Analyzing Stanley Milgram's The Lost Letter Experiment

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The Lost Letter: Stanley Milgram's experiment Stanley Milgram is one of the most influential of the American postwar social scientists. Milgram's reputation lies not so much in his construction of wide, over-arching theories but in his ability to create provocative, strange even controversial experiments that test conventional notions of moral behavior. Although profoundly different, many of Milgram's experiments possess a common theme that of the situation-specific nature of morality. Humans were moral, his experiments suggested, not out of character or innate virtue, but based upon social pressures. Milgram's most famous experiment, rooted his knowledge of Nazi war crimes and groupthink, involved orchestrating an environment in which seemingly ordinary people were encouraged to administer what they believed to be fatal electric shocks to other experimental subjects (who were really Milgram's confederates). "The overwhelming majority complied, and roughly 65 per cent of subjects continued to administer shocks up to the maximum of 450 volts despite the apparent screams of pain from their victim," results that have been replicated cross-culturally (Russell 2009). In a similar experiment which replicated Milgram's findings, seminarians were unwilling to help someone in physical distress when instructed to hurry from one building to another to deliver a moral sermon (Russell 2009). Although inspired by the postwar climate, these experiments did not specifically address

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