Ethical Issues In Sociology

Stanley Milgram had an idea that shocked the world. He wanted to recreate what had happened at the Holocaust but on a smaller scale. Milgram wanted to see how far someone would go in torturing a complete stranger. So the experiment began with Milgram ordering the participant to “shock” the person in the next room. The results were surprising. The participants were far more obedient than expected and were willing to shock a stranger no matter if the person was begging them to stop (Harris, 2014). I believe that this experiment was and still is completely unethical. You don’t demand people torture one another in any situation and you don’t try and recreate one of the most horrible times in history ever. I want to say that I understand Milgram and how he wanted to understand human nature. But I think he could have done it in a completely different way instead of creating a mock torture situation.

Philip Zimbardo is a psychologist who also surprised people with his experiments. The Stanford prison experiment created a lot of controversy not only in the way it was conducted but also in the results that it yielded. Zimbardo chose 24 male students and randomly assigned them to the role of prison guard or prisoner. Once they were assigned their roles the participants were allowed to do anything. The guards completely took over and made the prisoners do whatever they wanted. The experiment was supposed to last two weeks but got shut down after 6 days due to the psychological damage it was creating. Like the previous experiment I believe that what Zimbardo did was completely unethical. There were no rules which led to chaos. No one was protected and because of this nervous breakdowns ensued. This is a fascinating study but the way it was handled was unethical. There should have been something protecting the prisoners or someone who stepped in before it went to far.

Even though both experiments yielded fascinating results I do not think that the experiments were worth it. Both were about power and control and there were no boundaries. The participants were not protected and were harmed in the process. There has to have been a better way to find these results without resorting to torture.

I haven’t really thought about what I would study if I was a sociologist. I am interested in relationships and how they are formed so I would probably study groups of friends and the variables that go into choosing a friend. There are many things that go into choosing a friend and to possibly see the reasons behind why someone would do it is interesting to me.