Unit 2 Social Science and Ethics

The Milgram experiment “Obedience to Authority”, consisted of participant “teachers” who would deliver a series of shocks to unseen fake “learners” in the instance of an incorrect answer. Teachers would consistently be reminded to continue the experiment by their overseers, despite the pleas of the learners. I believe the experiment remains ethical. This experiment forced participants to decide between obeying orders, or follow intrinsic moralities and ethics. At all moments, every participant could have refused to continue the experiment, or “stand up” to authority, yet most did not. This experiment ultimately revealed that most people, obey authority in opposition to their morals.
 In contrast, while the Phillip Zambardo experiment revealed how quickly one resorts to humiliation and corruption when given great power, it imposed great distress and embarrassment on live human subjects, imposed by live, human, subjects. While the Milgram experiment faced one to be at conflict with themselves, the Zambardo experiment allotted for physical association between the individuals and their detainees. Had the Zambardo experiment ceased when the prisoners requested to be released, it would have been more ethical, however multiple participants underwent severe psychological distress before the experiment was concluded. Furthermore, this was during the 1970s, when acknowledgment of psychology was not common, thus the proper treatment towards these individuals was unethical, as it allowed the prisoners to feel delineated from their peers, and dehumanized.

Ultimately, the Milgram experiment revealed the harsh truth regarding human nature in its obedience to authoritative figures. It displayed the extent to which one is willing to follow an order given by an authority figure. It can be argued its findings outweigh the distress on the participants. The damage caused was a direct result of the participants’ inner conflicts. The shock treatment was a hoax. However, in the Zambardo experiment, participants were subjected to true humiliation among their peers. Furthermore, they were also subject to greatly transformative positions of power. While the experiment proved as a fascinating example of primal behavior, the advancements of modern science prove that ethics do not necessarily serve as a hindrance to progress.

If I were to be a professional Sociologist, I would most likely study role of counter-cultures in society. Ultimately, I have always found deviant behavior interesting, thus, on a mass scale, I feel they could potentially represent a “social protest” and catalyze change.