Ethics

Obedience to Authority Experiment

In Stanley Milgrams experiment named “Obedience to Authority”, subjects were deceived into thinking that they were administering electrical shocks to other experiment subjects as a way of learning. In 1961, when the experiment was being performed, it was not seen as an unethical experiment. It was just a way to see if people could be coerced even if the actions were morally wrong. They wanted this data to see if war criminals were being truthful in saying they had no choice in their actions. But even so, under today's ethical laws, this experiment was unethical. The participants were lied to, by being told that the experiment was being used for something different than the true intent. This is not only immoral but it leads to openings for distrust in the experimental process. Not only this, but it also led to emotional distress, which was severe in some cases. Although this distress was quickly dealt with, it is still unethical and could have lead to long term emotional problems.

Standford Prison Experiment

In Philip Zimbardos experiment named “The Stanford Prison Experiment” subjects were placed in a mock jail with some given the roles as the prisoners and some the guards. At first the experiment was somewhat harmless, but that quickly progressed. This experiment, meant to go for 2 weeks, was abruptly stopped after only 6 days. The “guards” quickly took their role very seriously and began seeing the “prisoners” as people who had actually done something wrong. The prisoners began protesting, and were not cooperative. This experiment was without a doubt unethical. The subjects who took the role of the prisoners took the worst of the outcome. They were subjected to loss of identity, loss of freedom, were dehumanized, harassed, subjected to humiliation sexually and otherwise, and were pushed to emotional breaking points which resulted from extreme stress. It is very obviously unethical to push humans to these limits simply for the sake of scientific discovery.

The findings found in both experiments, although enlightening, were not worth the risk or damage to the subjects. Scientific or sociological discovery, no matter how influential, should not result in emotional or physical damage to its subjects. All experiments should make the well being of their subjects the top priority.

If I were a sociologist I would definitely want to participate in research. I would like to conduct research so that I could use my discoveries to gain a better understanding of others, as well as for the betterment of society. I would hope that my experiments would influence others positively.