Was the Stanley Milgram experiment ethical and if the same experiment was conducted today, would the results be the same?Was the Stanley Milgram experiment ethical and if the same experiment was...

Was the Stanley Milgram experiment ethical and if the same experiment was conducted today, would the results be the same?

Was the Stanley Milgram experiment ethical and if the same experiment was conducted today, would the results be the same?

Expert Answers
mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it was ethical: its creator's concerns were moral.  Milgram wanted to better society by showing how ugly it could become.  Instead of writing or staging a tragedy, he used a social experiment as his venue.  I don't think he baited his subjects.

I think the results would very much be the same.  Have you seen any Sasha Cohen movies lately?  Borat or Bruno?  They are conducted much the same way.  Cohen is a Milgram-esque satirist.  He shows how society is full of followers.  In Bruno, parents agree to prostitute their own children in order to land a part in a commercial.  Cohen doesn't even need the white lab coat and the shocks and buzzers.  People will willingly act like idiots.  All you need is a camera.  That's how blind we still are.

MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm actually reading articles about the experiments with my sophomores Honors class as we read Night and Maus. I certainly think it's a valid issue to consider: how might people of today respond? My students seem to think the results would be the same. They will admit to giving into peer pressure at times, & they say if someone with power was doing the encouraging, it'd make them all the more willing. I agree with the 3rd post as well, in that people are still blind to consequences of their actions, and completely willing to perform actions that will harm themselves and others, even when they know better. Imagine if someone was standing there, telling them it was ok to keep doing what they're doing. It simply validates their own desires.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not think this experiment could be conducted today because it would never pass a human subjects review board.  It is just too ethically iffy to risk in this day and age.

The reason I say this is because it puts huge amounts of emotional stress on the people who are supposedly doing the shocking of the other people.  They are being put in a position where they are being pressured to hurt other people.  That has to have lasting effects.

As far as would people today do the same, I think it's less likely, at least in the US.  We are (I think) much less conditioned to obey authority than people were back in those days.

ako6777 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am having difficulty with the ethical nature of the experiment.  You have to look at the impact the experiment would have on the individual.  I agree with the first respondent that this study would have a lasting effect on someone if they followed through with the commands. 

If this experiement were conducted today I think we would see similar results.  We are conditioned from a young age to listen to authority figures.  This is a hard model to break.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
There are a couple of reasons that Stanley Milgrim's experiment could not be recreated. First of all, no psychologist would do it because it's classically unethical. You also would have a hard time finding psychology students that had not heard of the experiment. You could do this with laymen, but that would not make it any more ethical.
MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To add to my previous response, the experiment was re-created by Primetime (ABC) in conjunction with Santa Clara University in 2007. The results were similar to Milgram's original experiment. Here's a link to the ABC news article:


frizzyperm | Student

:-) They re-did the experiment in France this year. It created a huge storm of controversy.

In a big TV studio, sociologists created a glamorous, expensive "new gameshow" scenario. They filled the studio with an audience that knew it was really an experiment and not a TV show. This audience had been primed to encourage the subject to electrocute those contestants who got quiz questions wrong (as per the rules of the game); up to and including a fatal shock of electricity for the contestant got 'the ultimate $1,000,000 question' wrong.

With the audience howling and shouting for the subject to deliver the final shock... 66 out of the 80 people tested 'executed' the person who got the question wrong! 

80% of the people tested were prepared to kill someone for entertainment simply because they were told to.