Monday, December 29, 2008

Milgram Again! 45 Years Later

Having so often discussed the original Milgram experiment with friends, colleagues, students and teachers, I never thought the experiment would be repeated, but it has been.

From yesterday's New York Times, Adam Cohen provides the juicy details:
Jerry Burger of Santa Clara University replicated the experiment and has now published his findings in American Psychologist. He made one slight change in the protocol, in deference to ethical standards developed since 1963. He stopped when a participant believed he had administered a 150-volt shock. (He also screened out people familiar with the original experiment.)
Professor Burger’s results were nearly identical to Professor Milgram’s. Seventy percent of his participants administered the 150-volt shock and had to be stopped. That is less than in the original experiment, but not enough to be significant.
Much has changed since 1963. The civil rights and antiwar movements taught Americans to question authority. Institutions that were once accorded great deference — including the government and the military — are now eyed warily. Yet it appears that ordinary Americans are about as willing to blindly follow orders to inflict pain on an innocent stranger as they were four decades ago...The findings of these two experiments should be part of the basic training for soldiers, police officers, jailers and anyone else whose position gives them the power to inflict abuse on others.

I'd love to know a little more about the change in the research protocols and the new screening process, as well as what motivated the researchers this time around. I'll be checking out Professor Burger's article in American Psychologist...and don't anyone get any bright ideas.


Anonymous said...

Yet if a man in a white lab coat says, "Stop eating Dorito's," 85% of subjects ignore him.

matt said...

Good point.