What is Considered Ethical?
In my opinion, the Milgram Experiment was in fact ethical. The experiment consisted of subjects being categorized into “teachers” and “learners” meaning one administered questions and shocks while the other answered to the best of his/her knowledge and was the recipient of said shock. I believe this to be ethical in the sense that this brings up the idea of having a little devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, sort of the whole conscience thing and what is being perceived as what is right and wrong. To me the experimenter acts as the devil on one shoulder, telling the “teacher” to give the shock and repeating that they must do so and have no other choice, and also reassuring them that they won’t be held accountable for any harm done to the victim on the other side of the wall. On the other shoulder is the “teacher’s” conscience acting as the angel telling them that they are knowingly harming another person and that it could have been them (or so they may think not knowing it was staged) and it is not morally right to intentionally harm another being. I see this as being ethical in the sense that a good percentage of the “teachers” did in fact give the “learners” the last shock, making me think that maybe the devil on their shoulder (voice of the experimenter) was convincing enough to persuade them to give the worst shock of them all. They knew exactly what they were doing, but with a higher authority instructing them, they still chose to carry on with it.
The Zimbardo Experiment however, I do not find to be ethical. Seeing as on the first day the college students or “prisoners” were making fun of the fact that they were on the other side of the bars, they ended up not taking it seriously until the guards began to feel as though they had power and needed to actually enforce it. The way the “prisoners” ended up being treated was extremely unethical in my opinion. Although I understand why some prisons choose to degrade some prisoners, having them strip down and wear bags over their heads and were forced to undergo psychological abuse. Two students quit the experiment early on seeing as it was too much for them, while the others were still being ridiculed and abused both physically as well as mentally. The two-week trial ended in only six days because of the fact that the guards became to enriched with the power they felt they had and the “prisoners” (seeing as they are only college students already under stress), could not take it any longer and finally someone put an end to it.
I believe that the findings of the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments were most definitely not worth the risk/damage to the participants. Although people do willingly agree to help out with studies or experiments, I’m sure it doesn’t ever occur to them that they may possibly be tortured and ridiculed or even end up in a position of the sort. There comes a time when an experimenter must have the thought of not only is this a matter of ethics, but just overall undoubtedly cruel to those who are apart of experiments.
If I were a professional sociologist I would study trends regarding people and natural disasters. What I mean by that is the news likes to emphasize how many murders/abductions/crimes in general there are, as well as cases of people being unethical and overall just bad people. So why is it that every time there is a natural disaster or a catastrophic event, that that is the time people choose to come together as one? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for everyone getting along and helping one another, I just don’t understand why the world can’t be that way all the time. Why is it we come together after a national disaster? Why can’t the world just be at peace when there is no disaster? It would be my job to find answers to those questions.