Role vs. Personality: A shallow look on Milgrim experiment

Two days ago I read a post which was about Milgrim’s experiment. It was my second time I was hearing about it, so it piqued my curiosity to search the net and gather some information.

It is said that when Stanley Milgrim, the American physiologist, had seen how people had  been turning violent and brutal during WWII, especially  Holocaust, carried out an experiment, which has been honored as one of the most controversial studies on human behavior, as over the past few decades, has been the focus of many discussions and research.

The experiment consists of two people, one teacher and one student. Before it begins, one person is sit on an electrical chair, and the so-called professor who pretend to do some research informs the teacher about the process. The teacher is told to think of the other guy sitting on the next room as a student and ask some memory questions and every time he gives the wrong answer, press the “electrical shock”  button to give an impulse to him. Further mistakes leads to higher voltage shocks. The teacher knows nothing more.

The student, on the other hand, is an actor and from the experiment crew, and  Of course he is not going to get real electrical shocks. Instead, prerecorded suffering sounds (Aaaaaaa) are played for the teacher each time the button is pressed, making  him an illusion he really gave the shock.

Contrary to what had assumed and expected, Milgrim observed that majority of participants continued the experiment, although many of them, at some points,  rejected to carry on, but the “researcher”  kept insisting, reminding them the experiment require them to to finish it, and most did.

The video speaks for itself, and probably the first impressions are concerning how people can behave differently from what they are expected to when working under an authority.

There are two immediate results one can reach. First, these harsh behaviors are part of our instincts. We, as human beings, only need some sort of  motivation, some sort of proper environment to show what we can potentially. Second, people lose their self control when there is a force beyond what they do. They would have never torture the student if there hadn’t been any power compelling them to behave such that. They may even feel sympathy for the student. Keep in mind that this is not questioning what Milgrim observed. Actually this is the exact same result he reported.

But another way of looking at this experiment is from the student perspective of view (and not this one faking, but a real one). And by student it is obvious that we are talking about the victim of a system who suffers from inhuman afflictions.  Regardless of the idea behind why the teacher is punishing him, a victim think of him as a devil. He might most likely developing this sense of revenge to get it back, even harder, to the teacher. This is exactly what happens during a war; People of one side of the fight find themselves observing the cruelty and insanity happening to their families and compatriot by the soldiers of the other side. They can nothing to do, but to do the same. That is the point where a disaster begins to occur; The students and teachers change places, but with one difference: now the teacher has some background about the student.

Published in: on November 5, 2010 at 1:05 am  Leave a Comment