Millgram shock experimentThis essay will include some background on Stanley Milgram and the aim of his obedience experiment

Millgram shock experimentThis essay will include some background on Stanley Milgram and the aim of his obedience experiment. It will include the procedures of the experiment, where the experiment took place, the equipment used to conduct the experiment. It will also include the results, the researcher’s conclusion and evaluation.

Stanley Milgram was born in 1933 to a family of Jewish immigrants residing in New York. He passed away in 1984. He gained his bachelor’s degree in political science in 1954. Whilst studying, Milgram spent a year working as a research assistant to Solomon Asch. He started his second career at Yale in 1960 and started conducting his famous obedience experiment in 1961. (Cherry 2017)
Milgram had a theory that perhaps similar experiment to the shocking study happened to people in world war two. The idea that the Germans did almost anything on instruction interested him. Milgram was also interested in the effects of behaviour and interaction. The shocking experiment was created to test people’s compliance and obedience, and how far they would take orders when instructed to do by an authority figure. Milgram firstly recruited two actors, Mr Wallace and Mr Williams. One was placed as authority figure in a white coat and the other to act as a participant (phychestudy). To find participants for the experiment, Milgram put out an article in a newspaper. In the article he stated that volunteers would be taking part in an experiment of learning. The article requested professionals from the New Haven area. It was stated they were to be paid $4.50 just for turning up (Simple psychology). The original article stated Milgram was looking for men. However, when he didn’t get enough responses, he wrote a new advert that was accessible to both sexes. He then used 500 men and 40 women to conduct his experiment.
Milgram’s experiment took place in Yale university. He was employed there as an assistant professor there from 1961 to 1963 (Yale university 2017). He conducted another version of the same experiment in a different location some run-down offices at Bridge Port a while later. The aim of this version was to see if a different environment and different people would influence his original results. Milgram did not need much equipment. He used two lab coats and what he called the EV104 Deluxe generator (The shock machine). The machine had a button for each strength of shock ranging from 15v to 450v which would indefinitely kill the actor.
Once the participants arrived, they were put in a lab in Yale university. The teacher would ask prewritten questions given to them by the authority figure. The two actors drew lots to decide who gave the shocks. The teacher was then ordered to give the actor a shock every time he got an answer wrong starting at 15v. The actor deliberately got the answers incorrect for the purpose of the experiment. The actor was instructed to scream shout and bang on the walls as the voltage got higher. After 300 volts the actor was instructed to go completely silent to give the impression that the participant is either dead or seriously injured (phychestudy).

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Psychologists predicted that 0-3% would give maximum shock. During the shock experiment many participants showed signs of destress unwillingness and fear however they continued to shock when ordered to do so. 40 subjects applied up to 300 volts. 25 continued to give shocks up to the maximum voltage of 450 volts (Explorable 2018). Not one participant got up out of there chair to inquire about the condition of their learner (Phillip Zimbardo 2009). Although some participants applied to the experiment, version Bridge Port showed people were less compliant and more aware of their actions caused by pressing the shock button. Only 48% obedience was achieved, compared to the 65% obedience at Yale university. Different adaptations of the experiment also showed different results. For example, if the teacher was in the room, the results of obedience were lower at 40%. If the teacher had to hold the leaners hand on the shocker, results of obedience were even lower at 20%. If an ordinary man gives the orders shows only 20% obedience.

Milgram concluded that every day ordinary people are likely to take orders from a figure of authority. They will even go to the extent of killing a stranger they know nothing about. The study showed that people associate an authority figure as morally right or law abiding. This is learned through things such as school, family or in the work place. Milgram indicated this in his article. The perils of obedience. He wrote ‘The legal philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous importance but show very little about how people behave in concrete situations’ (Simple psychology 2017).
Milgram admits that the shock study involves putting participants in a situation that is troubling and upsetting. Milgram’s own observation the follow up interviews and films of the experiment all confirm that many participants were emotionally disturbed by the experiment (Lunt 2009). His research has been heavily questioned for being unethical for creating a situation that caused much destress for the person playing the role of the teacher believing his or her shocks caused great suffering to the person playing the role of the learner (Zimbardo 2009). It is also extremely artificial, not real life as authority and obedience manifests itself in different ways (revise sociology 2017).
However, Milgram’s experiment has great reliability given similar results on variety of different conditions. Because the experiment was conducted in a lab setting it was controlled. Also Milgram debriefed all the participants straight after the experiment ended. Only 1.3 % said they wished they had never taken part in the experiment. Milgram also followed them for up to a year to assess the effects the experiment had.
In conclusion, although Milgram’s experiment was unethical, the results show that most men and women would do anything when instructed to do so by an authority figure. Most people did think about the consequences and got distressed, but in most cases the authority figure overpowered these emotions. However, different surroundings and participants for the experiment did show that the results of obedience could be altered.
Reference list
Cherry.K. (2017). Stanley Milgram Biography . Available: Last accessed 11/11/2018. (Feb 6, 2008). Milgram Experiment – Obedience to Authority. Retrieved Nov 13, 2018 from
Lunt.P (2009). Milgram understanding obedience and its implications. London : Palgrave macmillan. 32.
McLeod, S. (2017). The Milgram Experiment. Available: Last accessed 22.11.2018.
Psychestudy . (2018). Shock Experiment Stanley Milgram. Available: Last accessed 13/11/18.
Yale university. (2018). Obedience to Authority in the Archive. Available: Last accessed 15/11/2018.

Zimbardo.p (2009). Stanley Milgram Obedience to Authority. New york: HarperCollins. xiv.


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