Trouble Thinking

March 19, 2010

The Milgram Experiments (Part 2)

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 1:56 pm

Okay, the Milgram Experiment does seem to indicate a seething horror at the heart of humanity, you say. Wow. Well, it was understandable though. I mean, there was no real personal interaction, they may not have even believed they were doing anything. And the experimenters were at Yale in a lab, so it would seem pretty official and you can see why people would go along since obviously they’d never actually tell you to kill someone. This experiment is interesting, but obviously it’s not showing us much about real life. If your boss told you to shoot a dude you’d totally say no hahaha am I right?

Do you think Milgram is some kind of idiot? Is that what you think?

Milgram proceeded to modify the experiment in a variety of ways and conduct further testing 17 more times over the next few years. Apologize to him.

First, Milgram did the obvious thing. He thought: christ on a goddamn crutch, people can’t actually be this awful. They much just not really get the impact of their actions. If we get them to see that, they’ll cut it out way faster.

So the next 3 times he ran the experiment, he changed on variable: proximity. In experiment 2, the teachers could actually hear the learners speak. Now that people could actually hear the torment they were inflicting, they nutted up a bit and stopped, right? I mean, a man was begging them to stop torturing him now. It turns out, pleading for his life got the poor learner absolutely no sympathy. 60% still killed the poor bastard.

I’ll cut to the chase. By the 4th experiment, when subjects were required to press the learner’s hand to an electrocuting plate… 30% still goddamn killed him. I mean, is it an improvement? Yes. Still a bit disturbing to know that about one in 3 of you would kill me with your bare hands if someone in a lab coat asked, though. For that matter, absolutely no one in any of these cases stopped before the learner begged them outright to stop, or tried to pull away himself. But the long and short of it was that actually experiencing some direct exposure to the people you’re hurting makes it easier to disobey a direct order to hurt them.

There are, in total, about 7 out of 18 permutations that produce a radical reduction in obedience. Those 7 break down into 2 types: lack of authority or camaraderie. Six of the permutations that reduced obedience significantly depended on the subject feeling less under the yoke of authority. When the experimenter is out of the room, when an ordinary man gives them orders, or when there are two conflicting orders, people generally break off their shocking early, and less than 20% obey. When there are two other “teacher” plants who rebel against the experimenter, obedience drops to 10%. Of course, when another “teacher” plant takes over the actual administration of shocks, obedience shoots up to 95%.

As nice as it is to find out that there are certain permutations with almost no obedience, there are disturbingly many that produce little to no difference in responding. The learner pretending to have a heart attack and die, the learner being replaced with another “doctor” who is an equal authority, the respectable lab setting being replaced by a seedy strip mall office, all reduced obedience by not more than 10%. At this point, Milgram had spent about 2 years staring in mute horror at humanity, so he figured it was time to pack it in and have a long think.

Part 3

1 Comment »

  1. […] Part 2 […]

    Pingback by The Milgram Experiments (Part 1) « Trouble Thinking — September 27, 2010 @ 12:05 pm


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