’s Shock Psychology Essay, Research Paper Paul Brown 10/10/00 Methods pp.3 The most famous experiment Milgram conducted was also his most controversial. The issue dealt with the
’s Shock Psychology Essay, Research Paper
The most famous experiment Milgram conducted was also his most controversial. The issue dealt with the
people’s right to know on what he/she is being studied.
On the surface, the experiment looked legit and totally scientific. Two people were brought in at a time
and each would draw from a hat. One would be the teacher, one the learner. After going over exactly how the
“shock treatment” worked, the teacher went to his control panel and the learner was hooked up to electrodes.
The teacher would first read lists of paired words, then asked the learner to pair up the now separated words.
For each wrong answer, an increasing dose of electricity was given.
In reality, there was only one volunteer brought in at a time. The learner was one of the scientists, and
was not getting shocked at all. Actually, for the entire experiment, a prerecorded audio tape was used for the
voice of the learner. The experiment was not studying the effect of electrical shock on learning, but really how
the teacher would react to an authoritative figure’s requests to continue. In this case, the teacher was to be
convinced that as he continued, the learner’s health was increasingly compromised. Towards the end of the
experiment, the learner stopped pleading or making any noise at all, implying that he had passed out or maybe
died. The results of the experiment helped researchers explain such things as why or how Nazi officers and
soldiers continued the horrible treatment of the people of Europe in concentration camps during WWII.
Although experiments like this provide valuable information, the question “was it ethical” is raised. To
answer this, we must examine the necessity of the means. Was there any other way to get this data? If we look
at such sociological phenomenon as the Hawthorne Effect, we can say that if the teachers knew the
researchers were studying their reactions, the data collected may have been substantially different. No one
wants to look like a cold-hearted killer. If they thought that their reactions were going to be examined, the
instinctive thing to do is to make themselves seem morally presentable.
Another reaction that may not have been recorded if the people knew the whole of the experiment is the
involuntary laughter. It was more a nervous and uncomfortable laugh than that of humor, but it might not have
been recorded if the volunteers knew it was not real.
Since there was no other practical way of getting the data, the experiment was ethical. No one was hurt
physically, and after the experiment they were told that they really did not harm anyone. If there were physical
pain or lasting emotional pain involved in the experiment, then it would not be ethical.
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