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Obey at Any Cost

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 “Obey At Any Cost” Abstract

Stanley Milgram begins to investigate the idea of obedience to authority and found some very interesting results. By doing so, he came up with the hypothesis that, people have tendencies to obey figures of authority even if the task they were told to perform, were against their morals and ethics. Stanley Milgram designed a shock generator; a device with many different switches labeled with voltage levels starting at 30 volts and increasing by 15 volts all the way up to 450 volts. The idea of this experiment was that a partaker would be ordered to administer shocks at increasing levels to another random participant. The people who participated in this study were 40 males between the ages of 20 and 50. This group had 15 skilled/unskilled workers, 9 professional men and 16 sales and businessmen. They were found through newspaper ads and direct mail that asked for volunteers to be paid to conduct a memory study. There were also two other important participants, a confederate and an actor. As the participants arrived for the experiment the experimenter/actor told each member a cover story explaining the effects of punishment on learning. The participants then drew pieces of paper out of a hat to determine who would be the teacher and who would be the learner. Obviously the drawing was rigged so that the real participant would always become the teacher and the confederate always the learner. The learner was then taken into a room while the teacher watched, as they strapped him into a chair and connected him to the shock generator. The task involved the teacher reading a list of words and then testing the learner’s memory of them. The teacher was told by the experimenter/actor to shock the learner each time they answered incorrectly, increasing by one level of shock each time. The measure of obedience was collected simply by recording the level of shock which the teacher began to refuse to deliver any more shocks. Many of the participants were very anxious, which leads to suggest that obedience perseveres through anxiety. Since there were 30 switches on the generator, participants got a score between 0 and 30, 30 being obedient subjects and 0 being defiant subjects. 14 subjects defied orders and stopped before the maximum voltage, the 26 remaining subjects or 65% followed the experiment to the very top. Before conducting the experiment, a survey with Yale students estimated that 1.2% of people would max out the machine, but actually 65% obeyed and delivered all the way to the end. In conclusion the findings matched Milgram’s hypothesis perfectly. The participants responses to authority was very surprising, obedience goes much further then what people thought. Majority of the subjects obeyed orders even though they didn’t want to. Although many people criticized him, Milgram continued his research to find other limiting factors of authority.



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