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goldfish3000
Posts: 18

I would be lying if I said that watching this experiment play out—and learning about it in the context that we did—won’t haunt me for a very long time. It really made me realize what exactly drives people to do terrible things, things that they would never admit that they would be willing to do. I feel like we have talked a lot about how people are usually not actually willing to do as much as they say they are to be an upstander, so it was interesting to look at it the other way around. This experiment showed another example of how human nature can be exploited for terrible purposes. We talked about it with stereotyping, and how humans have evolved to draw conclusions about things, including other people, when they don’t know the whole story. Obedience, I think, is another example of this, because Philip Meyer’s article has a point—if we had no obedience whatsoever, we all would have destroyed each other by now and the world would be constant chaos.


But that being said, in order to avoid this chaos the world conditions us to be obedient to an authority, whether we realize it or not. Such obedience isn’t always inherently bad. I remember in the beginning of the year, we talked briefly about how if the class suddenly wanted to mutiny and not let Ms. Freeman teach, we realistically could—there’s 30 of us and one of her. But we don’t, because for our whole lives we’ve been taught to respect the authority of teachers. When the authority figure is working for everyone’s best interest, obedience to that authority usually isn’t a bad thing. It’s when there is misplaced trust in an authority that the obedience can become dangerous.


The problems begin when the authority isn’t looking out for everyone’s best interest. As long as the person isn’t being harmed themselves, they still obey the authority because they’ve gained their trust, and Milgram’s experiment showed that very clearly. The “teachers” went along so willingly with the experiment because they trusted that the scientists knew more than they did about how dangerous the shocks were, that they wouldn’t be held accountable if anything bad happened, and that they were doing this for the advancement of science. In the video, everytime the teacher started to hesitate and protest, he would immediately calm down after the researcher said something like “the shock is painful but not dangerous” or “I will take responsibility if anything happens to him.” Perhaps the teacher thought he would ruin the experiment if he gave up.


I think what this experiment shows above all is that people are willing to do just about anything for a cause or a leader that they believe in, which is honestly a terrifying thought. The idea that a leader could, with a little bit of skill and practice, get people to do anything they want for their cause is more than a little unsettling for me. I suppose it explains why people today seem to be so loyal to leaders, so much so that they ignore unjust things that their leader does while getting angry about the very same things that someone else does. I also think it is worth reiterating lavender paint’s point about mob mentality. I agree that it can be a huge factor in people’s motivations, especially if they believe that not going along with what the mob is doing will result in personal harm.


To answer Lawrence 1912’s question, I do think that the general premise of the experiment would have had similar results around the world, because I feel like this instinct to obey authority is a universal human nature. That being said, I think in order for it to have similar results as this one you would have to alter it a bit so that the researchers have the same kind of authority in another culture as they do to the American test subjects. In other words, the American test subjects thought of the researchers as authoritative because they are Yale scientists, but such a position does not have the same connotation for everyone in the world as it does for Americans. For a short answer though, yes, I do think the experiment would work no matter who the subject is.


And to pose my own question to my classmates: How much of the world do you think knows about this phenomenon? Among people who know about it, how many do you think don’t believe in it? If, suddenly, it were all over the news tomorrow as if it were a stunning new finding, do you think there would be a large outcry?

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sydney16
Posts: 23

Everyone thinks that they are their own person and follow their own rules, but daily we are restricted from doing what we want. Our teachers give us homework, our parents give us chores, and our bosses give us work. Why do we do these things if we don’t want to? It is because we live in a society where we follow the rules of authoritative figures. This isn’t necessarily always a bad thing, because some rules are needed for structure. It is when authority is used for the wrong reasons that we can see a problem, because people will still listen to them regardless of whether they agree or not. Many people become complicit and do things outside of their comfort zone, or compromise their morals, because they believe the person in power knows best. This is not to take the blame off of those who perpetrate because they are guilty, they did commit awful crimes in the cases of genocide or mass murders, but the real question is why. Would they have done this if they weren’t told to? I think that the Milgram experiment gives a lot of insight into this question because the statistics changed depending on the scenario, but a lot of people also might have been misled by the promise of money. In the cases of the Holocaust, or the Rwandan Genocide, those perpetrators were promised their lives, so in the end it really came down to the choice of survival.


This was not my first time hearing of the Milgram experiment, but this is my first time watching it and thinking about it within the context of genocide. For me this really added another layer to my understanding of perpetrators in any genocide, as it was evident how people act when an authoritative figure tells them to. It was surprising that the “teacher” was able to hear his “student” clearly suffering, yet he continued to give shocks because he was told to. I think people are more able to hurt others if they aren’t able to see or hear them suffering. It’s a lot easier for people to convince themselves they are still “good people” if they didn’t physically inflict pain on a person face to face. Many people used the example of those who had to drop the Zyklon B into the gas chambers. These people knew what they were doing, and who they were doing it to but didn’t have to see it for themselves which made it a lot “easier” for them to move on from. If they were forced to watch what happened when they dropped the Zyklon B into the chambers then I think their willingness would have changed a lot. In the Rwandan Genocide however, it was a lot different as people had to physically inflict pain on others via machete and watch them die. They saw the blood spill on the ground and yet still continued to do it one murder after another. These are two completely different scenarios, one where a perpetrator didn’t see the result of their actions and another when they did, but they have one commonality which is the position of authority in their decisions. These people were told to commit such evil by people in power and who they trusted as knowing what was best for them. Obviously it doesn’t seem that murdering or hurting anyone could be the best thing to do, but when that idea is constantly imposed on a person and they seemingly have no other option it is much more clear why they would do it.


To bring it back to the Milgram experiment it was really interesting to see how the statistics changed depending on the different scenarios. When the authority figure gave the instructions over the phone only 21% of the “teachers” gave the full 450 volts. This implies that the figure of authority is still relevant, yet when it is not right in front of a person they are less willing to comply. It is a lot easier to dismiss a person when they aren’t right in front of you to tell you what to do because you don’t have to face them or fight back, you can just hang up the phone and walk away. When the “teacher” had to put the “learner’s” hand on the metal plate to give the shock, only 30% obeyed the experiment. This is another striking statistic because although it does show that some people still were willing even when they had to physically administer the pain themselves, it was a lot less than when they didn’t. It is surprising to me that it wasn’t less people because it means that people were able to do this actually thinking they were hurting someone else and watching it. Pink Cat Lover said something profound in her post about human behavior, “a human may lose track of one's morals and ethics if it is at hand of a situation in which they are aided to believe in being absolutely essential.” I think this is relevant here because it shows why people are so easily willing to dismiss their morals because they believe their actions are a part of a “greater good.” They are convinced that their role is important and that they must continue to satisfy the authority and satisfy their obligations to this duty.


The most general statistic is that 65% of the “teachers” gave the 450 volts, and that is extremely significant. With only this information it is easy to generalize human behavior, but knowing all of the other statistics is essential to understanding as well. The fact that we are able to change our behavior based on the circumstance is something that seems obvious but is still surprising to me. In the clip that we watched the “teacher” did reach the 450 volts while thinking that something horrific had happened to the “student” but he still continued. He got up from his seat, but never left its side to go check on the student himself, or to leave the room. He said he couldn’t continue but it wasn’t hard to convince him when the authoritative figure told him that the experiment must continue. Another factor is the white lab coat. I think this represents a certain level of authority to some people and factors into their willingness to comply because to them it seems like this person is in more power than a person who would just be wearing a casual outfit. It is interesting that they didn’t need to see any credentials to think that this person was a doctor or scientist, they just simply believed it based on that white coat.


Overall, this experiment really got me thinking deeply. It made me think of how these people must have felt when the results were revealed to them, now knowing they were capable of such a horrible thing. It made me realize how much we value authority in society and we often don’t question ourselves when hearing something from a person in a position of power. It was astonishing to see these everyday people come in for an experiment, and leave knowing a completely other side of themselves. I wonder how many of them would have come in if they had known what the experiment actually was. I also wonder the psychological effects that this experiment had on those who played the “teacher.”


“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.” Milgram himself noted this about his experiment and it directly connected to the portion of it that we watched. When the “teacher” would begin to become reluctant the authoritative figure would reassure him that he wouldn’t be held accountable, and that is what drove him to continue. For me that is an awfully sickening thing to think about because it means that it wasn’t that he actively wanted to do it, but he did because he wouldn’t have to bear the consequences. I think that is true for most scenarios in life, because part of the reason we feel such great remorse is because we got caught. For a lighter example, students who cheat in school. They don’t feel bad during the time they are doing it because it is benefiting them, but as soon as they are caught they begin to feel remorse because they have to face the punishments and disappointment of their teacher. I think that Milgram’s observation here describes something unique about the human experience and couldn’t have been more well put. With that being said, I’m not exactly sure how to explain the reason. It is so complex and varied that it is hard to generalize this context, but I do believe it does represent a trend in human behavior. Simply put, people are more willing to do things when they don’t fear the repercussions.


My major takeaway from this experiment, is that events such as the Holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide aren’t isolated events. They are both different in their own ways and deserve that proper recognition, but they are inherently not that different in terms of why they happened. It is not because all the people in Germany or all the people in Rwanda are bad people who don’t know right from wrong, but it is because they were forced to compromise those values in these instances. The people in the SS weren’t awful people, until they committed these crimes, and often came from backgrounds not too different than our own. The Hutus in Rwanda weren’t all sick or insane to have done such horrific things, in fact they were friends or neighbors with many of the people that they viciously slaughtered to death. It really makes you think when you see it like this because it shows that blaming it on mental illness or evil (although at times it may be the case) is too easy of a solution. It takes away from the complexity of the human experience and also distances people like us, who learn about these atrocities, from recognizing that these genocides connect to us. We are not able to say that we will all be upstanders, or never commit a crime because the truth is some of may be able to if fear and authority were factored in. This post made me realize a lot about myself and just humans in general, because we all go through life thinking we know ourselves to the greatest extent, but the truth is if we experienced anything like these atrocities it is hard to see yourself in that same light.


Lawrence 1912 raised an interesting question, “Did this experiment only work because it was set in America? Would have worked in another culture? Also, what other variables may have altered the outcome? How would they have altered the outcome?” I think this experiment could have worked in another country with a different culture than in America, because I don’t think it is simply a characteristic of American people to behave like this under the pressure of authority. In places where freedom of speech and human rights in general are oppressed there may have been changes in results or more people willing to comply based on how their lives are already ruled by authority. I kind of addressed this point in the beginning of my post, I think it is a mistake to look at this as an isolated event that could only happen in America or only happen with this specific group of white men. I think this experiment represents a side of each of us that we don’t want to believe exists and it is important to acknowledge that these people are no different from anyone else. With that being said to address another variable, I think it is important to factor in the results of people of color and women. Although I do think there would be some of the same trends, I think there would have been an interesting difference to see how another group of people other than white men would behave under these conditions.


The question I would like to pose is this: One thing I was constantly wondering about during the clip was how the “teachers” would have been affected if the demeanor of the authoritative figure changed. I know this may not seem like a compelling question, but for me it is because I know when I am yelled at I am more willing to do what that person says because they are visibly angry. The person in power talked in a level voice, and just said that the experiment must go on. But what if that level voice turned to screaming and cursing? Would that make people continue or walk away, and why? How does the level of someone’s voice influence a human’s behavior, and why?


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Montrealer
Posts: 28

There’s no doubt that the lab manager had overwhelming influence of the teacher in this scenario. It shows how humans are prone to devote themselves to authority, even if it means to void themselves of humanity and compassion,

The main reason most people go through the experiment is because they are free from consequences and responsibility for what could happen from the experiment. They were paid and was easy to do so. Few objected since they actually care that another human life is at risk. Those people may also feel guilty due to the fact that they are the ones actually operating the machines even though they are liberated from any responsibility, like this finding can support, “When the “teacher” had to put the “learner’s” hand on the metal plate to give the shock, only 30% obeyed the experiment.”I think that most people failed to care because there was a detachment from both the physical barrier but also because of the researcher standing in front of the teacher, but I think that most people don’t really care as long as they aren’t affected by what happens to the person. They also don’t know who the other person is so they lack a personal connection that would make them more concerned, despite being human after all. This experiment could explain things like mob mentality, where most follow for the sake of following, in order to fit in, and doing so they don’t have to suffer the dire consequences too. Like Milgram noted, they are being influenced by something that is similar to mob mentality like in Rwanda where if someone higher up decides to engage in a certain form of behavior then following those people would “validate” what they are doing since they both following the higher authority and won’t be the only ones who would have to face consequences if there were any at all. They also feel superior than the rest and thus they start to feel empowered and gain the superiority complex.

I also agree with Milgram’s explanation of a state of agency. By having someone in the room telling you what to do regardless of the situation can cause someone to feel more pressured and inclined to follow those instructions, which can explain findings like “When Milgram had the authority figure give instructions by telephone (instead of being in the room), only 21% gave the full 450 volts.” Fear of disobeying a figure of responsibility also might influence someone to obey.

To answer lavender paint’s question, I think that those who were the conductors of the experiment, the teachers, are traumatized, especially that guy in the video who had to suffer through all of the mental repercussions during the experiment. I don’t think anyone would be able to go through all of that and not suffer any of the consequences because of it. As a human being, there should be a point where it becomes impossible, but if one has to risk their own life for it, then I would assume anything is feasible at that point. I think that there should be a breaking point and most humans do unless its the borderline between their own life and consequences.


My question is how do fix authority figures today? Are they working? Do authoritative figures need to be on the same playing field as regular people or does that devoid authority?


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Dolphin
Posts: 17

Milgram’s experiment shows us how much authority figures control all of us. We are all controlled by authority. In school, particularly at BLS, students almost never go against what a teacher says. When a student does, everyone else is shocked and talks about it with their friends because they’re used to doing whatever they are told. From childhood we are all told to do whatever older people tell us to do. We are taught that people with authority must be trustworthy. In the example of Milgram’s experiment, subjects would trust that the experimenter knows what’s right to do because it’s an experiment for the prestigious Yale University, and the experimenter wears a lab coat like he is conducting serious and important experiments. He seems trustworthy because why would Yale and this smart-looking man be trying to actually do something wrong. The authority intimidates us and makes us believe that we wouldn’t know what’s best, they would.


When two authority figures were in the room and argued over the experiment, no teacher continued to the end. The arguing breaks their authoritative presence because it tells the subjects that these men do not actually know what they are doing, so the subjects’ trust is also broken. When subjects went to a run-down office building in Bridgeport instead of the Yale Interaction Laboratory, only 48% of subjects went to 450 volts compared to the 65% at Yale. The Yale lab adds to the authority because we are told that ivy league schools like Yale are all better than the majority of us since only a select few will be admitted to these schools. The office building in Bridgeport does not give subjects any assurance that the experiment is actually serious and important.


It’s much easier to resist when you are not faced with the authority figure. We are all taught to not cause conflict and go along with what we’re told. In the video, the man never got up and left and this may be because we don’t want to cause any problems with people. The subject instead started to rush quickly through the experiment so that it would just end. He didn’t want to do it anymore but is afraid of stopping so he rushes so that he won’t have to deal with that feeling anymore and they could check on the “learner” sooner. When the authority figure gave instructions by telephone, only 21% gave the full 450 volts. The authority figure is not there to intimidate subjects and control their actions. Additionally, it’s much easier to cause harm to a person when you do not see that person in pain. When the “learner” was in the same room as the teacher, only 40% of the teachers obeyed. This is because they are actually faced with the results of their actions, and people usually do not want to see others in pain. When the “teacher” had to put the “learner’s” hand on the metal plate to give the shock, only 30% obeyed. The “teacher” putting the “learner’s” hand on the metal plate starts to shift the responsibility onto the “teacher.” The “teacher” is now directly causing the “learner” harm. It’s not just the shock generator that’s hurting the “learner,” they have actually touched and interacted with the “learner” to cause them harm.


The subject in the video asks more than once who will be held responsible because we all like to know that if something goes wrong, no one can ever say it is our fault. I agree with Lavender Paint that we don’t like to held accountable and that we all want to see ourselves as good people so we want someone else to be held responsible for our bad actions. There have been many times when I’ve asked someone to repeat what they want me to do so that I’m sure that I can say they are are the ones who told me to do that thing if I’m ever questioned. It’s easier for subjects to shock the “learner” knowing that nothing they’re doing is their fault or responsibility. They won’t have to deal with the repercussions if anything bad happens, so they’re less likely to object.


People are willing to do a lot when they feel controlled by authority figures and know that what they do is not their responsibility. As seen with Milgram’s experiment, that does include harming others. According to the reading by Philip Meyer, Milgram originally wanted to use this experiment to prove that Germans are different and are more obedient to explain why Jews and other targeted populations were mass murdered in the Holocaust. Milgram never brought the experiment to Germany though because he realized that Americans are very obedient, too. This tells us that maybe we aren’t so different from Germans during the Holocaust. I often wondered how so many people were so complicit during the Holocaust and other genocides but Milgram’s experiment provides some explanation to this. Authority figures can compel people to do terrible things.


To answer Montrealer’s question, I don’t think we can fix having authority figures today. We need authority in order for the country to run smoothly. If there was no authority for people to be forced to follow, everyone would do whatever they wanted and there would be no order. If everyone was on the same playing field, there would probably be chaos and there would still be violence, if not even more violence.


Milgram’s experiment only had male subjects. My question is do you think that the results would have been different if women were the subjects? We’ve seen over time that men have usually been the ones who are violent, but at the same time women may also be seen as more passive and more likely to obey the authority figure.


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followingdawae
Posts: 20

For me, this experiment showed something I had already suspected-it’s incredibly ingrained in our culture and our brains to obey. It’s a matter of risk vs reward. Does the risk of disobeying authority outweigh the potential reward. In this case, the teacher was more afraid of disobeying the doctor than potentially saving a mans life-which is incredibly frightening when you think about it. Looking not even at the context of the Holocaust or anything, we can see examples of willingness (or unwillingness) to disobey authority. For example, I am currently writing this post despite the fact that I would much rather be sleeping, because my desire for sleep is outweighed by desire to do well in this class, to not disobey authority. There is also a huge social aspect in disobeying as well. Humans are designed to be pack animals-it’s a lot harder to do something no one else is doing, that makes you stand out and be the outlier in a situation. I agree with Lavender Paint here, this idea of a mob mentality, of believing something because everyone around you is believing it, is very powerful.I do not however, think that justifies being a bystander, especially when you being complicit, you doing nothing, is often worse than doing something. For me personally, I can see a lot of examples of how culturally we are taught to obey without questioning. Students are so often told to do what is asked of them without questioning it. I can’t tell you how many things I have done things as a student that I see absolutely no point in and is of no help to me whatsoever but I do it because unfortunately the reward of doing what I want does not outweigh the risk associated with it. That is however, my own choice. Everyone needs to decide for themselves what they believe to be “worth it.” Is it worth standing up for someone if it means you would get in trouble? In this case, while the teacher wanted to help the learner, he ultimately felt it wasn’t worth risking “the experiment” or going asking for what he was asked to do, even if he felt it was wrong.

To answer Lavender Paints question, I would be willingly to bet many of the people who fully obeyed felt tricked when learning the experiment was rigged. It’s VERY easy to hold yourself to a moral high ground, and say “if i were in XY situation, I would do XY.” It’s a lot harder to actually follow through on what you speak. I bet had you asked people before, would they intervene in a situation if someone was being hurt, would they purposefully hurt someone, I would bet most of them would have said no. Clearly, their actions would differ from their potential view of themselves and what they stand for, and I could definitely see how that would be hard for a lot of people to come to terms with.
My question is: do you think you can ever predict how you would act in a certain situation? I referenced before how it’s very easy to say, to maybe even believe that you would act a certain way, to take a moral high ground. Do you think it’s fair to make that judgment without having gone through it?

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bluestarfish
Posts: 19

While watching the Milgram experiment, thinking it was real, I could not bear to watch as I continuously heard the screams of the "learner". It seemed to me so bizarre that a person could subject another to so much pain but learning the statistics that came from the experiment was even more shocking. I never thought about the large effect that authority can have on an individual or group when in relation to morality. I'd like to agree with goldfish3000 on their point that "We talked about it with stereotyping, and how humans have evolved to draw conclusions about things, including other people, when they don’t know the whole story. Obedience, I think, is another example of this". I had never thought of this but reading their comment made me realize the validity of the point. Stereotyping and obedience are extremely similar in that both stem from agreeing with a thought simply because it is widely believed or an authority figure deems it right. Obedience, however, is not always bad as with reference to Philip Meyer's article, without obedience, here would be chaos. This, I think, connects to the theme of good and evil in that it shows that an extreme of anything can be an evil. Obedience without thought is, in my opinion, what's most dangerous. For the few "teachers" in the experiment who did not go through with it, I can imagine they had a mental struggle to reach the conclusion that they must stop as the authority figure's influence seemed to have been so strong.

From this experiment, I concluded that human resolve is quite weak. People are quite likely to act as instructed in the presence of an authority regardless of whether or not they'd say so beforehand. This is affirmed with the fact that no "teachers" went all the way to 450 volts when there were two authority figures arguing in the room, they didn't feel confident enough to trust the authority of them. In the part with the man that we watched in class, it was clear to see that he didn't want to hurt the "student" but he did so regardless and after a while just seemed like there was no stopping him. Once he reached a certain high voltage, after the student stopped responding, he simply asked the question, said wrong, pressed the voltage, and repeated almost as if it had become an automatic action. This speaks to what occurred during the Rwandan Genocide. When reading the perpetrator accounts, I recall many stating that they did what they did because they were told so and they would be looked down on or even punished themselves if they showed weakness and refusal to kill. This is the same thought that the Milgram experiment concluded. That humans are willing to behave in unimaginable ways simply in accordance with authority. That is truly a scary thought and one that can be applied to various events throughout history. One most notable is obviously the Holocaust but it can be seen in modern day with even the US. Many people agree with and wholeheartedly believe everything Trump and his administration are saying and doing. This even applies with issues regarding refugees and immigrants, things which affect the lives of individuals. In a perfect world, I think our knowledge of right and wrong should be shaped by our decency to other humans. We should never obey authority wholeheartedly because, like us, they are human and capable of making mistakes. Instead, we should listen with caution and question their order when it conflicts with morality.

Dolphin's question is very interesting and one I had not thought of before. To answer the question, I do think the response would have been different had it been women. I think that even with the Rwandan genocide, the fact that men were chosen to carry out the killings says something about the perception of women and partly the reality of their ability to do evil. I think that because a large number of women are mothers, they would be less likely to carry out a killing, especially if it had to do with children, as they went through and struggled with the creation of human life. I don't however think that the results would have been dramatically different. Humans are still humans regardless of gender and so their response would be, although perhaps slightly different, largely the same. The percentage may have been slightly less but still shocking.

A question I would like to propose is: What would the results have been if children had been tested? Whereas kids are more used to obeying authority, they are also more likely to rebel and have less pessimistic views of other humans.

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Johnson’s baby shampoo
Posts: 14

I found this experiment to be extremely interesting. To start off, while I was watching this I found it very hard to focus because all I could think about was the fact that this guy was killing someone in the next room. Not only was hearing that it was only an experiment a relief, but it gave me the chance to watch it again at home because I wanted to see it again without the stress of thinking someone was dying. As I rewatched I really payed attention to the man’s small outbursts and at what points he decided to continue and not protest any longer. I seemed that nearly every time the doctor said that it was “essential for the experiment”, the man would rethink his actions and continue. I believe the fact that he was already paid before he even got into the room had an effect on everyone’s behavior. They felt obligated to continue because the cash transaction had already taken place.


One thing I found extremely interesting was that even as the man grew angry, stressed, and simply worried for the other man’s well-being, the man always spoke respectfully towards the doctor. He always called him “sir”, said things like “i don’t think this is right” instead of “this isn’t right”, and so on. I believe this is what lies at the heart of the experiment. The doctor was obviously the man’s superior. He was in charge there and that is what ultimately caused the man to continue. The man had a responsibility to continue with the experiment and he did not have the courage or the know-how to stand up to him. AS “the River” said, when someone appears trustworthy and in charge, one is likely to comply.


I believe this experiment provides insight in nearly every war, every genocide, and every monarchy in human history. It is this idea that we all have superiors and we must always respect their orders. This mindset is essentially what the military is based around. Every soldier in the military must comply to all demands that are given to them. In fact, we have laws that punish those in the military to decide not to comply.


Another thing I found interesting is from what milgram 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 mindset is why so many people don’t speak up. It is because they feel that their small action will make no difference. THis is also why many people don’t vote in elections, because they feel that their single vote is so small that it will have no effect on the outcome. Do you think that the results of this experiment were shocking to milgram, or do you think he hypothesized something like this happening?
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here's the tea.
Posts: 18

Personally, I feel like everybody is capable of extreme and terrible things under certain circumstances. Obviously some more than others, and there are many variables involved like personal morals, politics, even childhood. But there is a confusing dichotomy between the morals ingrained in us at a young age. We were raised to always listen to elders and those and with authoritative positions or professions. But we are also told to stand up for what we believe in and to always do the right thing. It is in cases like these where we see upstanders, perpetrators, and bystanders. Those who value respecting their authority and such will listen, even to the extreme. Those who value doing the right thing no matter what will be upstanders regardless of authority. It is interesting, however, how much a white lab coat or a suit affects our view of people. In D.C, I visited the Pulitzer Center where the speaker talked about this as well. He noted how many people buy into placebo drugs and intriguing medical practices simply because they were told to by someone who looked trustworthy. Meanwhile, alternative methods and traditional medicine centers and practitioners have begun to alter their spaces to look more like Western doctors offices. Those doing experimental studies make sure to wear the classic white lab coat as to keep their clients at ease. I find this very interesting. We are conditioned to think those who are meant to help us like doctors in lab coats, soldiers in uniform, officials in suits, are always going to help us, which can cause severe harm.

Humans also love to believe they are good people, always in the right. When we watch movies, we root for the underdog. We despise the villain. We condemn bullies, thieves, and liars while we bully, steal, and lie. Many who do terrible things do not think they are doing terrible things. As far as they know it, they believe they are right. We see this among serial killers as well as leaders like Hitler and ordinary people like the Hutu and SS officers. The testimony of Rwandan killers said that they believed the propaganda that the Tutsi were cockroaches and beasts that deserved to be killed. Eventually, they did not even see them as humans, but pests to be exterminated. Dehumanization is a huge aspect of evil. The Jewish were not people with families, jobs, hopes and dreams, but were inhuman creatures deserving of death. The same goes for the Tutsi, the Roma, and other targeted groups. Additionally, not having to face those who you are looking down upon and even murdering creates a much more efficient path toward ethnic cleansing and genocide. This explains the ease at which many were able to carry out their duties. They could drop a bomb from tens of thousands of feet in the air or pellets into a small opening of a gas chamber. Even if they were face to face with a victim, it is not murder if you are killing a number, an abomination, or a rodent rather than a human being. This explains why in the experiment, 25% less “teachers” completed the full task when the victims were in the same room.

This also explains the utter avoidance of guilt and taking responsibility. The UN soldiers, the SS officers, and all of the administrative workers in between, were simply following orders. Many did not kill anyone—physically at least, with their own hands. But they are not innocent as they would like to believe. The experiment exemplified this as the teacher begins by asking if the man is okay and saying that he wants to stop, but eventually he asks who will be responsible. He wanted to make sure that even if he continues with the experiment, and it is his hand on the shock switch, that he will not be deemed guilty in the end. Milgram said himself that people are more likely to accept doing evil when they are only a small link in a large chain, and not the largest, most radical instant of it. Under pressure people are more likely to follow the pack and adhere to what others are doing. They can’t be doing wrong if their brother and neighbor are doing the same thing, or if the leader of their country is promoting it. The man in the experiment knew it was wrong, just like many Nazis, and just like many American officials and people during World War II and the Rwandan genocide.

These patterns are not only present in instances as extreme as war and genocide. We see this in everyday life at moderate levels. As I mentioned before, we are much more likely to listen to a man in a suit than a T-shirt, and a doctor in a lab coat than a button down. Another aspect is our obsession with media presences. Celebrities are idolized so much that their fans go to many extremes like stalking and violence toward others under the guise of love for this person they have never met. Every day we read about more shootings in mosques, synagogues, and churches on the basis of dehumanization and reverence for idols who promote nothing but hate.

To answer Johnson’s baby shampoo’s question, there is no doubt that Milgram anticipated these results. After WW2, the question of human obedience was at large. Millions of people were killed, and millions more killers themselves. During the trials, many denied responsibility while bystanders faced no repercussions. The way Milgram conducted the experiment, with all of the different variables, shows that he was expecting people to listen to authority and avoid responsibility, it was only a matter of percentages. My question revolves around the human opinions regarding ourselves. Those who pillage and kill often think they are good people, while many up-standers are humble and even insecure. Why is that—or why might that be? Why do we hold such high opinions of ourselves when are actions often do not reflect that?

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Honey Bunches
Posts: 17

The Milgram experiment actually explains a lot of the behavior of all humans whether they're perpetrators in a genocide or just a person in civilization. Everybody has a motive to do something because an authoritative that they agree with tells them what to do. It's as simple as going to college after high school because authorities say that's what you're supposed to do. However in the case of perpetrators in a genocide, it's not that simple. It's far worse. The experiment showed how the "teacher" gave the "student" 450 volts which was deadly and it reflects to the people who carried out the killings during the genocides. As a higher up told people to keep going with the killing they never questioned who they were killing. Another part of the mindset of the perpetrators is that they had to believe in the morals of the authority. This meant that in Rwanda, Hutu believed that the Tutsi were planning to regain control of Rwanda. To answer here's the tea's question, I think the people that kill and pillage often feel like they are becoming an upstander by taking the action to murder. When they believe in a cause of genocide, they think that by working towards that cause they'll be recognized for their efforts and maybe praised for it? Not really sure how else to answer as that's also a question I have myself. My question that i want to ask is can the results from Milgram's experiment be used to explain other things rather than genocide? Other things as in a more positive side.

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marcopolo
Posts: 18

After having watched the video and read the statistics, I have come to the conclusion that, yes, people are definitely influenced by authority figures, but it’s difficult to make an entire generalization about all of human nature from some experiment. However, the screams, cries and final silence probably should have scared away the majority people from continuing. Just looking at my peer’s reactions to the video, the majority of students felt compelled to actually look away from the screen. So why did the teachers continue if the screams and pain of the man was obviously deeply disturbing? They probably felt that due to the scientist’s confidence and willingness to take responsibility for the outcome that everything must be fine.


While there may be still be some factors that play into this experiment, it’s hard to argue that the teachers were not influenced by the authority figure. Considering it was a professional looking scientist in a lab coat conducting an experiment, the teachers probably assumed that they must be correct or that arguing was futile. Something I found particularly interesting was the fact that when there was a second scientist placed in the experiment who contradicted the first scientist, the teacher was more likely to stop the experiment. So what could we possibly conclude about human nature from this part of the experiment? It seems as though people are highly influenced when there is some type of majority consensus or when there is a powerful authority figure instructing people. Just having one authority figure that disagrees with the morality of something was enough to influence people to stop. This can be connected to genocide, because the majority of the population may see something wrong with it inside of themselves, but choose not to speak out, because they are apart of the minority. Once there was an authority figure that agreed with them, they stopped.


People seem to be highly impressionable which we are able to conclude from this experiment, because even though it was fairly obvious that the teachers were upset by the possibility of having killed someone, they continued. Maybe there was monetary factors involved which had pushed people to continue. It’s quite possible that hearing, “You must continue the experiment” was interpreted as a threat to the money that they were supposed collect. This could be just as influential as someone threatening your life, because it's possible that the money could be something significant to you or your family. It is possible that these people who participated in the experiments were desperate for money and the only reason that they chose to continue was because they felt that they had no choice.


I agreed with Captain123’s comment: “Even if they do not believe it themselves at first, something changes in their minds when a person whom they believe to be their superior is assuring them that they are doing the right thing. The way our society works today, a lab coat, a fancy suit, and a Harvard diploma are all things that can instantly make you credible in the eyes of the average person.” People believe that just because some scientist says something is true that they must be correct, because they are deemed superior. Connecting this back to eugenics and also Nazi Germany people were quick to assume that these scientists were correct, because how could they not be? Nazi Germany was filled with some of the greatest scientists and doctors in the world who had accomplished many credible, so how could they do anything wrong? Just going through arguments on twitter the general population seem to just read the titles of the articles and assume that the superior figure must be correct, because it’s a professional looking article with big words and someone’s approval.


Question: Why do people choose to just simply agree instead of coming to their own conclusions? Are people driven by fear?

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Scorpion
Posts: 32

Honestly, when I was first watching the experiment unfold I thought I was witnessing a death. As the number of volts increased, I felt the situation becoming more and more intense, but one thing remained constant - the ‘teacher’ continued. According to the statistics, approximately 65% of all the teachers gave the full 450 volts while conducting this experiment. This number is larger than half of all those who participated. I was both surprised and not so surprised by that number. On one hand, it's easy to sit here and view the experiment for the first time and ask ourselves “why didn't he stop’? “Why did he continue when he knew the ‘victim’ was in pain”? However, it would be interesting to see, if you were in that position, how you would immediately react. The other controls of the experiment were interesting as well as it gave the impression that the ‘teachers’ did not want to be responsible for any accidents and this was demonstrated in the film clip where Milgram stated that he would take full responsible following the ‘teacher’ asking repeatedly. It can be concluded here that people may know and understand that what they are doing is wrong, however the lack of responsibility for any wrongdoing, significantly changes the effects of the experiment. Another major inference and conclusion, and the objective of the experiment, is that people tend to obey higher figures of authority or those giving directions. We see this in our everday lives and in previous, more significant, events in history. It is interesting to see how many accounts we have of perpetrators who claimed that they were forced to do something or didnt have a choice or had to do it. Even if the full 100% of people did not agree to every aspect of the experiment, the experiment and its statistics definitely showed that someone out there is willing to do whatever one says, no matter the outcome or cost.


I’m sure the psychology of this experiment would be interesting to study. From my perspective, it seemed as though the ‘teacher’ in the video was willing to go through with the experiment and the ‘rules’, knowing full well that the person may have died. If this was real and the person did actually die, responsible or not responsibe, that is guilt that that man will have to carry and keep for the rest of his life and that is definitely no way to live. When the experiment first started, he seemed very hesitant and he showed sympathy for the guy ‘taking the test’. However, I noticed as the experiment progressed and many more repeated orders were given by Milgram, the ‘teacher’ continued on a faster pace than he did before, possibly showing a sort of control Milgram now had on the ‘teacher’. This idea can be connected to history as one man, such as Hitler or another radical political leader with such a following, can slowly gather peoples attention and put them under their control. I would like to think that most human beings are not capable of murder, however 65% of the participants gave the full shock, which is deadly. Sure, the other 35% were not capable of continuing, but more participants were willing to commit a serious crime than not. It shows how human beings will value the demands of an authoritarian figure over the lives of someone who is innocent.


We see in todays society, especially in politics, how people are carried by political agendas more than anything else. Rhetoric and propaganda play huge roles in this and radicals are able to take these ideas and create a following. This was definitely an extremely unorthodox experiment, but a fascinating one to analyze and discuss because of its objective and end result backed up by some statistics.


To respond to the question as why people choose to agree instead of coming up with their own conclusions, I think it has a lot to do with instincts and pressure. If one found themseleves in a situation like this one, it is difficult to assess what ones first instinct would be and that instinct and initial reaction would be the answer to this question. In history and our own lives, it is easy to see people give into pressure by either their friends or another power, for example and it comes down to human behavior at this point. I believe that people are inherently driven by fear and this is lilkely due to a survival trait we have inherited. No one wants to feel fear and those who experience it want to get rid of it as quickly as possible and this could explain why some find it easier to agree and move on.


Question: If this same exact experiment was duplicated today, do you think we would get similar results? What would stay the same and what would change? Why might this be?

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MA@L$z0)+E
Posts: 21

Obedience healthy or not?

If curiosity killed the cat, what did it do to the human? I would like to argue that though we accomplished many great things by being curious we also created monsters and destroyed each other time and time again. Previously to class in ELA, this year, we watched a very similar but more general video of the Milgram obedience experiment. I saw how detrimental the experience was for so many people that signed up for it without knowing what would happen. They expected to have an educational experiment in which they would learn something while helping the experimenters as well. But if they had known the fear, stress, anguish, horror, and confusion they were going to feel when the experiment took place, I believe almost none of them would even sign up, let alone go through with it.

One huge issue that we always have to face is control. Who is in the position of control? Who is in the position of being controlled? This is something that can indeed help society so that it isn't total chaos but when we start to become hubristic and feel Superior to each other then something is not right. This is more from a race or country perspective but it can definitely related to teachers and students. But rather than asserting dominance and striving to further the gap between them we should be working to build each other up. But by going through with an experiment like this it only reestablishes unapologetic dominance. The people assume an inferior role and relinquish there will power to the authority figure. But this isn't a normal teacher and student scenario this is a person being traumatized by the (illusional) harm they are inflicting upon another person. Not everyone feels the same but it does something to those people which is unhealthy and definitely a cause of PTSD.

I knew nothing of this experiment until earlier this year when I learned about it in ELA. But it disgusted me beyond compare. I have never understood how other people can cause so much pain to other humans and I never will. All this for science. Is it really worth ruining someone's life? Apparently because Milgram did this to a multitude of people and whether or not they suffered after was not his concern. But the worst part is that this only proved that human cruelty is limitless and everlasting. I know that sounds nihilistic and extremely pessimistic but what does it take? Humans are relentless.

Though it may be a terrible thing, the power of influence, it is also an extremely strategic trait that many leaders throughout history have taken advantage of. To avoid the obvious reference of those who followed Hitler, Soldiers in the army can be sometimes referred to as blindly obedient. A lot of the time there can be no choice so whether the soldier wants to do something against their order it would be more risky for them. So obedience can be good when it comes to a pet or a child and it is necessary to create good manners. But doing this to fully grown adults is just plane messed up.

The questions I leave you with are
How far will we let curiosity take us? And is obedience better or worse in this changing and growing world?
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