Essay on Summary: Stanford Prison Experiment and Learner

Submitted By njustice85
Words: 924
Pages: 4

The Experiment In the article “The Perils of Obedience”, a Yale professor by the name of Stanley Milgram explains how he will perform different investigation experiments to evaluate accountability of one’s behavior, and moral sense when an authority figure is involved. In everyday situations, people obey orders because they want to get rewards, and avoid the negative consequences for disobeying authority. In some instances people will obey even when they are required to violate their own values or commit crimes. Stanley Milgram expresses in his article how his experiments are similar to Hannah Arendt “conception of the banality of evil comes closer to the truth than one might dare imagine” (Milgram 639).
Before conducting these experiments, Milgram polls some respondents that believe only a fraction of teachers will be prepared to inflict the maximum voltage. Milgram also polls that forty psychiatrists from a medical school believe that by the tenth shock victims will demand to be free and most subjects will stop. They predict that by the 300 volt shock, when the victims refuse to answer; only 4 percent of the subjects will continue, and one-tenth of the subjects will administer the highest shock. Stanley Milgram’s experiments consist of three individuals: the person running the experiment “Experimenter”, the subject of the experiment “Teacher”, and a (confederate) pretending to be a volunteer “Learner”. These three people will fill three distinct roles in this experiment: the “Experimenter” who is the authority figure, the “Teacher” who is intended to obey orders from the “Experimenter”, and the “Learner” who obeys orders from the “Teacher”. Then the subject and confederate draw slips of paper to determine their roles, but what the subject does not know is that both slips say "teacher". The confederate will always read the slip saying "learner", which guarantees the subject will be the "teacher”.
The "teacher" is given an electric shock from the “SHOCK GENERATOR, TYPE ZLB, DYSON INSTRUMENT COMPANY, WALTHAM, MASS. OUTPUT 15 VOLTS-450 VOLTS” (Milgram 632) as a sample of the shock that the "learner" will supposedly receive during the experiment. The “teacher” believes that for each wrong answer, the “learner” is receiving actual shocks, but in reality there are no shocks being received. “The point of the experiment is to see how far a person will proceed in a concrete and measurable situation in which he is ordered to inflict increasing pain on a protesting victim” (Milgram 632). The "teacher" is then given a list of word pairs that he will teach to the “learner”. The “teacher” begins by reading a list of word pairs to the “learner”. The “teacher” will then read the first word of each pair and read four possible answers. The “learner” then indicates their response by pressing a button. When the answer is incorrect, the “teacher” will administer a shock to the “learner”. When the answer is correct, the “teacher” will move on to the next word pair.
Milgram’s experiment consists of six different variations. The variations include: letting the “teacher” choose the shock level inflicted to the “learner”, delivering the instructions via telephone, the “teacher” forcibly pushing the “learners” hand on the electrode, having more than one “experimenter” at a time, having two “teachers” disagreeing and rebelling the “experimenters” orders, and last but not least just having the “teacher” say the word pairs and not pull the lever for the shock generator.
During these different variations many “teachers” indicate that they either want to stop the experiment, or check on the “learner”. Some of the “teachers” will continue after being assured that they are not held responsible. A few of the “teachers” begin to