• Question: you told me to ask this in the ask for a longer answer and im interested so would you obey an order to hurt someone?

    Asked by XxBILLYNYExX to Ian on 13 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Ian Cookson

      Ian Cookson answered on 13 Jun 2019:

      OK, so Stanley Milgram was a psychologist in the USA in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He ran a series of experiments to investigate this question because his family, who were Jewish, had been persecuted in Germany during WW1 (I think).

      In his experiments he placed the participants in one room, and someone else who was part of the experiment in another although they couldn’t see each other. The task was supposed to be about learning but it was really about obedience, because if the other person got the question wrong then the participant had to give them an electric shock. The electric shock machine wasn’t real, but the people taking part didn’t know that, they could just hear the person in the other room shouting in pain.

      In the same room as the participant was a person wearing a lab coat and a clipboard. If the participant said they wanted to stop then the person with the clipboard told them to carry on. 65% of the participants carried on to the highest voltage (remember the shocks weren’t real but they didn’t know).

      Milgram took this as evidence that if someone in authority tells us to do something we’d do it, even if it hurt someone. The results can be interpreted differently, so we have to be careful in assuming he’s right, but it was a very important study.

      In answer to your question no, so if I wouldn’t, why did the people in the study? Great question.