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Critique of Stanly Milgram’s Obedience to Authority Experiment

Introduction

Milgram is recognized by many scholars as a successful social psychologist who invented

the ‘obedience to authority’ experiment. The ethics experiment meant to explain how ordinary

people can inflict pain to fellow humans when entrusted with authority over them. Milgram’s

experiment was a response to notorious trials associated with Nazi war criminal (Gudehus 4).

The experiment was conducted to evaluate whether human beings could obey orders which were

ethically wrong. Therefore, the paper critiques Milgram’s experiment on obedience to authority.

Milgram’s Study

In 1963, Milgram while at Yale University studied behavioral obedience and came up

with an experiment that made him a landmark in the field of social psychology. In his

experiment, Milgram argued that the majority of people in a society obey authority even when it

is morally wrong. Milgram used precise procedures to confirm that human beings are inclined to

authority figures which included having an actual situation where people adhere to authority

(Lunt 5). He used police officers to show how they must obey commands for monetary

compensation. However, his experiment faces modern criticism like experimenter prompts used
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as commands were not obeyed in the experiment. Also, Milgram could not fully describe his

participants and their roles after they participated in the experiment. There was disobedience in

Milgram’s experiment because some chosen participants in the unpublished version of his

experiment knew each other and failed in their roles.

From an ethical standpoint, experiment conducted by Milgram by use of electric shock is

ethically wrong. Though his aim was to uncover the truth that ordinary people in the society

obey abhorrent orders from their leaders, the experiment moralism and autonomism aspects of

individuals who participated in the experiment are violated because they have to modify their

behavior to suite the roles given by Milgram.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Milgram made one of the best studies in social psychology while at Yale

University. He studied the acts of genocide and other criminal trials after Nazi wars before

organizing an experiment to prove that human beings are inclined to authority. However, he

failed to describe fully the participants in his experiment and this forms the basis for modern

criticism.
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Works Cited

Gudehus, Christian. "78. Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority." Schlüsselwerke der

Kulturwissenschaften, p. 4.

Lunt, Peter. "Milgram’s Obedience to Authority Experiments." Stanley Milgram, 2009, pp. 1-

22.