In this critique, we examine the famous Milgram psychological experiment of 1963. Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4), 371-378. The experiment was conducted by Stanley Milgram, who at the time of the experiment was beginning his academic career as an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University, after having studied at Queens College and Harvard. Mount Holyoke College (n.d.). Stanley Milgram: His life and work. Retrieved from http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~apkokot/MilgramBio.htm.
The study was conducted to test the observational and historical belief that “for many persons obedience may be a deeply ingrained behavior impulse overriding training in ethics, sympathy, and moral conduct” (Milgram, 1963). The historical and observational evidence for this belief is the obedience required of German citizens to carry out the Holocaust at the command of authorities (Milgram, 1963). The subjects in the study were 40 ...view middle of the document...
The “learner” was not really being shocked, but the subject would hear sounds of increasing pain through pounding on the walls and floor by the “learner” next-door (Milgram, 1963). The experiment included a variety of controls to ensure that the only incentive for the subjects to inflict the shocks was the drive to obey the authority instructing them to do so.
The research method used was descriptive. Although it was an experiment, there was no control group, since all subjects went through the same experiment. The results of the experiment are mainly descriptive or observational, although there were some elements of an experiment in use, including certain experimental controls to preserve the integrity of the testing. Milgram also was able to quantify his results, by using the shock measures from 1 through 30 as each subject’s measure of obedience. However, a lot of the study’s results were in observational form because one of the most significant results was the subjects’ extreme nervousness, anxiety, tremors, and even seizures and laughter, all the while continuing to obey the command to shock the “learner.”
The hypothesis of the experiment, and the hope of the result, was that most participants would not administer the highest shocks to the “learners.” The greatest proportion of subjects a sample of students believed would administer the highest shock was 3% (Milgram, 1963). The results of the experiment revealed that 26 out of participants obeyed all instruction through to the very end of the experiment, administering the severe shock level (Milgram, 1963). 14 out of 40 participants defied the authority and refused, at some point on the shock scale, to continue the experiment (Milgram, 1963). The results were much higher than anticipated and run counter to their hypothesis that few participants would complete the experiment. The bizarre observational results were proof of the strong conflict between the ingrained behavior not to harm others and the ingrained behavior to obey authority.
Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4), 371-378.
Mount Holyoke College (n.d.). Stanley Milgram: His life and work. Retrieved from http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~apkokot/MilgramBio.htm.