If we were to conduct Millgram's Experiment now, do you think we would get similar results? Why?
Obedience to Authority is an important topic of discussion because of the influence it has on individual life and its importance in the organization of social structures that are at the base of social relationships. The basis of Obedience lies in ideological submission, interpreting the reality from the perspective of the authoritarian figure. Furthermore, the person stops feeling responsible and, consequently, guilt-free for their actions when they’re following orders. This mental process is the same for the subjects on Stanley Millgram’s experiment as it is for a soldier who shoots innocent people in a village.
During most of Millgram’s experiment, many subjects showed signs of tension and anguish when they heard the screams in the adjoining room that, for the subject, appeared to be caused by electric shocks. The experiment was concluded by the experimenter after three 450 volt discharges. The conclusions of the experiment? When the subject obeys, his/her conscience “stops working” and there is an abdication of responsibility. The subjects are more obedient the less contact they’ve had with the victim and the further away they are from them physically. The subjects with authoritarian personality are more obedient than the non-authoritarian ones; so the closer to authority, the greater the obedience (Millgram, 1963).
The principle of obedience to authority has been defended in our civilizations as one of the pillars on which society is sustained. Generally, obedience to authority allows the protection of the subject. This obedience, however, can be a double-edged sword and disguise sadistic impulses. The Milgram experiment represents one of the social psychology experiments of greatest interest to criminology when it comes to demonstrating how fragile our moral values can be in the face of blind, unquestionable obedience to authority (Woolsey Biggart et Hamilton, 1984).
Millgram’s results showed that ordinary people, commanded by a figure even with little authority, are capable of acting cruelly. In this way criminology has managed to understand how some criminals who have committed genocides, terrorist attacks and other savage crimes have developed a high level of obedience to their idea of authority.
For Milgram, respect and obedience to authority has its origin in the need for the principle of hierarchy, with a survival value, and it’s a socially stabilizing factor. We have the necessary structures to develop obedience, thus, this capacity is just as evolutionary as our consciousness (Millgram, 1963).
Experiments like Millgram’s can help us reflect on the complexities of our species and what dogmas are far from explaining our reality. It’s necessary to shed light on the complexity of human behavior in order to understand the reasons behind it. Knowing this will help us understand our history and not repeat certain actions.
I believe that if the study were to be repeated nowadays, we would get similar results. The Milgram experiment is fundamental to understanding how obedience can become dangerous. If in theoretically friendly conditions (i.e lab) we don’t opt for the morally possible decision to rebel, then perhaps our instinct of obedience is stronger than our moral sense. Milgram did nothing more than to bring to life an already suspected trait of human nature.
If we were to conduct Millgram's experiment now, do you think we would get similar results? Why? Comment below.
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Millgram, Stanley (1963). Behavioral Study of Obedience. Yale University. https://www.birdvilleschools.net/cms/lib/TX01000797/Centricity/Domain/1013/AP%20Psychology/milgram.pdf
Woolsey Biggart, Nicole and Hamilton, Gary (Dec. 1984). Administrative Science Quarterly. Sage Publications (on behalf of Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University). http://www.jstor.org/stable/2392938?seq=7#page_scan_tab_contents