Ethics in Research

Before we can answer the pending questions of “was this ethical?” we have to consider that by definition ethics is subjective. After reading Malcom Harris’ “The Psychology of Torture” I have mixed judgments on Dr. Stanley Milgram’s experiments. At first, his theories on conformity seemed legitimate and so did the experiment. Then it seemed the academic integrity of the experiment drifted as Milgram collected more interesting data. I think from a technicality standpoint his torture experiment was sound, however his intentions for continuing and increasing the severity of the experiments for pure curiosity is unethical. It seemed as though Milgram exploited scientific research and the subjects involved, whom most of which did not know this was an experiment. Interested only in data for personal satisfaction, Milgram failed to see the psychological impact this would have on the subjects participating as well as the validity of his research.

Again, like in the previous experiment, Philip Zimbardo had good intentions beginning his experiment, but he became absorbed and personally interested in the data he was collecting. At first, everything surrounding the experiment seemed ethical; participants were getting compensation, Zimbardo had developed the scenario, methods, hypothesis, etc., yet things quickly changed after starting their data collection. The experiment got way out of hand and no one stopped it, not until an outsider observed. Because of the lack of controls in the experiment and the goals and methods that went off track, moral standings and research legitimacy were questioned. Again, Zimbardo did not take into account the impact that the Stanford Prison Experiment would have on the participants.

I don’t believe that these experiments were worth the data or findings they collected. First of all, the data collected for both the Milgram experiment and Stanford Prison Experiment were essentially illegitimate. They strayed off their initial experiment, becoming way too involved personally. Also, it was recorded that Milgram didn’t even have a definitive hypothesis while also changing his goal of the entire experiment after it already started. There could have been better ways of going about these experiments, different methods, outside mediators, etc. without harming innocent people.

Personally, I would like to research religion and how it affects people’s morals and ethics. Obviously, we know most religions teach that a “good” person is “rewarded” and “bad” people are “punished” (i.e going to Heaven or Hell). However, it is interesting that moral belief ha to be rewarded or that people can distort their perception of morality if everyone else around them is in agreement. I see more often than not different religious groups fighting for what they believe to be is moral and find it worthy of exploring further.


BBC (Director). (2015). Psychology: The Stanford Prison Experiment — BBC Documentary [Motion Picture].

McLeod, S. A. (2016). Zimbardo — Stanford Prison Experiment. Retrieved from