Essay on Obedience: Asch Conformity Experiments

Submitted By brandonweimerskir
Words: 830
Pages: 4


In July of 1963 a psychologist by the name of Stanley Milgram eternally sealed his fate in psychological journals almost over-night with a single study, the obedience to authority figures experiment. The original point and intended purpose of the experiment was to see how long a subject would inflict pain on another in order to please an authority figure. The entire experiment was designed to answer the increasingly relevant question at the time, “Could the Nazi’s have just been following orders?” Is obeying an authority figure always the correct thing to do? Should we use our best moral judgment to discern from what is right and wrong? These are the questions we must ask ourselves when placed in similar situations. Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiment consisted of two subjects. One playing the part of a teacher and the other of a learner. The learner is strapped to a machine and the teacher is informed that for every question answered wrong a shock will be administered to the learner. When the learner gets the question wrong the voltage substantially increases each time. This is all being observed by the experimenter. What the teacher doesn’t know is that the learner is actually an actor and they are not actually receiving any of the electrical shocks. At the start of the experiment the learner explains a heart condition they are suffering from but assures that it shouldn’t be a factor in the experiment. A ploy used to gain sympathy from the teacher later on in the experiment. In Milgram’s study he was astonished to find that a remarkable 65 percent of people would follow orders to administer a shock all the way up to the highest voltage allowed. Even more alarming is that most people in the study followed the experimenter’s orders with little resistance. In one particular case a man asked to stop the experiment deeming he didn’t want the responsibility of killing the learner. When he was instructed that all the responsibility would fall on the experimenter he had little issue following the order to administer the shocks there after. This is a clear cut example of how people are willing to follow orders blindly as long as someone is being held responsible for the action taking place. Another interesting study is the one social psychologist Solomon Asch of Rutgers University preformed. Like Milgram’s experiments Asch was also looking to see if people would follow orders and or conform. Although Asch’s experiments were a little less stressful and much less controversial they showed us in great detail how willing humans are to conform to their surroundings. Asch’s conformity experiment demonstrated the degree to which an individual's own opinions are influenced by those of a majority group. Three subjects are placed in a room and all giving the same picture of three lines of different lengths. They are all asked to pick one of the three in which they perceived to be the longest. In the beginning of the experiment all is well until slowly two of the three participants begin to answer incorrectly. What the actually participant does not realize is that the