Friday, January 2, 2009

The perils of obedience revisited

Please, make an important New Year's resolution to encourage thoughtful disobedience!

I recently learned - with an utmost horror - that a repeat of a famous Milgram experiment of 1961, in 2008 gave even more horrifying results that the original one.

Here is what Discovery magazine writes about both these experiments and their horrifying results:

'In the 1961 experiment, Yale University professor Milgram asked volunteers to deliver increasingly strong electric “shocks” to other people, who appeared to be test subjects but were really actors, if they answered certain questions incorrectly. Milgram found that, after hearing an actor cry out in pain at 150 volts, 82.5 percent of participants continued administering shocks, most to the maximum 450 volts.

The results, now a fixture in psychology textbooks, suggested that people’s moral attitudes can be suppressed when they’re put in a situation of obedience. Although no actual shocks were delivered and the sounds of agony came from a tape-recording, many of the volunteers suffered stress from the task and replication of the experiments was deemed unethical.
In the new study, to be published in American Psychologist, Burger replicated the gist of the original experiment but included measures to minimize the psychological stress on the test subjects, such as limiting the shocks to 150 volts and not letting them administer any further shocks even if they indicated their willingness.

The new participants were reminded repeatedly that they could stop at any time, while in Milgram’s version, participants were told, “The experiment requires that you go on,” if they expressed hesitation. Again, however, the vast majority of the 29 men and 41 women taking part were willing to push the button knowing it would cause pain to another human. Even when another actor entered the room and questioned what was happening, most were still prepared to continue. About 70 percent continued the shocks up to 150 volts and were willing to go even higher. “That was surprising and disappointing,” Burger said'.

... and absolutely horrifying!

So let's discourage blind obedience and encourage conscientious disobedience! All of us! Now! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease!

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