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Milgram’s study is rated as the 8th most unethical experiment according to the American Government and if often spoken about as a study, which damaged people to a point that questioned the scientific reputation of psychology, however, when Milgram’s study is broken down, it is actually one of the few studies that maintained ethical guidelines. Therefore I am arguing the point that Milgram’s study should of taken place.

The psychological impact that Milgram’s study as had, has provided psychology with many long lasting theories into obedience and the effect of an authoritative figure. Further studies have also taken place which have supported Milgram’s findings, Hoffling (1966) conducted research into the obedience levels of nurses given instructions over the phone, they were told that they were speaking to a doctor and ordered to give a dangerous dosage of medicine to a sick patient, nurses are told never to carry out instructions given out over the phone. However, 21 out of the 22 nurses carried out the order, even though previously, 22 had filled out a questionnaire stating they would never carry out phone instructions. This study supports Milgram’s findings that obedience levels often increase when an authoritative figure is present.

Milgram’s study did actually meet all ethical guidelines:

Consent– all participants consented to the study and filled out a form before taking part.

Right to withdraw– participants were told that they could withdraw at any time and would still be paid for their participation, although they were encouraged to carry on throughout the study, if they requested to leave 3 times then they were allowed to do so, it is important to take note that only 60% continued to the end.

Debrief– participants were fully debriefed after the experiment and nobody left believing that they had actually harmed anyone. Milgram’s debriefing process actually extended and the participants were looked after beyond the ending of the experiment.

Protection– participants were protected throughout the study and afterwards by the debriefing process

Deception– deception had to take place in this experiment, like in many other experiments for the outcome to be true. If the participants knew they weren’t really shocking anyone, then they would have carried on until the end knowing they weren’t causing harm.

Confidentiality– the confidentiality of the participants was kept at all times during the experiment and even after, when Milgram wanted to release the video footage, he contacted each participant separately to get their approval, anyone who did not wish to be shown was blanked out.

It is also worth a note that Milgram presented his experiment in front of a team of psychologists and psychiatrists who all agreed that his experiment should take part and would not harm anyone indefinitely (also worth a note that they originally said this as they believed his experiment would have no significant findings) even after the experiment they believed that it should of taken place and did not cause any harm to any participants, it was agreed that Milgram took care of all participants to the best of his ability.

So in conclusion although Milgram’s study has been marked as unethical and when taught in A level psychology, it taught as the most horrific experiment that has taken place, when we compare this to studies such as ‘the Monster Study’ and the ‘Zimbardo Prison Experiment’ Milgram’s study did not break any ethical guideline rules and also has enabled psychology to work on his theories of obedience even more so.




Comments on: "Should Milgram’s study of ever taken place?- blog for 19/02/12" (7)

  1. I agree with you that the study should have taken place, and in addition to the points you’ve made I think if we ask ourselves the question: “do the ends justify the means?” then we can see that Milgram’s study was actually a really worthwhile study.
    At the time the study was conducted (not long after WW2) a popular belief in western society was that “Germans are different” and that no one from our country would commit the atrocities that took place in the nazi concentration camps. Regardless of whether or not they were ordered to do so.
    Although it is easy to see why people at the time would have held this view, the results of Milgram’s study helped the public to see that this view was not only incorrect, but racist.
    If the study had not taken place, who knows how long this prejudice would have existed for, and what damage it would have done.
    As you said in your post, Milgram did not actually break any of the ethical guidlines that were in place at the time, and the benefits of his study certainly seems to justify the means of how it took place. So there’s no question in my mind as to whether the study should have taken place – i’m glad it did.

  2. i like u fully agree that Milgram’s study was given a bad named slandered for being so unethical but i also think that the time/ era in which this study was done would not have seen his actions as unethical or even wrong … shocking yes but not wrong . it is only with the knowledge of what we now know about the protection of participants that wee are so against harming participant …. Milgrams study and studies like his opened my eyes to the attrocities that can be performed just due to a sample switch in responsiblility.

  3. This was a very interesting discussion to read, as Milgrams study comes up alot in blogs because of how unethical it is. I am slightly unsure as to whether I agree with you or not. I dont think it should be rated as the 8th most unethical, however I do see why it is because not all of the guidelines are met. You say deception had to take place, well this may be the case but this does not meet the guideline was met. If deception did occur, whether it had too or not, all of the ethical guidelines were not met. Therefore I do not agree with all of the arguments you have made. Overall a very good post with a good argument and good information 🙂

  4. I would have to answer this blog title with yes, i do think Milgram’s study should have been done. It gave an amazing insight into the capability of us as the human race and that anyone can do atrocious things in certain situations, even when we’d would like to believe we wouldn’t. Many have argued that Milgram’s participants may have been aware that the experiment was being faked and that they were not actually hurting the learner in the other room, and that would explain the high number of participants complying to the higher shocks. However Sheridan and King found that these compliance rates were still considerably high when the participant was actually hurting another being, they were asked to shock puppies, and some actually delivered the full shock even though they could see they were hurting the puppy. Although this experiment was published because of it’s unethical research, i believe that these experiments give us unprecedented insight into what we all are capable of.

  5. i can see why you would agree that milgrams experimet should have taken place and it was probaly alot of politics taking place in ruining its reputation but that fact that grown men apparantly breaking down and crying and still being made to supposedly electricute people in the state they were in. so there was definatlty a line that was crossed with the experiment. i think it was a good experiment and nowhere near as out of control as the stanford prison experiment but there definatly should of been some sort of threshold.

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