The Milgram obedience experiments, conducted by psychologist Stanley Milgram in 1961, were a series of controversial experiments that investigated the willingness of participants to obey authority figures, even when it involved potentially harmful actions.

Aim: The Milgram obedience experiments aimed to understand the extent to which individuals would comply with authority figures’ commands, even if those commands conflicted with their own conscience or moral beliefs.

Method: Participants were recruited for what they believed to be a study on learning and memory. They were instructed to administer increasingly severe electric shocks to another person (a confederate of the experimenter) whenever the confederate answered questions incorrectly. In reality, the shocks were not real, but the participants were led to believe they were inflicting pain. The key manipulation was that an authority figure (the experimenter) instructed the participants to continue administering the shocks, even as the “learner” (the confederate) expressed distress and protested.

Results: Shockingly, a significant majority of participants (around 65%) continued to administer electric shocks to the highest level, despite the apparent distress of the “learner.” Many participants exhibited signs of extreme stress and discomfort but ultimately obeyed the experimenter’s commands.

Factors identified: Milgram identified several factors that influenced obedience, including the perceived legitimacy of the authority figure, proximity to the victim, and presence of dissenting peers.

Conclusion: The Milgram obedience experiments shed light on the power of authority and situational factors in influencing human behavior. They revealed the disturbing potential for individuals to commit acts contrary to their moral principles when ordered by an authority figure. The experiments sparked ethical debates about the treatment of research participants and the responsibilities of scientists in safeguarding against harm.

Criticisms: The Milgram obedience experiments have faced criticism for their ethical implications and potential psychological harm inflicted on participants. Critics argue that the level of deception and psychological distress experienced by participants outweighed the scientific insights gained from the study. However, despite these criticisms, the experiments remain highly influential in understanding obedience, authority, and moral decision-making.