posts 31 - 33 of 33
Posts: 18

When most of us think about the horrible crimes that Nazis committed we like to believe that if placed in that situation we would never follow Hitler’s orders and kill innocent people. However, Stanley Milgram’s experiment proved that there is nothing that sets the Germans apart from other human beings in terms of obedience. In the original experiment, a shocking 65% of the ‘teachers’ gave the full 450 volts. The subjects of the experiment were typical American men who were told to give shocks to another man in the other room for answering a question wrong. The shocks and the reaction of the students were fake, but the subject of the experiment was oblivious to this fact and therefore was lead to believe that the student had a heart attack because he stopped answering the questions. In the experiment we watched, the teacher protested, but ultimately continued to give the shock treatment because the researcher said he would accept all responsibility. This leads me to believe that people will do things they believe are morally wrong if a higher authority tells them to because they associate the responsibility of the action with the authority figure. If people believe they will be held un-accountable for the crimes they commit they are able to dissociate the action with themselves and then are capable of doing horrible things. In this experiment people went as far as killing another under an authority figure. This helps us understand why so many Germans killed innocent people under Hitler’s authority.

I agree with Gatinho that the scary thing about this experiment is that the subjects were never threatened if they didn’t listen to the researcher. All the researcher said was “we must continue” and after a little protest, the subject did continue. The subject was willing to continue hurting another person for the sake of the experiment even though he was not forced or threatened into pushing the buttons that set off the shock. This shows that most people don’t need that much persuasion to do bad things.

This experiment helps explain why students can be so obedient. If a teacher gives an order/assignment, even if students don’t want to do it, most students follow the order. Although this example does not have to do with violence, it does explain the obedient relationship between teachers or elders and students.

To answer Gatinho’s question, I think the teacher deserves a lot of the blame. Although it was not his idea to deliver the shocks, he was the one who pushed the button. He could have refuse to continue with the experiment if he thought another’s life was at risk, but the teacher decided to listen to the authority figure because he believed he, himself, was not to blame. I think this holds true for the case of genocide. All the people who committed crimes because an authority figure told them to are perpetrators and are guilty.

I think it is interesting that when the researcher gave the orders by telephone, only 21% gave the full 450 volts. This highlights that the direct presence of an authority figure gives more pressure to obey orders. My question is how these results would change today if the orders were given via text or email? Does hearing the voice command of an authority figure differ from a written command?

Posts: 19

The power of fear and authority

I find this study rather interesting and scary at the same time. Milgram’s conclusion directly supports the “how” question of genocides. When there is one powerful, charismatic leader that states that are the face of responsibility and any possible blame, I can see how people would go against their morals and personal beliefs and do previously unspeakable acts. Watching the video in class, I assumed due to the short screams that it was fake, but the result showed a lot about human behavior. The fact that 65% of volunteers gave the 450 volts that cleary had “xxx” on the bottom of it is very scary. This insight on human behavior proves that normal, everyday humans have the capability to do horrible acts.

One of the conclusions that particularly surprised me was the experiment with the “learner” and “teacher” being in the same room and 40% obeyed. Although it is less than 50 percent, we have learned in class that people are more affected when harming/killing someone right in front of them. I find this disgusting, yet interesting. Since these random people were able to continue shocking a seemingly dead or fainted person over and over again at 450 volts, I think that it shows a lot about what us humans are capable of and that we all have the ability to do crazy things.

From a very young age, we are taught to follow the leader. We are taught to stand in a straight line, single file to go to class in elementary school. We are taught to work and play during the restricted times. Follow your teacher, your schedule, your parents/guardians. When we disobey and go against the person in charge, we know that there are consequences either by experience or witnessing it happen to someone else. This fear of going against orders is so deeply rooted in our brains today, even when we are demanded to go against our own personal morals we will do what is being asked. This is directly reflected in the results of this experiment. Even though the man was never going to receive punishment for not continuing to electrocute the “learner,” the fear of going against Milgram out weighed any moral conflicts.

To answer blue dogs question, I think that the results would change majorly if the orders were given by text. As shown in the experiment with the orders being given through the use of a telephone, only 21 percent went all the way to 450 volts. Texting however would make the communication so disconnected and nonpersonal so that the “teacher,” in my opinion, would not continue to electrocute the “learner.” It is an interesting question to think about since we use texting all of the time in today’s world, but in this experiment, I think it would be less effective than actually hearing the orders through the phone or from someone in the room with you.

My question is do think the results would change from generation to generation? Would a 5 year olds’ results differ from a 50 year olds’ results? How and why?

Posts: 19

Whenever someone thinks about genocide, one always believes that if they were in the same situation that they wouldn’t do such thing. Well according to Milgram Obedience experiment, that is not actually true. It seems that humans are wired to obey their superior no matter the actions that they are committing. It fascinates me that 65% of people gave all 450 shocks even though it read “xxx”. So the “teachers” could not say that they did not know the amount of pain they were giving when it is clearly stated in front of them. What I do not understand personally is, although the “teachers” knew that the “learners” had a heart condition, they still gave 450 bolts. Yes, it is true that the “learners” were all actors and that they were completely safe but just think about it. These “teachers” knew that the person HAD A CONDITION, so they knew that they were not completely healthy and they still did it. When Ms. Freeman asked for us to predict the percentage of participants that went all of the way, many people said numbers in the 80s and 90s. It may appear that we are simply a class of pessimists, after being in this class in learning about the horrors that humans beings have done, it is hard to believe that we are good. How can we be “good” when there are genocides and famines and lynches and shootings? The Milgram Obedience experiment simply confirmed something in me, that humans are not inherently good. I think that we need to fight our urges to be evil and actually be good. For example, the guy that we say in the video attempted to do the right thing. He tried to ask the “scientist” to go check up on the “learner” but in the end he always complied. To the audience it appeared as if the man was having an internal battle within himself. “Should I stop? Or should I continue to cause this man pain?” This brings me to funkymonkey123's questions “Because the test subjects were given the incentive of money, do you think they felt more obliged to finish the experiment? Do you think the results would have been different if there wasn’t a reward?” I honestly think that because the people received money that they felt more obligated to complete the experiment. That is exactly what we do when we get a job. Because we know that there is an award, even though we may not want to do the job we do it anyways. If there hadn’t been an award, I truly do believe that there would’ve been a decrease in the numbers because at the end of the day, people like to look out for themselves. This idea is supported once again by the man in the experiment. When he realized that the screams were getting louder, he repeatedly asked the “scientist” if he was going to take responsibility for the man’s injuries. Then, whenever he agreed that he would take responsibility, the “teacher” continued. Even though the experiment was not done too long ago, its results are still haunting. It is crazy how humans do not like to take responsibility for their actions. You see that even in little children when they do something wrong and it follows us all the way into adulthood. After the Holocaust many perpertraters claimed that they themselves did nothing wrong, they were simply following their superiors. Former interahamwe claimed that they killed because they themselves did not want to be killed. But when are we going to step out of these selfish and obedient mindsets? When are we actually going to stand up?

My questions is: Although these experiments probably wouldn’t work with children, do you think that younger people would have had a different response? Why or why not?

posts 31 - 33 of 33