Critique of Stanley Milgram’s “Behavioral Study of Obedience”

905 Words Nov 7th, 2011 4 Pages
A Critique of Stanley Milgram’s “Behavioral Study of Obedience”

Stanley MIlgram is a Yale University social psychologist who wrote “Behavioral Study of Obedience”, an article which granted him many awards and is now considered a landmark. In this piece, he evaluates the extent to which a participant is willing to conform to an authority figure who commands him to execute acts that conflict with his moral beliefs. Milgram discovers that the majority of participants do obey to authority. In this research, the subjects are misled because they are part of a learning experience that is not about what they are told. This experiment was appropriate despite this. Throughout the process, subjects are exposed to various signs that show them
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Before Milgram’s findings, the fact that people were inclined to obey to authority figures was already realized. He just confirmed this belief. Milgram followed effective steps by using precise procedures. He made sure that the experiment reflected features of an actual situation in which a person would obey to an authority figure: offering compensation (monetary reward in this experiment), being under pressure (Prods 1 to 4 in this case), and mentioning that the person who obeys can withdraw. These features can also be seen in a situation where a soldier is commanded to fire, for instance. A soldier will get a monetary compensation, is under pressure to obey because he chose to be part of the military, and he knows that he can resign at any time. Milgram created an experiment so precise and detailed that more than enough evidence was demonstrated. In this experiment, subjects are explained that this is “a ‘learning experiment’ to ... study the effects of punishment on memory” (4). Yet, the real intention here is to measure the participants’ compliance towards the experimenter. This controversy is unethical as subjects are volunteering for a cause that does not exist. They are misled since they are not exposed to the real purpose of this study.
Nevertheless, this experiment was appropriate. Throughout the process, participants are exposed to various indications about the intensity of the experiment. If the question about