What Sparked the Study?
This experiment was initiated by Stanley Milgrim, a psychologist at Yale University. His goal was to focus on the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience. He examined the defenses of “obedience” as justifications from WW2 and wanted to see how it correlated to the way humans act under an authoritarian.
Using an ad in the newspaper, Milgrim selected participants for the study. A participant was paired with another person (A person that knew about the experiment). They had a fixed drawing of straws to see who would be the “learner” and who would be the “teacher”. Because the draw was fixed, the participant was always the teacher. The learner was taken into a room next to the teacher and was strapped to electrodes. The teacher went into the next room and was greeted by an electric shock machine. The shock machine contained shocks from 15 volts-450 volts. In this experiment, there was also an experimenter, played by an actor.
The teacher tells the learner a list of words and gives the learner a series of tests that included naming a word and asking the learner to recall its partner. The teacher was told to administer a shock every time the learner made a mistake, increasing the shock each time. The learner purposefully got the answers wrong to test the teacher. When the shocks got riskier and the teacher refused, the experimenter used four different means to urge the teacher to continue with the experiment.
2/3’s of the teachers (participants) continued to the highest voltage, 450, a deathly shock. Revealing 65% of the participants would’ve killed someone because a person of authority told them to. All of the participants continued to at least 300 volts. Milgrim did 18 variations of this study, revealing similar outcomes. Milgrim explained the participants behavior by suggesting people have two types of behavior in social situations. The first behavior is the autonomous state, stating that people direct their own actions and take responsibility for the results. The second behavior is the agentic state, stating people allow others to direct their actions and pass the consequences to the person who gave the orders.
When I first learned about this in psychology class, I was immediately interested. This experiment really opened my eyes onto the extent people can go once following orders given by an authoritarian. This also really interests me because of its relation to WW2. I have never thought of a defense for the cruel actions inflicted by people at that time, but I thought Milgram’s approach was genius.
The Milgrim Experiment video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek4pWJ0_XNo
Experiment #2- The Clark Doll Experiment
What sparked the experiment?
To aid in the case of Brown vs The Board of Education, Thurgood Marshall relied on the help from social scientists who had been studying the effects of segregation on African American children. The scientists’ names were Kenneth and Mamie Clark, they were asked by Thurgood to repeat experiments on the children of Clarendon County, South Carolina.
Clark handed the African American children four dolls. Similar in all aspects except for their race, 2 boy dolls and 2 girl dolls. The Clarks asked the children a series of questions including: “Which doll looks the prettiest?” and “Which doll looks the most like you?”.
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