Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Classic videos for Intro Psych: Milgram and Zimbardo

1. Milgram's Obedience Studies

It is ironic that virtues of loyalty, discipline, and self-sacrifice that we value so highly in the individual are the very properties that create destructive organizational engines of war and bind men to malevolent systems of authority. The aftermath of the Holocaust and the events leading up to World War II, the world was stunned with the happenings in Nazi German and their acquired surrounding territories that came out during the Eichmann Trials. Eichmann, a high ranking official of the Nazi Party, was on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The questions is, "Could it be that Eichmann, and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?" (Milgram, 1974)

Milgram answered the call to this problem by performing a series of studies on obedience to authority. Typically, two individuals show up for a study and are taken to a room where one is strapped in a chair to prevent movement and an electrode is placed on his arm. Next, the other person who is called the "teacher" is taken to an adjoining room where he is instructed to read a list of two word pairs and ask the "learner" to read them back. If the "learner" gets the answer correct, then they move on to the next word. If the answer is incorrect, the "teacher" is supposed to shock the "learner" starting at 15 volts and going up to 450 volts, in 15 volt increments. The "teacher" automatically is supposed to increase the shock each time the "learner" misses a word in the list. Although the "teachers" thought that they were administering shocks to the "learners", the "learners" were actually confederates who were never actually harmed. The theory that only those on the sadistic fringe of society would submit to [commit] such cruelty is disclaimed. Findings show that, "two-thirds of this studies participants fall into the category of "obedient" subjects, and that they represent ordinary people drawn from the working, managerial, and professional classes". Ultimately 65% of all of the "teachers" punished the "learners" to the maximum 450 volts. (Milgram, 1974)


2.Stanford Prison Experiment (Zimbardo)
The Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) took place in 1971. Young men were divided into the roles of Prisoner and Guard and put in a prison-like environment in the basement of the Psychology Department at Stanford University. The study was meant to last two weeks. But the brutality of the Guards and the suffering of the Prisoners was so intense that it had to be terminated after only six days.
The study provided a graphic illustration of the power of situations to shape individuals' behaviour. Zimbardo argued that the Guards acted the way they did because they conformed blindly to their assigned role, as did he in his position as Prison Superintendent:
Guard aggression … was emitted simply as a ‘natural’ consequence of being in the uniform of a ‘guard’ and asserting the power inherent in that role.


1 comment:

  1. And here I thought a Zimbardo was a type of speedboat:


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