Thursday, January 6, 2011

psychologist Stanley Milgram, we hardly knew ye...

the frailty
that are central to our lives
how easy it is
to make ordinary people
do terrible things-
Evil often happens for the most mundane of reasons.

The Experimenter, The Teacher
The Learner
He met an earnest young man in a white lab coat – The Experimenter - and a middle-aged Volunteer.
The Experimenter told that He would be the Teacher
and the Volunteer would be the Learner.
The Teacher's task was to give the Learner a simple set of memory tasks, which He would then be tested on.
If the Learner got an answer wrong, the Teacher had to give Him an electric shock.
If the Learner continued to give wrong answers, the shocks would steadily increase.
The Teacher had been placed alone in a room with a microphone and a set of electrical controls.
The Learner went alone in another room, where the Teacher could hear but not see the Learner.
The Experimenter began with a nod-
First recall query-
"Wrong – 150 volts."
Carrying out the task the Teacher had been asked to do,
despite the screams coming from the next room.
The Teacher continued to ask questions,
administering electric shocks when the Learner failed to answer correctly.
"Wrong – 195 volts."
The Teacher drifts in thought...
"You are sitting in that chair
with this stuff going on and
that pressure that you were under,
it's very hard to think clearly.
I've never had anything before
or since that
was like that.
Where you were literally out of your mind."
Back to the Teacher's desk...
"Wrong – 350 volts."
The Teacher sees the bell will ring soon...
"I just said to myself, I'm just gonna play this out...
pretty soon we'll be out of here.
I'm finishing this thing.
I don't care what happens.
Once you make the decision, you've made your decision.
I want to go home.
I want to get out of here,
go and...
get a beer
somewhere and...
go home.
You know?"
Back to the Teacher's administrative duties...
"Wrong – 450 volts."
The Experimenter asked the Teacher if He had thought He killed the Learner,
The Teacher replied,
"Yeah. When He stopped responding."

psychologist Stanley Milgram had asked colleagues,
"How many Teachers would go all the way and administer a lethal 450-volt shock?"
Most said less than 1 per cent –
and those would probably be psychopaths.
Yet this Teacher, like 65% of all the Teachers who worked with the Experimenter,
administered a lethal electric shock
when told to do so.

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