Milgrams Behavioral Study of Obedience

The Milgram experiment was a series of experiments conducted by the now famous psychologist Stanley Migram, who ingeniously measured the compliance of people to obey “an authority figure.” Essentially, the experiment had three people involved: the authority figure, the teacher, and the learner. The authority figure and the learner were both in on the study whereas the teacher was the one the experiment was designed for. Essentially, the authority figure would instruct the teacher to administer high amounts of voltage to the acting learner who was in and another room and would scream “in pain.”

Originally, when Milgram had polled his senior psychology majors the polled students said that only a few sadistic people would inflict the maximum voltage against the “learner,” which was only 1.2% of the people. However, when Milgram first began his experiments, though many were hesitant and comfortable to do so, 26 of the 40 participants went all the way to the final 450-volt shocking of the learners, nearly 65% of the participants. Also, equally interesting, not one of the participants refused to administer the shocks before reaching the 300-volt shocking level.

Before the experiment began, the teachers themselves were given a 45-volt electric shock to show that this was completely real and sample the treatment the learners would be receiving (although the learners were never actually being shocked, but simply acting). The experiment begins when the teacher reads a list of word pairs to the learner and four possible answers. If the learner had answered correctly, then the teacher would move on the next pair or else if the learned had answered incorrectly, the teacher would administer the first of the high-voltage shocks, moving higher and higher up the voltage levels for each question answered incorrectly. Towards a higher level of shocking, the learned would begin banging on the wall that separated the two of them and would complain about a heart condition. Eventually, the actor on the other side would stop communicating once the shocks reached a high enough level.

Milgram had instructed his authority figure to only speak four things when the teacher wanted to stop the experiment: “Please continue,” “The experiment requires that you continue,” “It is absolutely essential that you continue,” and “You have no other choice, you must go on.” If the teacher still wanted to stop after the fourth saying, then the experiment was stopped, or else it stopped upon reaching the 450-volt shock, which was to be done three times. The experiment was highly controversial later on as it raised extreme ethical issues. There is absolutely no way that the same experiment could be done in this day and time especially considering the emotional damage that it caused Milgram’s experiment participants.

As the Milgram study was a classic experiment, there were both independent variables and dependent variables for the whole research process. The variable that is manipulated over the course of the research is the independent variable and some of the independent variables were the proximity of the learner and for some cases where Milgram decided to change the setting of the experiment, the reputation of the setting was an independent variable as well. Dependent variables are however the amount of shock administered, and perhaps also the duration of the shock. Another research element could be the crying. Milgram could have potentially used the crying of the learner as an independent variable to see if teachers had given more amounts of shock to crying learners rather than the ones that stopped responding after a while.

The fact of the matter is that Stanley Milgram’s experiment had done an incredible amount of the social psychology world and though his methods may be considered unethical by this day and age, he was certainly influential when it came to the theories of social influence.