In “The Perils of Obedience” psychologist Stanley Milgram describes experiments in which participants had to decide whether to obey the immoral demands of an authority figure or to resist them, and then explains that despite the pain they were inflicting on another human, most subjects were obedient.
Milgram’s experiment was designed to test a person’s willingness to inflict pain on another person, simply because a scientist instructed him to do so; he found that the majority did whatever authority asked of them even though they were hurting someone in the process. In this experiment, both a “teacher” and a “learner” were brought to a laboratory to take part in study about the effects of punishment on learning. The teacher was the focus of the experiment, and the learner was just an actor that never felt any pain during the tests. The experimenter explained that the learner would be asked a series of questions and if he answers incorrectly, the teacher will administer an electric shock.
Gretchen Brandt is the first of several subjects to undergo the experiment, and her reaction the learner’s pain was similar to what was predicted before the study began. She remained calm, composed, and was firm in her decision to disobey the experimenters orders. According to Milgram, this was the reaction he expected from almost all the participants. He collected predictions about the outcome of the experiments from a diverse group of people and most predicted that the subjects would not be obedient, but they were wrong. In his first experiment, 60 percent of the Yale undergraduates tested were fully obedient. When his findings were challenged because of the nature of his subjects, he repeated the experiment with people from all over the world, and different walks of life, but the findings were the same if not worse! In one case a scientist found 85 percent of his subjects to be obedient.
Fred Ponzi underwent the experiment and displayed an unnerving reaction to the...