Unit 2 Blog Post

At Yale in the early 1960’s Dr. Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment to observe obedience to authority figures. Intrigued with the actions by Nazis in the Holocaust, he wondered in Nazis were just obeying orders given by their authority figure. Therefore, he ran his experiment by having multiple teachers, learners, and an experimenter. The leaner was instructed to send electric shocks to the learner each time the learner anwered a question incorrectly, which was often. When the teacher no longer wanted to shock the learner, he/she was instructed by the experimenter to do so. 65% of the teachers continued to administer the electric shock concluding that people tend to obey authority figures. It has been argued that this experiment is unethical. Based on the ASA code of ethics, this experiment is unethical. This is because of the incorrect information on why the experiment was being conducted. Milgram decieved participants by informing the experimentees that it was a learning expreiment, however it was an observation of how people obey authority figures. Participants were also exposed to possible psychological damage because they thought they were harming the learners, since leaners were screaming in pain and begging teachers to discontinue the shock, except no harm was actually being administered. Dispite most participants happy to be apart of the experiment he must still take into account that not ALL felt comfortable.

In the 1970’s, Psychologist Zimbardo ran the Stanford Prison Experiment, where he investigated how people would conform to roles acting as a prisoner and a guard in a prison setting. The Stanford University basement replicate a prison and participants acted as their assigned role. No guards were allowed to physically harm the prisoners. It was found that within a short time the participants began to act their role. This experiment was unethical as well based off of the ASA code of ethics. This is because the participants were not made aware of parts of the experiment when giving consent. For example, the participants that acted as prisoners were not informed that they would be arrested randomly. This could have changed their decision because if it were to have happened in front of people they knew, it could effect their reputation. Also, these participants were not protected psychologically. One of the “prisoners” left after 36 hours because he was screaming and crying. (http://www.simplypsychology.org/zimbardo.html)

Both of Milgram and Zimbardo’s experiment were worth the risk. Milgram’s findings showed that most people will obey their authority figured. This is important to understanding the behaviors of people who have an authority figure or are the people under the authority figure. This could indicate how people will behave in other situations, which is important to understanding society in everyday settings and why people act the way they do. Zimbardo’s findings showed how people comfort to stereotyped roles. This could also be important to understanding people’s behavior in everyday settings. Milgram’s experiment was very valid and reliable along with Zimbardo, thus making them both worth the risk. None of the participants were permanently damaged.

If I were a professional sociologist I would be very interested in doing research. I would research how people act around different groups and how they are influenced by other people. I think this would be interesting to a lot of people and relevent to social behavior.