Is the Research Ethical?

The Milgram Experiment was done because he was interested in researching how far people would go in obeying an instruction, even if it involved harming someone else. The learner was “receiving” an electric shock and he made it clear that he “had heart problems,” so as the experiment proceeded he would yell out at the “teacher” to stop because the electric shock was causing him to feel pain in his chest. Most volunteers who were the “teacher” would pause or stop and try to negotiate their way out of the experiment. But the researcher in the room would tell him to continue, even though he felt uncomfortable doing so. I believe that even though the participants were deceived about the electric shock, it was necessary for the experiment so that the researchers can see if the person would follow orders or not. I see no problem with the way the experiment was conducted because the volunteers would be told the truth behind the experiment at the end, and they even had a chance to talk to the “learner.” According to Milgram “illusion is used when necessary in order to set the stage for the revelation of certain difficult-to-get-at-truths” (http://www.simplypsychology.org/milgram.html).

The Stanford Prison Experiment’s aim was “to investigate how readily people would conform to the roles of guard and prisoner in a role-playing exercise that simulate prison life” (http://www.simplypsychology.org/zimbardo.html). His direct aim was more towards finding whether the brutality reported was due to the personalities of the guards or from the environment of the prison. I believe that this experiment was highly unethical because the volunteers had no idea exactly what was going to happen, even Zimbardo himself did not know. However, during the experiment he saw exactly what was going on and how the “prisoners” were being treated and that they were having mental breakdowns, therefore he should have stopped the experiment. Instead he let it go on.

In the case of the Milgram experiment, the participants, from my point of view, did not suffer much harm. However, in the case of Zimbardo’s experiment, the volunteers were severely psychologically harmed due to the conditions that arise as a result of the experiment. I believe that there could have been a different experiment that he could have conducted in order to get the same results.

If I was a professional sociologist, I would be interested in researching how a specific society would treat and acts towards people who have mental illness. I would like to research this topic because it would be interesting to see if different societies would treat people with mental illness differently, and if maybe the culture or religion would have a direct effect on how people treat each other, especially due to certain conditions.