Stanley Milgram’s Behavioral Study of Obedience Essay

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“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum....”
― Noam Chomsky, The Common Good

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
Henry David Thoreau

In the early 1960’s Stanley Milgram (1963) performed an experiment titled Behavioral Study of Obedience to measure compliance levels of test subjects prompted to administer punishment to learners. The experiment had surprising results.

Purpose of the research.
Stanley Milgram’s (1963), Behavioral Study of Obedience measured how far an ordinary subject will go beyond their fundamental moral character to comply with direction from
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The subjects were informed that the punishment would not cause permanent tissue damage, however, could be extremely painful. The subjects observed the learner/accomplice being prepared with electrodes strapped in a chair. The teacher/subjects read a series of word-pairs to the learner then read the first word of the pair along with four terms. The learner’s role was to pair the first word with the correct term (Milgram, 1963). The learner would then press one of four switches attached to an electrical shock generator indicating his response. Unknown to the teacher, “in all conditions the learner gives a predetermined set of responses to the word pair test, based on the schedule of approximately three wrong answers to one correct answer” (Milgram, 1963).

To authenticate the potential electrical intensity to the learner the teacher is sampled with a 45-volt shock to the wrist. The teacher is then instructed to administer an incrementally increasing punishing electrical shock for each incorrect answer. This follows several methods to inform the teacher of the potential impact of the electrical shock that they will administer. These included, warnings listing the voltage range of 15 to 450-volts labeled Slight Shock, Moderate Shock, Strong Shock, Extreme Intensity Shock, Danger Severe Shock, and XXX, bright red
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