In the 1960s, Milgram, then a professor at Yale, recruited ordinary people through a newspaper ad offering them money to help in a project purporting to improve human memory. In Milgrams experiment two people come into the laboratory where they are told they will be taking part in a study of memory and learning. Milgram was interested in how people obey under authoritative circumstances, using “fake” settings to test obedience. Under any given circumstance people tend to obey authority differently. Milgram tested this theory out by putting his volunteers into a laboratory setting and having them pressing a button shocking the other person for a wrong answer
. Most of Milgram’s volunteers went through the experiment, not wanting to disobey the authority figure. The volunteers in Milgram’s experiment were fighting their subconscious minds. The person had complete power over the other individual, whom he could punish whenever he saw fit. The subject had to decide if what they were doing was right (causing pain to another). This study suggests to me that, rightly managed, a cohesive group with an authoritative leader can find people who will do almost anything.
The thing I found interesting while reading about Milgram’s Obedience experiment was the deception that took place. Right from the start, the subject was deceived by the motives of Milgram’s experiment. It is not an experiment on the affect of electric shocks on learning, it was an experiment aiming to see how far the subject would be willing to go, when instructed by an authoritative figure. To me his experiment seems like one a doctor would use to determine the effects of a new drug on a group of people.
While some are giving the real drug others are giving placebos or “fake” pills. In Milgram’s experiment, people are led to believe that they are shocking the other person for a wrong answer and increasing the voltage after each shock when they really were not. The button that they push to deliver that shock would be the “placebo button” placed there to make the person think that they were really inflicting harm on the other person. The purpose of the study was to determine the degree to which a person will be obedient to an authority’s orders or requests if they do not agree with the requests being made. This situation occurs in many aspects of society, including the military, employer/employee situations, and most disturbingly, Nazi Germany. I think that this experiment shows just how sadistic one can be if one wishes to be.