Monday, September 28, 2009

The Milgram Experiment

The Milgram experiment was a famous scientific experiment of social psychology described by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram in 1974. It was intended to measure the willingness of a participant to obey an authority who instructs the participant to do something that may conflict with the participant's personal conscience. The participant is assigned the role of "teacher". The participant is then given simple memory tasks to give to the "learner" (an actor) and instructed to administer a shock by pressing a button each time the learner makes a mistake. The participant is also told that the voltage is to be raised by 15 volts after each mistake. In reality, there are no actual shocks being given to the learner – the actor is acting. The experiment raised questions about the ethics of scientific experimentation itself because of the extreme emotional stress suffered by the participants. Most modern scientists would consider the experiment unethical today, though it resulted in valuable insights into human psychology.

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