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Stanley Milgram Vs. Diana Baumrind

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In 1963 Yale professor, Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment to test civil disobedience. In his experiment, Milgram tested civil disobedience, which can be defined as a refusal to obey laws that are thought to be unjust, by putting the test subject in the position to either obey or disobey an authority figure. After doing this, Milgram not only came to the shocking conclusion that the majority of the subjects obeyed despite the circumstances, but he also found the subjects violated many aspects of ethics. Diana Baumrind points out several flaws in Milgram’s experiment in “Review of Stanley Milgram’s Experiment on Obedience.” Baumrind says that Milgram’s experiment was unethical in many ways and lacked validity. After reading Baumrind’s review, I agree that Milgram’s experiment was in some aspects invalid and violated many aspects of ethics.

In Milgram’s 1962 experiment, he tested his subjects by putting them in charge of shocking another human. Each subject was given the title “teacher” and was instructed by the experimenter to read a list of simple words to the “learner” and the learner was asked to recall the second word of a set. The learner, who was seated in what looked like an electric chair, was to be “shocked” if they made an error. Each time the learner made an error the voltage they received increased. Milgram’s experiment proved to him that most of the teachers continued to administer the shock to the learner despite the learners plea for the experiment to stop. Although the learner didn’t actually receive a shock, they acted like they did to try to discourage the teacher. Milgram showed that people tend to obey authority figures, even if it means inflicting pain on another person. Despite Milgram’s findings, this experiment has caused much controversy because many people think that his experiment was invalid and violated many aspects of ethics.

One such person was Diana Baumrind. Baumrind said that the subject’s safety and self-esteem weren’t protected. She also concluded that the subjects didn’t get the respect that they deserved because the experimenter was not concerned about the subject’s welfare (Baumrind 330). Baumrind also feels that the experiment was unethical because Milgram did not tell the subjects everything about the experiment. Hiding information from the subjects caused her to believe that the subject and the experimenter relationship was violated. Most of the subjects discovered they were more likey to obey authority figures than they might have expected and most went through a type of self-discovery. Even though they found something new about themselves, Baumrind suspects that not all of the subjects wanted this self-discovery because they all probably felt guilty after they found out they would obey an authority figure to the point of harming another person. According to Baumrind, the setting is another reason Milgram’s experiment was flawed. She says that because the experiment was done in a laboratory, the subjects were more prone to obey the experimenter than if they would have been elsewhere (Baumrind 330). Baumrind was also concerned with the subjects and how they were after the experiment. She thinks that the emotional disturbances the subjects encountered never completely left them. Lastly, Baumrind concluded that there is no convincing parallel between Milgram’s findings and destructive obedience such as Hitler and the Nazis.

In contrast to Baumrind’s opinion of Milgram’s experiment, some critics think that saying deception caused the subject’s suffering is an inadequate argument. They think that the fact that Milgram relied on deception is secondary to the results he found (Herrera). Many say that because the learner didn’t receive a real shock, any case against Milgram’s experiment is unfounded. These certain critics are taking in account the subjects who thought the experiment was worthwhile. Critics who don’t find any flaws in Milgram’s experiment believe the only reason people find it invalid and unethical is because they found the results to be disturbing. The people who agree with the way Milgram concluded his experiment see him simply as the messenger of bad news. Critics who find Milgrams work to be rewarding, says that Milgram’s experiment wouldn’t have raised so much controversy if there weren’t such “lack of evidence of brad acceptance for deceptive practices in social science research.” (Herrera)

After reading both of these critics point of views, I found that I agree with Baumrind. Milgram’s study of obedience violated aspects of ethics and was in many ways invalid. I think that the biggest flaw in his experiment was the violation of the relationship between the subject and the experimenter. I think

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