BP: 2 Social Science Research

The Milgram Experiment, carried out by Stanley Milgram in 1961, was a successful sociological study. It asked the question of how far a person was willing to follow instructions if it involved hurting another human being. The results? Suprising. An average person is likely to follow orders to the very end, even if it involves hurting someone, as long as those orders are given by an authority figure. Was the experiment ethical? It’s controversial, but in my opinion, yes it was. Even though deception was used to trick the participants into believing they were actually shocking their “victims,” it was a required illusion for the experiment to produce valid results. Furthermore, all participants had the right to withdraw at any time and all behaviors of stress or anxiety were temporary. Lastly, Milgram debriefed all participants after the experiment was over, and revealed that no harm came to the participants being “schocked.” The Milgram Experiment, while remaining ethical, provided vital results to the sociological community that according to Milgram proves “The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority” (The Milgram Experiment, Saul McLeod (Source)).

The Zimbardo Experiment, on the other hand, was not ethical in my opinion. Performed by Philip Zimbardo, it aimed to reveal how readily a person will conform to a specific social role. While the results proved that people easily and quickly adapt to the roles they are expected to play, the manner in which Zimbardo discovered this was unethical. He had half his participants play prison guards and half play prisoners. The experiment lacked fully confirmed consent from participants involved. Furthermore, participants were subject to unforeseen humiliation, pain, and psychological torture. Even though Zimbardo could not have foreseen the outcomes of the experiment, it is no excuse for the actions that took place. The results proved that people adapt to the roles expected of them in society, but this was already confirmed in the Milgram Experiment, without involving such drastic measures. The experiment itself was terminated based on revelations such as “I was surprised at myself. I made them call each other names and clean the toilets out with their bare hands” (Stanford Prison Experiment, Saul McLeod (Source)), that were revealed in Zimbardo’s interviews with various participants. In this case, the results of the experiment did not outweigh the actions taken to get there.

If I were a professional sociologist I would be interested in studying how much of group thought and patterns of behavior in society are influenced by the media. The media is in every day life and constantly around us. It must a play a vital role in the choices and decisions people make in this day and age. I’m curious as to how much of a impact it has on everyday people, why this is, and if a commercial, song, news program, and so on has the potential to completely change someone’s point of view and/or train of thought about something. Though, of-course, in all my hypothetical experiments, I would ensure I remained ethical.