Scientists Redid The Milgram Experiment, And The Result Is A Major Learning Moment

The Milgram experiment is a famously controversial exercise that that Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram carried out in 1963. It basically tested the limit of human obedience, and found that we're pretty darn willing to listen to authority. This experiment was replicated in 2017 and, surprisingly, the results didn't stray far from what happened in the '60s — and that's important and beneficial for us to realize.

"Please Continue"

The original Milgram experiments, which took place multiple times in the '60s and '70s, went something like this: A "teacher" sat at a board that supposedly administered shocks to a "learner" in another room. When the learner got a question wrong, the teacher was told to deliver a shock. The more questions answered incorrectly, the higher the voltage went (FYI, no one was actually getting shocked, but the teachers thought the learners were—they heard prerecorded yelps after delivering shocks). The result? Most participants obeyed authority against their moral conscience. According to Simply Psychology, "Milgram wanted to investigate whether Germans were particularly obedient to authority figures as this was a common explanation for the Nazi killings in World War II."

Polish scientists from SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw published a study in 2017 detailing their experience with a modern replication of the famous experiment. (Keep in mind, this experiment is considered ethically questionable today as it was back in Milgram's day.) The experiment has been replicated since the '60s, but this is the first time it's been done in Central Europe as well as with both male and female participants. The results of the study? Basically the same as they were with Milgram. A full 90 percent of participants were willing to electrocute a stranger if an authority figure told them to.

It's A Trap!

You can take the statistic from the study and feel sad, sure. But don't ignore the learning opportunity here. Knowing how susceptible ordinary, everyday people are to persuasion (yes, even you could fall in this trap) is important is finding ways to resist. According to Khan Academy, it may be helpful to keep the just world fallacy in mind, which is our tendency to believe that people are always responsible for the situations they are in. Another helpful tip is to avoid placing blame on others ("He told me to!") and practice taking responsibility for your own actions. Overall, compassion is key.

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Written by Curiosity Staff March 31, 2017

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