Ethical vs. unethical

In the 1960’s social psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment focused on the effect authority has on personal conscience. The experiment was called “Obedience to Authority.” The experiment showed how far people will go if instructed by an authority figure and also if people will confront those who abuse power. To my surprise, most people would obey the authority figures order all the way to the end, even if it meant hurting another human being. I think that the experiment runs the line between ethical and unethical, which is why it was/ is so controversial. With that being said, I think the experiment is more on the side of ethical. Although he tricked the subjects into believing that they were causing harm (by shocking) to another human being no one actually got hurt. The experiment did cause some stress but it was fleeting because as soon as the experiment was over the subjects were assured that no one was harmed. The experimenters even set up a meeting between the subject and the person they thought they were “shocking”, so they could see for themselves that the person was fine. Here is a link to the full documentary of the Milgram experiment

In 1971, Phillip Zimbardo, a Stanford professor, conducted an experiment known as “The Stanford Prison Experiment.” “The Stanford Prison was successful in showing that when an individual is placed in a position of authority, they can change drastically and assume an authoritative stance that borders on abuse” ( In my opinion, this experiment was highly unethical. Even though the participants did agree to the experiment they did not know what exactly that entailed, because even Zimbardo himself had no idea. The way the “guards” treated the “prisoners” was abusive, inhumane, and humiliating. In my opinion Zimbardo should have stopped the experiment long before the sixth day.

I think that the Milgram experiment was worth the risk/damages because I don’t think there were any permanent risks or damages. No one in the experiment was harmed and plus no one forced the participants to harm another person, they could have easily said “no” and stopped it but they chose to keep going. On the other hand, the Zimbardo experiment was not worth the risks and damages. “ Researchers must obtain participants’ informed consent and inform subjects of the responsibilities and risks of research before they agree to partake,” (Openstax, pg 43) which is something he did not have. In my opinion, dehumanizing, abusing, and humiliating people is never worth it.

If I were a professional sociologist I would be interested in researching the effect mass media has on societies. I would love to find out the effect it has on the way people think and treat others.