Psychology Case Study Analysis Paper Example

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Carnegie Mellon University
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Research paper
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In psychology, the term obedience refers to the state of a persons compliance with a set of commands issued to him/her by a figure of authority. Over the years, various psychologists have tried to determine the link between authority and obedience. Among such psychologists is Stanley Milgram, who experimented to provide a link between the two factors in 1963 CITATION CJa09 \l 1033 (Goodwin, 2009). Today, the findings of Milgram (1963)s research have provided a foundation of knowledge as to the reasons why people follow commands of people in authority. This essay is a discussion of Milgrams experiment in 1963, which outlines the purpose of the study, participants of the research, method of executing the experiment, and lastly, the results of the experiment.

Researcher Who Conducted the Research and the Purpose of the Study

Milgram performed the experiment as the leading experimenter in 1963 CITATION CJa09 \l 1033 (Goodwin, 2009). At the time, he was a leading professor at Yale University, and he was researching on the conflict that exists between obedience to authority as well as an individuals conscience. Moreover, Milgram was experimenting to investigate the justifications of the responses of persons charged with perpetrating the acts of terror during the World War II. In this case, the accused persons were being aligned in court during the Nuremberg War Criminal trials. Furthermore, the defense of such convicted persons was based on an argument that they were obeying commands of their seniors at the war front. Milgram started this research in July 1961, approximately a year after Adolf Eichmann was tried in Jerusalem for genocide CITATION CJa09 \l 1033 (Goodwin, 2009).

Participants of the Research and Reasons for Choosing this Population

The primary reason for choosing the forty men to act as the participants of the study was to represent the targeted population of research. In this case, the targeted population was the soldiers that had participated in the World War II and had been tried during the Nuremberg War Criminal trials. Furthermore, the age of the participants was defined, so as to match the appropriate age that men had to attain to be allowed to participate in the war at the time. Additionally, this population constituted of unskilled persons to professionals in different fields. Moreover, all the participants hailed from the New Haven region and they were also paid a total of $4.50 for turning up for the experiment.

Description of How the Research Was Performed

During the research, Milgram (1963) appointed a total of 40 men to take part as members of the sample population CITATION Sta63 \l 1033 (Milgram, 1963). These men were aged between 20 and 50 years old, and they were selected via newspaper ads as well as via mail solicitations CITATION Sta63 \l 1033 (Milgram, 1963). Additionally, the research was undertaken at the Yale University, which was a strategy by Milgram (1963) to heighten the perceived legitimacy of the experiment. Additionally, all the participants of the research were informed that they were taking part in a study that was focused on ascertaining the connection between learning and punishment.

Furthermore, during the experiment, Milgram (1963) set up the role of a teacher who was represented by a true participant of the experiment. Moreover, Milgram also set up the role of a learner represented by a confederate as well as an experimenter, which was a role delegated to a high school biology teacher. At the start of the experiment, the participants drew straws from a hat in order to determine whether they would take the roles of being a teacher or learner. Nevertheless, the drawing had been rigged in such a way that every true participant only took up the role of a teacher.

Later, the teacher and learner were directed to another room whereby the teacher observed the learner being strapped down to an electric seat. Moreover, the seat was then connected to a big shock generator, which was positioned to an adjacent room. In this case, the enormous size of the shock generator was meant to intimidate the participants of the experiment. Additionally, the shock generator had a total of 30 switches, which were marked with voltage levels of a minimum of 15 and maximum of 450 volts CITATION Sta63 \l 1033 (Milgram, 1963). Furthermore, the switches were classified into four categories namely slight, moderate, danger as well as XXX shocks.

Results of the Experiment

The results of the experiment were surprising to all persons who were involved in the experiment. This is because out of the 40 participants, none of them stopped before the 300 volts mark level CITATION Sta63 \l 1033 (Milgram, 1963). In this case, participants exited the experiment at 300 volts CITATION Sta63 \l 1033 (Milgram, 1963). Additionally, 4 participants in the experiment stopped a voltage rating of 315 volts while two participants stopped at a voltage level of 330 volts CITATION Sta63 \l 1033 (Milgram, 1963). Lastly, three persons asked to exit the experiment when the voltage scores of 345, 360 as well as 375 volts were attained. Moreover, 14 research participants resisted the experimenter CITATION Sta63 \l 1033 (Milgram, 1963).

Also, a total of 26 persons out of the total 40 participants persevered with the experiment till the end, where a maximum voltage of 450 volts was administered to the learner CITATION Sta63 \l 1033 (Milgram, 1963). Moreover, the results collected during the experiment started to vary as the experimenter started adjusting various variables and environmental conditions of the experiment. In this case, some of the environmental conditions that were varied included the voice-feedback variable. This was the variable in which the teacher could hear the protests made by the learner during the experiment. Furthermore, the proximity variable was also modified, which was a variable whereby both the teacher and learner close to each other.

Additionally, the touch-proximity variable was also modified. This variable involved the teacher placing the learners hand on the experiments shock plate before a shock could be administered. Lastly, an additional voice-feedback variable was also altered, which is a variable in which the learner protested and also stated that he was experiencing a heart problem. Ultimately, from the experiment, it was evident that the variables of the learners audibility, as well as his physical closeness to the teachers, influenced the high levels of obedience among all the participants.

Ethical Perspective of Milgrams Experiment

Milgrams experiment was unethical because of several reasons. First, Milgram used deception to convince the research participants to take part in the research. In this case, the participants were tricked to believe that the shocking was being performed on a real person. They were not aware that the learner was Milgrams confederate. Nevertheless, to explain his reasons for using deception, Milgram stated that illusion was necessary in order to attain the revelation of some truths that are difficult to reveal. The second reason why Milgrams experiment was unethical is that it exposed the participants to immensely stressful situations.

Consequently, such situations could have exposed the participants to critical psychological harm. Additionally, after the experiment, it was visibly clear that some of the participants were distressed. In this case, such persons expressed signs of tension such as trembling, biting lips, stuttering, digging the fingers into their palms as well as sweating. Moreover, three participants who took part in the research portrayed an instance of uncontrolled seizures, and they also pleaded with the experimenter for them to be permitted to stop the experiment. Nevertheless, in defending himself, Milgram stated that such stress levels were short term. This is because he believed that by debriefing the participants, their stress levels could be reduced.

Furthermore, the third reason why Milgrams experiment was considered unethical was that it denied the participants the right to withdraw from the experiment. In this case, before the start of the study, Milgram had made it clear that the participants had a right to withdraw their participation from the experiment at any time. This is irrespective of the payment that had been offered to them. Nevertheless, instead of Milgram allowing the participants to withdraw from the experiment, he encouraged them to continue with the experiment by using four prods. Additionally, such prods discouraged the participants from withdrawing from the experiment.

Additionally, the four prods that were used by the experimenter included please continue, the experiment mandates that you proceed, you have no other choice but to go on, and lastly it is important that you must continue. Additionally, in his defense, Milgram argued that the prods were essential for the experiment since the study was about obedience where orders were essential. Moreover, Milgram defended himself by stating that although it was made partially impossible to withdraw from the experiment, it was still possible for the participants to do so. In this case, this was because 35 percent of the participants chose to withdraw and they were successfully permitted to do so CITATION CJa09 \l 1033 (Goodwin, 2009).


In conclusion, Milgram (2013)s research was executed to investigate the conflict that exists between obedience and authority among people, and the relationship of the two factors in regards an individuals conscience. Also, from Milgram (1963)s experiment, it was validated that ordinary persons have the capability of following the orders issued to them by a person in authority. This is even to the extent of such people killing other innocent persons. According to the experiment, Milgram illustrated that peoples obedience to authority is ingrained in them, essentially based on the way they are brought up. Furthermore, from the experiment, it was apparent that persons are likely to follow the orders of other persons if they recognize their authority or if such orders have a legal backing. References

BIBLIOGRAPHY Goodwin, C. J. (2009). Research In Psychology: Methods and Design. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral Study of Obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67, 371378.

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