As a participant in Milgram’s (1963) study I would be tormented at the thought of inflicting pain to another person, I also would at least think about whether what I am doing is right and whether the experiment was really genuine or it was some macabre experiment bent on torturing other people. I would probably be one of the few in Milgram’s (1963) study who refused raising the voltage of electric shocks and maybe be among those who balked out of the experiment due to anxiety and guilt.
After the debriefing, I would feel deceived and angry with the researcher because I was put through an ordeal that did not really happen. The experiment required that the researcher prod the participant to inflict more electric shocks, and I would probably base my willingness to push the button on the cries of the learner. I would surely refuse the researcher’s demands because I know I am not doing the right thing. On the other hand, if the debriefing would explain why deception was necessary, I would understand the experiment and maybe not hold it against the researcher.
However, I am sure that I would still feel deceived and manipulated; it would be an experience that would stay with me for a long time and may even influence how I perceive experiments and researchers. If I was part of an ethics review committee, I would not consider Milgram’s (1963) study as acceptable and protective of participants because aside from debriefing, he did not have any other safeguard procedure to protect the participants.
In Milgram’s (1963) study, the shrieks and cries of the learner increased the anxiety and guilt of the participant, and I think it was deliberately designed to evoke the feelings of anxiety of the participants no matter how he argued that the effects of the experiment to the participants were not anticipated. The learners were told to respond to the electric shock as if it was actually happening to them making it more believable to the participant, and by doing so; it also led the participant to believe that they are actually causing that reaction to the learners.
Therefore, the potential benefits gained from the study does not outweigh the sufferings that it brought to the participants, and ethically, it does not justify the use of deception (Spata, 2003), the debriefing was also conducted late wherein the participants had already believed that they were responsible for another person’s pain and it failed to protect the welfare of the participants. Without the criticisms and reactions against the experiment on obedience, the ethical issue of using deception in experiments would have not been given attention.
At present the American Psychological Association (APA, 2003) have only allowed deception when alternative procedures that are nondeceptive are not available and only if the potential benefits and knowledge gained from the research outweighs the risks of the effects of deception to the participants. In addition, deception is not allowed if the experiment would likely inflict physical and emotional distress to the participants.