Part 1 - Question
Write a summary of the information presented in the table below. (200 words).
Summary of Table
The first three rows of the table show average shock levels at which a group of psychiatrists, college students and middle class adults predicted the ‘teacher’ would refuse to continue administering shocks (in volts). The predictions were similar for all three groups (only 17v difference in the predictions), psychiatrists 123v, college students 140v and middle class adults 136v. The results of the experiment then show that in the original study, ‘teacher’ and ‘learner’ in different rooms but could communicate, the average shock level at which ‘teachers’ refused to continue ...view middle of the document...
Report on how and why Milgrim’s work on obedience contributed to our understanding of human behaviour
• Background - outline of what Milgrim did/why.
• Contribution to our understanding of human behaviour.
• Ethical debate.
• Brief outline of key points of report.
Professor Stanley Milgrim carried out an experiment on obedience to authority at Yale University in 1961. The timing of this coincided with the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Milgram argued that people would commit atrocities if required to do so by an authority figure. His testing suggested the possibility that Eichmann and millions of accomplices in the Holocaust could have been simply following orders, despite violating their moral beliefs. Milgrim suggested their behaviour could not only have been the result of their personality but also the situation they were in.
The experiment involved setting up a supposed memory test to investigate the effect of punishment on learning. The ‘teacher’ administers shocks to the ‘learner’ for incorrect answers. The participant was given the title ‘teacher’ and an actor ‘learner’. Drawing slips of paper ensured the participant would be the ‘teacher’. They were put in separate rooms, could communicate but not see each other. The ‘learner’ mentions that he has a heart condition.
The results showed that 65% of participants administered the maximum 450v shock. The average level of shock administered was 368v. All participants questioned the experiment and many were uncomfortable administering the maximum shocks. Variations of the experiment were subsequently performed throughout the world and under different circumstances. Although levels of obedience were reduced they were not significantly lower.
Prior to the experiment Milgrim polled a group of psychiatrists, college students and middle class adults whose predictions of shock levels at which ‘teachers’ would refuse to continue were much lower.
Contribution to our understanding of human behaviour
Milgrim’s experiment shows that if put in a position where an authority figure tells us we must do something we are likely to go against our moral judgement and do as instructed. When put in this position we can also pass blame to the authority figure telling us we have to do it. In the BBC Horizon programme entitled ‘You do as you are told’, Milgrim states that, ‘In...