I feel that the Milgram Experiment was ethical. I do not feel that there were any lasting negative impacts on the “teacher” who was really the “learner”. During the experience they felt uncomfortable, yes, but we have to look at the end result. They were assured that the “learner” did not suffer any pain and they also got to talk to them and “make up” so to speak. If there was actual pain or the “teacher” was not informed that it was all a set up, then I might change my mind and say it was unethical. Our book says that as researchers, there is an obligation to “ensure the safety of participants and immediately stop work if a subject becomes potentially endangered on any level” (Openstax, 2015, p.42). However, because no one suffered any lasting effects (at least I don’t think they would) I would say that it was ethical.
As for the Zimbardo Experiment, no I certainly do not think it was ethical. He wanted to see how power and control would affect people. However, I do not think that he did it in a way that was not without phycological or physical damage to the participants. In contrast to the Milgram Experiment the Zimbardo experiment caused actual stress and pain in the test subjects without the relief that was allowed to the “teachers” in the Milgram Experiment. These boys had real stress related break downs and were treated very poorly physically and mentally. When Zimbardo saw that things were getting out of hand he should have stopped the experiment. Our book says that researchers must “try to be skillful and fair-minded in their work, especially as it related do their human subjects” (Openstax, 2015, p.42). I realize that he was trying to prove something but it was damaging all the same.
I do think that the findings of the Milgram Experiment and the Zimbardo Experiment were worth the risk/damage endured to get them. The Milgram Experiment gave us great insight to obedience without any long lasting effects and no physical harm on the “learners”. The risk for that experiment was not great and the findings outweighed them in my opinion. The Zimbardo Experiment is a harder one to swallow. Yes, it was not an ethical experiment however, its findings were significant. We discovered that when given authority without direction or repercussions we see that things can escalate and turn bad quickly. Even though the boys suffered during the experiment from both physical and phycological pain I do not believe that they had any lasting effects from the experiment. So the temporary damage did not outweigh the benefit of the experiment.
If I was a professional sociologist I would be interested in researching about families. I am taking Sociology and the Family this semester and I am very interested in studying the different aspects of families and how they function. Family life is and has been constantly changing and the need to study it will forever be present. I would love to research areas that lend to social change and equality for all people and their “mode” of family. I feel that more research on the family can help people by figuring out what is needed and how we can get there. Very interesting stuff!
Openstax College (2015). Introduction to Sociology 2nd Edition. Houston, Texas: Openstax