Part Two presents a Thesis completed in 1984 by the Author : “How People Interpret Milgram’s Experiments.” The Milgram (1974) experiments conducted in 1961 and 1962 showed the extent to which individuals would obey someone in a position of authority. Subjects obeyed the experimenter to the extent of what they apparently thought was inflicting pain on another individual who was not a threat to them in any way.
More recently, Jerry M. Burger (January 2009 “Special Issue : Obedience–Then and Now” edition of American Psychologist, Volume 64 Number 1, Pages 1-11 “Replicating Milgram Would People Still Obey Today?”) did what he called a “partial replication” of the Milgram Experiments (the experiments were referred to as “obedience studies”) and found that “Obedience rates in the 2006 replication were only slightly lower than those Milgram found 45 years earlier. Contrary to expectation, participants who saw a confederate refuse the experimenter’s instructions obeyed as often as those who saw no model. Men and women did not differ in their rates of obedience, but there was some evidence that individual differences in empathic concern and desire for control affected participants’ responses.” (Page One) On page 10 he wrote : “Participants who were high in empathic concern expressed a reluctance to continue the procedure earlier than those who were low on this trait. But this early reluctance did not translate into a greater likelihood of refusing to continue…I also anticipated that a high desire for control would increase the likelihood that participants would act on their own feelings rather than obey an experimenter. However, this effect was found only in the base condition…”
In another article in the same American Psychologist edition of 2009 (“The Power of the Situation The Impact of Milgram’s Obedience Studies on Personality and Social Psychology” Ludy T. Benjamin Jr. and Jeffery A. Simpson, pages 12-19) : “It is important to recognize that Milgram’s procedures probably did not violate the research ethics of the early 1960’s…some researchers, including many psychologists assume that it was this research that was responsible for the development of stronger federal guidelines and requirements for local institutional review boards (IRBs)…Instead, the federal guidelines on protection of human subjects that were approved in 1966 came about because of abuses in medical research….But the medical abuses were so egregious—especially the studies on radiation that began at the time of the Manhattan Project and later the Tuskegee syphilis studies…that the procedures employed by Milgram would not have registered sufficient alarm.” (Page 15) “It asked a big question…how far will a person go in inflicting severe pain on a stranger when instructed to do so by an authority figure? It is not just a psychological question. It is a moral question. Indeed, it is a societal question,…a level of obedience no one had predicted, a willingness to administer painful shocks (or so participants beliveved) to another human being who pleaded for the “teacher” to stop, who complained of heart troubles, and who finally stopped responding completely even though additional shocks continued to be administered…Milgram’s work demonstrated the overwhelming power of situational variables…” (page 17)
A third article in the American Psychologist January 2009 edition was “Reflections on ‘Replicating Milgram’ (Burger, 2009)” pages 20-27 by Arthur G. Miller. He wrote : “Thus, when contemplating a new obedience investigation, it is not simply a matter of designing a ‘follow up’ study in the usual sense. Instead, the reseacher enters a veritable universe of commentary and controversy. (Witness the articles in this issue.) In this context, generations of of researchers, though tempted to follow Milgram’s lead, may have been hesitant to invite the unprecedented criticism and and hostility that Milgram himself experienced…In the Milgram paradigm, the experimenter explicitly challenges the participant’s right to withdraw. For myself, this challenge has always been the crux of the ethical controversy, more than the stress and emotional displays or the many deceptions involved. Two other factors have been key to ethical developments. One is the infliction of (apparently) increasingly severe pain on an unwilling participant, a feature seemingly unique to the Milgram studies. The second is the wide distribution of Milgram’s film of obedience research, which has vividly portrayed the emotionally intense impact of his procedure to generations of students.” (Pages 20-21) And, on page 22 he wrote: “Another value of Burger’s (2009) approach is that it reminds us of torture in the modern world.”
A fourth article in the same January 2009 edition, “Change Over Time in Obedience : The Jury’s Still Out, But It Might Be Decreasing” pages 28-31 by Jean M. Twenge who pointed out that Milgram (1974) did not include women until Experiment 8 and wrote : “It is informative to reverse the percentages for obedience : Whereas only 17.5 % of men disobeyed in Milgram’s experiment, nearly twice as many men (33.3%) disobeyed in the recent replication. Thus, 90% more men disobeyed in the recent replication. ” (Page 28)
A fifth article in the January 2009 edition of American Psychologist, pages 32-36, by Alan C. Elms, who reportedly was a “witness” and “contributor” to the original obedience experiments being a first year psychology graduate student at Yale in 1961, was titled “Obedience Lite.” He wrote : “Although Burger’s replication succeeded in terms of gaining approval of his local institutional review board it did so by removing a large portion of stressful circumstances that made Milgram’s findings so psychologically interesting and so broadly applicable to instances of real world destructive obedience. However,…procedures can be used to extend the study of certain situational and personality variables beyond those examined by Milgram.” (Page 32) On pages 35-36 he wrote : “As social psychologists, both Milgram and Burger have strongly emphasized situational variables that influence obedience. Milgram did not make much effort to collect data on the personalities of his obedience participants,…he was willing to facilitate my exploration of personality and life history variables…I recruited 20 participants who had been fully obedient even with maximal cues for disobedience and 20 who had disobeyed even with maximal cues promoting obedience. To my disappointment…participants did not display any especially dramatic personality differences on the measures I used. But they did show some differences that appeared to be related to their levels of obedience…did not differ significantly on any of the standard scales of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) or on a nonstandard MMPI scale intended to emasure social dominance…They did differ significantly on a nonstandard MMPI scale developed to measure social responsibility…defiant participants scoring higher on that scale…Fully obedient participants appeared rather consistently more authoritarian than disobedient subjects on the original California F scale…”
The sixth and final article in the American Psychologist “Special Issue : Obedience–Then and Now” January 2009 Volume 64 Number 1 Issue was titled “From New Haven to Santa Clara A Historical Perspective on the Milgram Obedience Experiments” by Thomas Blass pages 37-45. He wrote “…in the United States and in 11 other countries–by my count, approximately 3,000 individuals have participated in obedience experiments using the Milgram paradigm.” (Page 37) He also wrote : ” Burger (2009) obtained two important findings. First, the percentage of obedient participants in the base condition did not differ significantly from the rate of obedience obtained by Milgram. And second, there was no significant difference between male and female participants in their obedience rates. Both of these results are consistent with earlier findings…I took all the baseline experiments conducted over a 25 year period…ran a correlation between the obedience rate obtained in a study and when the study was conducted. I found absolutely no relationship between when a study was conducted and the amount of obedience obtained;…Burger’s demonstration of the constancy of obedience despite changes in the individual characteristics of participants serves to strengthen the universality argument.” (Pages 43-44)
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