This handout is designed to outline the research Stanley Milgram conducted in the 1960’s on obedience and how it is relevant to trainee police officers currently working in the community.
Who is Stanley Milgram?
Milgram was one of the most innovative social psychologists of his generation. Born in 1933 to working-class Jewish parents who emigrated to the USA from Europe, he questioned what makes people do evil things (Investigating Psychology ch 2).
Milgram’s Obedience Study
500 men were recruited through a local paper that asked them to take part in a study on memory at Yale University, each volunteer was paid $4 plus expenses. On their arrival the volunteers are told by a serious ...view middle of the document...
This study was therefore an ingenious way to investigate how far people were willing to go, because they were told to.
Of the 40 participants who took part all obeyed up to 300 volts to the point where the learner is heard ‘screaming’, only 5 then refused to continue with as many as 26 continuing to the end and administering a shock of 450 volts!. It is worth mentioning the teacher before the test had received a taster shock of 45 volts and was aware of how unpleasant that felt, and after administering those final shocks they were met with an eerie silence.
Following the test the participants were debriefed and the teachers had an opportunity to meet with the learners and see for themselves no real harm had been done.
Previous to this study Milgram had spoken with several groups of people who predicted all participants would stop around 140 volts, however the average voltage at which the participants stopped was 368 volts (Investigating Psychology ch 2).
This discrepancy provoked the debate just why were ordinary members of the public prepared to administer electric shocks to another individual just because they were told to?
The Here & Now - You As Trainee Police Officers
As a trainee police officer and subsequent qualified officer you are by the very nature of the role placed in a position of authority. It is impossible to have a society without some structure of authority and those placed in charge have a responsibility to ensure ‘rules’ are put in place, adhered to, and those who break them are challenged/punished/reprimanded appropriately, therefore those placed in positions of authority must be those who are most likely to use it wisely and humanely Milgram on Milgram: Part 2 (Obedience in the city)...