The results were horrifying. Nobody suspected it could be that bad, not even close.
In 1961 a controversial experiment was carried out that made some chilling discoveries about human nature. Psychologist Stanley Milgram wanted to know how it was possible that so many people co-operated to commit the atrocities of the Second World War. They couldn’t all have been sociopaths, yet thousands and thousands of people did unspeakable things to innocent people, and millions more looked the other way.
Is it really that hard to stand up to authority?
Milgram devised an experiment that went like this:
Forty subjects were recruited to participate in an experiment “on learning and memory”, having answered a newspaper ad offering a modest payment for an hour of their time. Each of the subjects were informed that they would be compensated fully as long as they showed up, regardless of their performance in the experiment.
Upon arrival, each subject met with two people. The first was a man in a white labcoat purported to be the scientist conducting the experiment. The second was another person who was supposed to be a fellow subject, but whom was actually an actor. The two subjects drew slips of paper to see who would be the “teacher” and who would be the “learner” in the experiment.
It was rigged: both slips said “teacher,” so the real subject was always given the role of teacher, though he was under the impression that he’d had an equal chance of being the learner. The actor always played the learner.
The experimenter then announced that the learning was to be reinforced by electric shocks, which would be administered by the teacher on the learner whenever the learner gave an incorrect response to a simple memory test. Each teacher was given a 45-volt sample shock to get an idea of the shocks they would be giving.
The teacher was intentionally allowed to witness the learner being strapped to a chair, with electrodes fixed to him, before being ushered into the adjacent room, where he would be stationed in front of an electric shock generator. The experimenter sat behind the teacher, holding a clipboard. Read More
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