with @razzledazzle that people’s experience affects their response to authority. Authority can be established from trust or from fear. So the method in which the authoritative figure uses also impacts the results of the experiment.

To answer @broskiii’s question, I don’t think I’m able to finish the experiment if I was placed in a life threatening situation. It also depends on the fear or stress that I’m feeling at that time. But right now, I can’t imagine having to injure another student to save myself and I can’t stand listening to another person screaming in pain.

My question for the next person is, is the instinct to obey authority a human nature or is it something that is taught? How much of an impact do you think the environment has on a person’s obedience?

PineappleMan30
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 14

Obey for Praise

Originally posted by SlothsPoopOnceAWeek on December 17, 2020 10:48

After watching the experiment and reading the articles regarding the experiment, I came to the conclusion that humans want to conform and please others. We saw a man shock someone, the victim asking him to stop, but he continued because a higher authority told him to continue. This reminds me of the videos regarding bystanders, and how if no one else did something to step in, the test subject in the test would not either. I believe that if human's trust the one telling them what to do, like a scientist at Yale, they will be more likely to do it. This is why when they moved the test from New Haven to another area, with a more sketchy location, the number of people who finished the test decreased. When near Yale, they thought that because of it's history and prestige, they would be safe and that it would be over seen. When they moved away from all of the prestige and the history, to a location some miles away, they were more hesitant, as they did not know about the establishment, and there was no background on it. This could be why people trust those who have a history of being "good," like Yale.

It applies to our current lives, as many minorities don't trust the government, as they have not helped them in the past. Regarding the Native American film we watched, it could also explain why few people wanted to participate in the past. After many years of the government betraying them, taking their children, land, and culture, it would be difficult to think that they suddenly changed. The government also has a lot of history going against treaties that they made with the Native Americans. This also applies to history, where many join the army for their country's, mostly because they want to show pride, but also because they trust their leaders that they are fighting for a good cause. This is often shown in shows, where people fight in wars for a cause that is not the true cause, and they continue because they trust their leaders. This is shown in the show, "Full Metal Alchemist : Brotherhood."

I pose the question, do you think white Americans trust the government? Do you think that if the time came, citizens would obey the leaders?

I would like to start by agreeing with everything you explained. Before watching the video, I had thought that some people would do what it takes to do the right thing. After watching the video, however, I had found that people are more likely to obey to who they believe their superiors are than to do what they think is right. The experiment was composed of making a man believe he was doing one thing when really he was being studied for something else: obedience. Along the lines of what you said about the minorities not trusting the government, the gov't has a history of putting down minorities for their own sake, or exploiting people with their powers. In terms of trust with minorities, the government ran itself dry. I especially like you reference to Full Metal Alchemist. To answer your question, white people DEFINITELY trust the government, as the gov't is partial to white people. Throughout history, the gov't has been benefiting the majority of white people, essentially catering to them. It's been such since the founding of this country.

The question I pose is, what would you do in a situation such as the experiment in the video we watched? What would your thoughts, actions and words be?

mcsd153
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

Why so complacent?

I went into watching Milgram’s experiments with no idea what was coming. I was on the edge of my seat, thinking that I had just witnessed a man die. I was so mad at the “teacher” the whole video. Why did he not stop? Why didn't he go check on the man? Why was he listening to this scientist as if he was God himself? I was perplexed. Upon learning the true intention of the experiment, I was relieved but still left with those same questions. I really couldn't wrap my head around how the man could have been so complacent.

I have concluded that in the face of authority (most likely one they trust), people will do almost anything, as long as they know the “blood” won't be on their hands in the end. It confuses me so much, even if the instructor would be the one going to jail if the learner died, how could the teacher live with himself knowing he was the one who actually killed him, and had the power to stop? He knew he was hurting the learner and kept asking how dangerous the zaps were as if it wasn't unethical in the first place to electrocute someone as punishment for forgetting a two-word phrase. However, I do not blame the teacher, because an overwhelming 65% of people who participated did the exact same thing as him. I agree with Wyverary when they said “Not everyone who participates in truly evil behavior is a complete sadist or a cackling madman. Many are just people who did not feel morally obliged enough to stand away from or prevent evilness from happening (which one can argue, is just another type of monster).”

Obedience is learned, however, I think that all humans have an innate want to be nurtured, and taken care of, which I think this study speaks to. Knowing that we can get away with something, even if it's for a brief moment, is relieving. As a grown man, the “teacher” threw his morality and power out the window, and let someone else dictate his every move, even if he had the power to stop. It is comforting, even relieving, to feel that you will not have to take responsibility for your actions.

This makes me question the extreme to which humans would go. When discussing this study with my dad, he told me how when he was younger his football coach would tell the team to yell derogatory words and even slurs at the soccer players across the field. Most of the players were 15-18, and although it was a different time, they all knew what they were doing was wrong. They still did it anyway because if they faced any consequence, they could point the finger at their coach. I then consider the variations of this experiment and the results they produced. This experiment depended on how much they actually trusted the instructor. Even though they had never met any of the people involved before, they trusted those who seemed more academic or sure of themselves. When there were two instructors (who couldn't seem to agree), no one went the full 450 volts.

This experiment can help us understand some moments in the real world, and why people acted the way they did. For example, Trump supporters throughout these past 4 years. They blindly trusted this man who has been proven to lie, sexually assault women, and make decisions based on the economy, not the people it would impact. They trust him, and so they stand by what he says without questioning it. I agree with Bumblebee when they say “the members of his party that serve in government continue to support him because he is in a position of power. I don’t think it is because they don’t know what he’s doing is wrong; I think it is because they are afraid of going against him because he’s in charge.”

To respond to Milligrams 1979 interview, I think we would be able to find personnel for this experiment in any medium-size town. However, it depends on where. I think that in this day and age, as a society we have normalized speaking out against the government or authoritative figures. I think that there are definitely still people who would act as those did in the first study, but definitely not as many. Distrust of the government and military has been a big theme of 2020, and I think hints of that would be seen in the experiment.

To answer PinappleMan30, I think that in this experiment I would have first agreed, and probably even gone on with it for a while. But after hearing the man n pain, I definitely would have stopped, and not gone on with the experiment. I would have asked the instructor to stop, and probably question why we have to continue. However, I am thankful nothing like this could be carried out today, because in my eyes it is unethical, no matter how interesting the results were.

The question I pose is, what is an example of this you have experienced/witnessed at BLS?

ilikekiwis
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 20

Originally posted by razzledazzle8 on December 17, 2020 12:51

Also as humans we always obey authority stemming from childhood. We are taught this from a young age because we are always supposed to do what we are told no matter the task. As children we are punished if we don’t obey so that could transfer to when we are adults. For example, if our boss told us that we had to do some absurd task and then followed with ‘if you don’t do it you are getting fired’, you would do the task right? Punishment has been a key part of education and learning for centuries and has just started to end in the 2000’s. To avoid punishment you just do what you're told so that mindset stays for probably the rest of your life in my opinion. I believe that is why the teacher didn’t stop, it’s because there is that little part of everyone’s brain that thinks if they don’t do this then something bad will happen. I know that’s how I think like that even though I didn’t grow up with physical punishment.

From Milgram’s experiment, I conclude, as he did, that it is easy for anyone to commit an evil act if they are not held responsible for the actions. In class, I confidently predicted that 100% of the volunteers, or “teachers,” would follow through all the way to 450 volts. My views on the human psyche were already quite pessimistic, and this experiment gave me slight hope but still reassured my thoughts. “Only” 65% continued with the experiment. Even less continued when the environment was made less academic, most likely without white lab coats. Still, 65% and 48% are considerable amounts. These results were so surprising to Milgram that he never took his experiment to Germany, seeing that Americans are also obedient to authority. As Philip Meyer detailed in his article, "If Hitler Asked You to Electrocute a Stranger, Would You? Probably,” Milgram originally set out to test if Germans were simply more obedient to authority than everyone else, given the severity of the genocide carried out by Hitler. What he really found is that any American is the same as every man, and thus “ one would be able to find sufficient personnel for” evil acts “in any medium-sized American town.” The notion of medium-sized is very important because cities tend to be more liberal and to have people that care more for others who are not like them. As one goes into the rural parts of America, diversity and communication decrease, so people are interested more in protecting themselves over others, even if the “learner” is the same race as them.

Human beings seem to be capable of anything in inflicting pain. Even if it goes against their morals and they feel remorse as the teacher in the film did, humans are still able to keep going, just as long as they don’t face the consequences. Then, they can express their inner anger and desires to be superior freely. I can’t say whether humans are inherently good or bad; it’s a mix of both. People are clearly willing to do things for money and feeling above others, and this can be seen throughout all of history as the masses follow one leader to scapegoat entire populations and inflict harm on them. Many probably also continued because they felt they could be part of some major scientific discovery.

As RazzleDazzle8 points out, obedience may be ingrained since childhood, rather than from natural evil desires. The teacher may have not wanted to be punished for disobeying, which has probably been the rationale of people for centuries when following a corrupt leader. Obedience also tends to increase when more people with authority are present, as similarly revealed in the Asch Conformity Experiment. When the teachers were only given instructions over the phone, only 21% went to 450 volts. Thus, peer pressure and large groups clearly change conformity, as people want to be like others and be praised.

To answer @PineappleMan30 ‘s question on what would I do in such an experiment, I would like to think I would stop after say 200 volts, never going up to 450. I would certainly feel remorse for inflicting pain on someone, even if I wouldn’t be blamed. Hopefully, my intuition would know something is up with such an experiment where people are being harmed so freely.


To the next person, do you think that this experiment provides any insight on the nature of humans? Are we inherently bad? Do we all desire to be superior?

posts 1 - 15 of 28