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Autumn Jones

October 6, 2014
AP Psychology

Obedience: Trusting Authority Can Be Shocking


Stanley Milgrams Behavioral Study of Obedience not only questioned our societys
reaction to authority, but also brought up the question of ethics. At first thought, Milgrams
experiment was believed to be harmful to the subjects (Baumrind, 1964), but by further
explanation by Milgram himself, I believe it was ethical.
In 1964, Diana Baumrind sought to find fault in Milgrams experiment. Yet, most of what
she says in opinionated, resulting in Baumrind losing credibility. In her article, she fights for the
rights of the subjects because she believes they were not treated fairly. Baumrind explains that
the subject has the right to assume that his security and self-esteem will be
protected,(Baumrind, 1964). She goes on to say, It has become more commonplace in
sociopsychological laboratory studies to manipulate, embarrass, and discomfort subjects,
(Baumrind, 1964). This statement gives insinuation that Baumrind believes Milgram and his
team for the experiment did not respect their subjects. However, the way the experiment played
out, it seemed to be quite the opposite.
Each subject knew that they had a choice to reject to participate and to reject to continue.
The choice to press the shock buttons was all theirs, they were not at all physically forced. The
participants did undergo stress during and most likely after the experiment. But even then,

Milgram stated that there is no indication of injurious effects (Milgram, 1964). The statistics
found by Milgram during his follow-up study proved to show that 84% of the subjects were glad
to have participated in the experiment (Milgram, 1964). Four-fifths of the subjects thought that
more experiments such as this one should be pursued and 74% said to have learned something
valuable from participating (Milgram, 1964). One man wrote, This experiment has strengthened
my belief that man should avoid harm to his fellow man even at risk of violating authority,
(Milgram, 1964). This gives way to conclude that lessons were learned from the experiment,
especially about human nature that many feared. A subject said, If this experiment serves to jar
people out of complacency, it will have served its end (Milgram 1964).
This experiment can be referred to as ethical so much as to where it could and should be
replicated. Perhaps the experiment would not be the same as far as the shock procedure goes, but
theres much more to be learned. The study of obedience using different age groups could be
astounding, while the same could go for gender and the environment in which it takes place. But
more importantly, it could be expanded with different cultures. Baumrind judged the experiment
based off of the results, not much else. Baumrinds judgment not only represents a personal
conviction, but also reflects a cleavage in American psychology between those whose primary
concern is with helping people and those who are interested mainly in learning about people,
(Milgram, 1964). Milgram, however, established that with the subjects indicating satisfaction
toward their participation, we could go forth with other ventures pertaining to obedience.
Milgram went through the procedure in order to find the subjects reactions towards
obedience with authority. The results were shown to be different than expected, with the
participants acted harshly to the innocents, which wasnt predictable. The purpose of the
experiment was served and the majority of the subjects even endorsed studies such as this one.

Milgrams experiment could be replicated in a way that would continue to respect moral
principles. Following Baumrinds loss of credibility during her opinionated argument, I found
Milgrams experiment to be ethical.