«The perils of obedience» by Stanley Milgram is a great work for investigating the reflection of people to obey while the threat is essential. In this case, the work by Milgram represents a set of procedures implemented on the part of an experimenter to participants. The whole concept of this work is concentrated on the idea of pointing out an extent to which perils of obedience are felt by participants. The author points out the nature of obedience in people, as getting through “ethics, sympathy, and moral conduct” (Milgram 1). Thus, the perils of obedience go far beyond the standards of morale and ethics exemplified in the experiment by Milgram.
First of all, it is necessary to state that the work is considered with psychology. It provides an outlook on how people obey under a threat of being punished. The experiment is very demonstrative. Psychologist Stanley Milgram from Yale University wanted to realize and experimentally check the possibility of people obeying orders that contradict their natural will. In this respect, the generator of electricity was implied to make people do what a person in authority wants them to do. The question is that here it is about a command to a person to shock people by command of a person in authority. The whole experiment is aimed at showing off the extent to which it is possible to inflict pain from one individual to another solely because of command.
The main participants in the research were experimenter (the author himself), learner (victim) and teacher (executer). The aim of the experiment is the fact that each time a “teacher” obeys to examiner he/she should switch on the electric shock that is implemented to a “learner” nearby. Starting with 30 volts the increments become 15 volts higher each time a participant obeys. Though, the switches included the following ones: “slight shock, moderate shock, danger, and XXX” (Milgram 1). It illustrates amplitude of possible shock on the victim starting from 30 volts up to 450 volts.
Forty participants were selected for the experiment anonymously. They were in the role of either a teacher or a learner. The effect was reached when a teacher heard learner’s cries from outside. In this respect, the obedience of a person to increase the shock upon responses of an experimenter became more distinctive. The thing is that when participants seemed to be confused about whether to keep going on, the experimenter repeated the following statements:
- Please continue.
- The experiment requires that you continue.
- You must continue.
- You have no other choice, you must go on (Milgram 7).
As strange as it may seem, participants were rather motivated to obey such commands. The whole number of participants was 40. It deserves to be stated that among them 26 participants had maximum shock (Milgram 10). Meanwhile, 14 participants (including Gretchen Brandt) claimed to stop the experiment before experiencing the highest levels of voltage (Milgram 10). This illustrates amazing results that shift all predicted expectations. The author provides parallels with suchlike experiment at Yale University when 60% of participants were fully obedient (Milgram 5). On the other hand, it showed that it is possible to manipulate peoples’ consciousness when reaching the point of one’s being punished.
The approach maintained in the study is quite scientific. An ordinary observer should read this work because it provides a sensational approval of century-long assumptions as for possibility to make people obey intentionally. Having been inflicted with pain, subjects were not satisfied with such negative effects on their body. However, the investigation showed that all of them were not familiar with one another. Notwithstanding the shock experienced by all participants involved in the experiment, more than 80% showed personal satisfaction while 1% regretted the experiment.
The whole study is divided into six parts, namely: Opening part, An Unexpected Outcome, Peculiar Reactions, The Etiquette of Submission, Duty Without Conflict, and Notes. Each part leads an observer to the characteristic features in maintaining the research. It is vital to admit author’s inspiration after the trial of the former Nazi, Adolph Eichmann. Milgram outlines personal interest in making this experiment so significant for psychology and to him, in particular. After reaching the effect of the experiment, Milgram writes in his study: “ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process” (13). Thus, he concludes that the role of filling people with wrong intentions is high when it is done from the side of authority.
To conclude, it is vital to state on rather creative and well-designed organization of the Milgram experiment. All details and the main aims were determined by the author showing rather paradoxical results. It was a successful attempt of the researcher to explain mechanism of obedience to authority that was practiced by the Nazis in years of the Holocaust. Hence, the structure and the main idea of this study illustrate Milgram’s capability in understanding psychological mechanisms of impact on people. It is especially highlighted from the point of higher position of one among participants.
Milgram, Stanley. The Perils of Obedience, 1974. Web.