you wlak into an elegant laboratory at Yale University to take part in an experiment on memory and learning.You draw lots with a mild-mannered fellow who will also be in the stydy, and find that you are to play "teacher" and he the "learner." the experimenter, a somewhat stern man in a gray lab coat, takes the learner to a taches an electrode to his wrist, and tells him that when he makes an orror on the test, he'll get a shock from the teacher.
the experimenter takes you to a larger room and seats you in front of a shock generater, with 20 switcher marked from 15 volts(slight shock)to 450 volts(danger-sever shock). He tells you to pull a switch, increasing the intensity of shock each time, for every wrong answer the learner gives. If you demur, he tells you firmly that he t experiment requires that you continue. How far would you go?
Would you back out of the exoeriment when the learner groans?
Would yo ustop when the learner screams in pain and implores you to quit?
Would you stop when the learner lets out a final anguished cry, followed by unbroken silence?
Stanley Milgram's 1963 experiment was not, of course, a test of memory but of obedience to authority. Milgram wanted to find out what happens when the demands of authority conflict with conscience. Most of his students and colleagues thought that conscience would win easily. Intead, Milgram found that most people agonize, suffer, rationalize-and obey the authority all the way. Almost two thirds of Milgram's subjects administered the highest levels of shock, even when they thought the victim might be injured or dead.
"I observed a mature and initially poised businessman enter the laboratory smiling and confident." Wrote Milgram. "within 20 minutes he was reduced to a twitching, stuttering wreck, rapidly approaching a point of nervous collapse.... And yet he obeyed to the end"
Psychologists and the public greeted Milgram's experiment with uproar and outrage. "Of course everyone would obey a scientist at Yale," they said."Yaleness is next to godiness in respectability." So Milgram and Co. set up shop as the Research Associates of Bridgeport, in a run-down commercial buliding. This time, a mere 48 percent of the subject-teachers obeyed to the bloody end.
Other critics argued that the exoeriment was uforgivably unethical. Diana Baumrind harshly criticized it in The American Psychologist(1964), maintaining that Milgram had treated his subjects coldly and cruelly, risking thier emotional health and causing then a loss of dignity,self-esteem, an trust in rational authority. She doubted that any debriefing procedure could reassure that shattered businessman. She questioned whether that obedience could be studied meaningfully in a laboratory; even if it could, no experiment, for whatever lofty reasons, was worth jeopardizing the well-being of its subjects.
Martin T. Orne and Charles H. Holland argued that far from being upset, the subjects silply were not taken in by the elaborate deception, the subjects, they said trusted that no scientist would risk hurting aparticipant in his own study. Ergo, the victim was not harm in pbeying. To study this problem realistically, wrote Orne and Holland, the subjects would have to be on an experiment that they did not recpgnize as such.
Milgram responed quickly. Every precaution was taken, he said, in debriefing the subjects, who had a "friendly reconciliation" with defiant subjects so as to support their decision to disobey; he assured obeient subjects that their behavior was entirely normal and that other partickpants had shared their confilcts. Milgram leater sent a follow-up questionnaire to all subjects to pick up affterthoughts and adjustment problems. Almost everyone said that the experiment had been wirthwhile; only one percent were sorry that they had participated. Whether they felt this way or were rationalizion, Milgram won't guess.
To Orne and Holland, Milgram supplied date from direct observation, interviews, and questionnaires to argue that subjects did indeed accept the experiment at face value. Not one person suspected the deception.
Baumrind and other critics, Milgram believes, were simply uncomfortable with the fact that so many subjects obeyed; they assumed that the experimenter made the subjects obey. "This conception is alien to my view. A concern with human dignity is based on a respect for a man's potential to act morally. I started with the belief that every person who came to the laboratory was free to accept or to reject the dictates of author ity. "
The scientific establishment was ambivalent about the value of Milgram's work. In the same year, 1965, that Milgram was defending his experiment to his critics in The American Psychological Association, he was awarded the annual sociopsychological prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Milgram's recent book, Obedience to Authority (Harper & Row), puts together 10 years of research on the basic theme, exploring the conditions that elicit the greatest degree of obedience and the least. For example:
. Obedience decreases when the victim is in the same room as the teacher, and decreases further when the teacher must touch the victim directly to administer the shock. The modern state, of course, is designed for impersonality, where switches can be pulled and bombs dropped without anyone ever seeing the victim.
. Obedience drops sharply when the experimenter is absent. To commit acts they would otherwise consider immoral, peopie mLJst have authority beside them.
. Obedience drops when the subject is in a group of rebellious peers. Rebels awaken the subject to the possibility of disobedience and, in this case, to its benign results The group offers social support for the deCision to disobey.
. By contrast, obedience increases when the subject is merely an accessory to the crime, when he does not have to pull the shock lever himself. In this case, 37 sublects out of 40 stay in the experiment to the end.
Milgram explains obedience as a consequence of the hierarchical structure of authority. A person continues to obey for two reasons First, a set of ' 'binding factors" locks him into the situation politeness, his promise to help the experimenter, the awkwardness of getting out. Second, the person undergoes adjustments in his thinking that reduce conflict in favor of obedience. He may become so absorbed in the minutiae of the experiment that he loses sight of its overall significance; he concentrates so closelyon the switches that he does not hear the screams. He divests himself of all responsibility and places it on the experimenter. Others justify their behavior by criticizing the victim: "He was so stupid and stubborn he deserved to be shocked. "
The obedience experiment has been replicated al lover the world, including Australia, Germany, South Africa, Italy. Manyvariations remain untested. No one has yet put women in the role of experimenter-authority, for example, although female subjects are as likely to obey as males. " I hate to make these predictions, " says Milgram, "but I am not sure it would make much difference to put women in authority. Women bosses are just bosses like everyone else."
Nor has anyone varied the nature of the authority; in all cases the experimenter has represented science. Whether people would be as likely to obey religious, military, political, or academic authorities as they used to is unclear.
Milgram himself, I gathered, is tired of the obedience work. He is bored with defending its ethics and explaining its implications. He leaves further exploration to other researchers. He has contributed a brilliant, controversial paradigm to his field and now seeks another that will set social psychology on its ear. He's sure he will fi nd it.
Obedience to Authority is a seiection of the psychology today book club.www.psychspace.com心理学空间网