Milgram's Obedience Experiment

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Explain Milgram's concept of destructive obedience as well as the experiment by which he proposed to investigate it.

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It has long been an assumed concept that people organize themselves into hierarchies and obey those who are their superiors in those hierarchies. Although structures such as these are needed in order to have society function, there are also darker sides to both hierarchies and obedience within those hierarchies. Stanley...

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It has long been an assumed concept that people organize themselves into hierarchies and obey those who are their superiors in those hierarchies. Although structures such as these are needed in order to have society function, there are also darker sides to both hierarchies and obedience within those hierarchies. Stanley Milgram desired to test these concepts through his infamous psychological experiment in the 1960s.

The experiment was organized to have three "roles": supervisor, teacher, and learner. However, it was the teacher's role that Milgram was especially interested in researching. The teacher was told that he would read a set of words to the learner who was seated on the other side of a wall. If the learner answered incorrectly, it was the teacher's responsibility to issue a punishment of an electric shock, which increased in voltage with each incorrect answer. The learner, however, was an actor who would pretend as though he had been shocked each time the teacher administered the punishment using the control board. If the teacher questioned what was going on, the supervisor would encourage him and claim full responsibility for any harm that might come to the learner. Because of these assurances from the supervisor, sixty-five percent of the teacher figures went all the way to the top of the shock board.

Though traumatizing to the teachers in many cases, the Milgram experiment did indeed prove that people, in general, are willing to break their own moral codes if they believe that their superior is mandating that they do so and is taking responsibility for the repercussions of any actions taken.

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