Ethics

The Milgram Experiment was not ethical because while the confederate “receiving the shocks” (as no shocks were actually delivered) (Aeon, 2014, P1)was aware of the experiment, as were the hired actors, the participants were deceived, which means the experiment was unethical because “researchers must obtain participants’ informed consent and inform subjects of the responsibilities and risks of research before they agree to partake.” (Openstax College, 2015, P43)In addition, the participants were not able to withdraw from the experiment. However, the participants were completely briefed afterward about what it was they were doing, yet this did not stop the emotional and physical damage the participants had placed on them, as well as the stress. Several participants went into fits and had seizures.

The Zimbardo Prison Experiment was ethical because although the experiment was terminated early, each participant had a full knowledge of what the experiment was about and what the aim was. Each participant had been determined stable before the experiment, and able to know what they were getting into. The experiment proved that the prisoner/guard dynamic was situational and not dispositional, as many participants had to leave due to early signs of depression set on as well as fits of screaming and crying, when only days before deemed of a healthy mindset. It is also important to point out that the experiment was terminated six days in after participants were injured, rather than continuing to the full two weeks. This was ethical because “during a study, sociologists must ensure the safety of participants and immediately stop work if a subject becomes potentially endangered on any level.” (Openstax College, 2015, P43) Although still rather gray on the ethical scale, each participant knew what they were getting into and were allowed to go, unlike in the Milgram Experiment.

The findings of the Milgram and Zimbardo Experiments were worth the damage because they helped to confirm ideas about the human condition and how far stable, normal people will go when put in positions of power, submission, obedience, and situational disposition. Additionally, they allowed for breakthroughs in creating ethical contracts for use today.

If I were a professional sociologist, I would want to study the interactions between people of various belief backgrounds and how they interact with each other; put practicing and orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Atheists in a secluded and cut off area and see how they respond to each other’s open expressions of religion or agnosticism for eight months. It would be interesting to see if some joined others’ religion, or lost their beliefs.