2.1.Milgram1974

2.1.Milgram1974 - mar-mimmwm-m...“ .. A. ___ _ , ,l ‘ _

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Unformatted text preview: mar-mimmwm-m...“ .. A. ___ _ , ,l ‘ _ .mw—Winmmmghymninfi ‘......_,, ...._.,. . ,5; a _<_ - .. Preface Obedience, because of its very ubiquitOusness, is easily over- looked as a subject of inquiry in social psychology. But without an appreciation of its role in shaping human action, a wide range """of' significantbehavior "cannot ' b’e"’unders'tood. For "an abstained out under command is, psychologically, of a profoundly different Charactfiwmm "' ' The person who, withinner conviction, loathes stealing, kill— ing, and assault may find himself performing these acts with relative ease when commanded by authority. Behavior that is unthinkable in an individual who is acting on his own may be executed without hesi ' ' t under orders. _ e dilemma inherent in obedience to authority is ancient, as old as the story of Abraham. What the present study does is to give the dilemma contemporary form by treating it as Subject matter for experimental inquiry, and with the aim of understand- ing rather than judging it from a moral standpoint. The important task, from the standpoint of a psychological study of obedience, is to be able to take conceptions of authority and translate them into personal experience. It is one thing to talk in abstract terms about the respective rights of the individual and of authority; it is quite another to examine a moral choice in a real situation. We all know about the philosophic problems of free- xi xii ] Preface ‘ dom and authority. But in every case where the problem is not mere y aca emic there is a real person who must obey or disobey authority, a concrete instance when the act of defiance occurs. All musing prior to this moment is mere speculation, and all acts of disobedience are characterized by such a moment of decisive action. The e eriments are built around this notion, experimenter tells a subject to act with increasing severity against another person, under what conditions will the subject comply, and under what conditions will he disobey? The laboratory prob- lem is vivid, intense, and real. It is not something apart from life, but carries to an extreme and very logical conclusion certain trends inherent in the ordinary functioning of the social world. The question arises as to whether there is any connection between what we have studied in the laboratory and the forms of obedience we so deplored in the Nazi epoch. The diflerences in the two situations are, of course, enormous, yet the difference in """"'scale, numbers ,"and' political context may turn outto berelatively r unimportant as long as certain essential features are retained. The esse ' 15 s m c act t at a person comes to View himself as the instrument for carrying out another person’s wishes, and he therefore no 1011 er re ards himself as res onsibl for his action ' nce this critical shift of viewpoint has occurred in the person, all of the essential features of obedience follow. The adjustment of thought, the freedom to engage in cruel behav— ior, and the types of justification experienced by the person are essentially similar whether they occur in a psychological labora- tory or the control room of an ICBM site. The question of generality, therefore, is not resolved by enumerating all the manifest differences between the psychological laboratory and other situations but by carefully constructing a situation that captures the essence of obedience—that is, a situation in which a persou gives himself over to authority and no longer views him- self as the effioient cause of his own actions. To the degree that an attitude of willingness and the absence of compulsion is present, obedience is colored by a cooperative en we move to the la bra ory, : an Preface E xiii mood; to the degree that the threat of force or punishment against the person is intimated, obedience is compelled by fear. Our studies deal only with obedience that is willingly assumed in the absence of threat of an sort obedi - ‘ ' ' throu h the sim le assertion b a the -‘ ' ' ' _exercise control over the person. Whatever force authority exer- Won powers that the Subject in some manner ascribes to it and not on any objective threat or availabil- ity of physical means of controlling the subject. The major problem for the Subject is to recapture control of his own regnant processes once he has committed them to the purposes of the experimenter. The difficulties this entails repre- sents the poignant and in some degree tragic element in the situation under study, for nothing is bleaker than the sight of a person striving yet not fully able to control his own behavior in a situation of consequence to him. CHAPTER 1 The Dilemma ofObedience Obedience is as basic an element in the structure of social life as one can point to. Some system of authority is a requirement of all communal living, and it is only the man dwelling in isolation who 'is motioned to respond, through defiance or submission, to ' the commands of others. Obedience, as a determinant of behav- ior, is of particular relevance to our time. It has been reliably established that from 1933 to 1945 millions of innocent people were systematically slaughtered on command. Gas chambers were built, death camps were guarded, daily quotas of corpses were produced with the same efficiency as the manufacture of appliances. These inhumane policies may have originated in the .mind of a single person, but they could only have been carried out on a' massive scale if a very large number of people obeyed orders. , Obedience is the psychological mechanism that links indi- vidual action to political purpose. It is the'dispositional cement that Wm systems of authority. Facts of recent history and observation in daily life suggest that for many people obedi— ence may be a deeply ingrained behavior tendency, indeed, a prepotent impulse overriding training in ethics, sympathy, and moral. conduct. C. P. Snow (1961) points to its importance when he writes: 2 ] Obedience to Authority When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of 'obed1- ence than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion. If you doubt that, read William Shirer’s ‘Bise and Fall of the Third Beich.’ The German Officer Corps were brought up in the most rigorous code of obedience . . . in the name of obedience they were party to, and assisted in, the most wicked large scale actions in the history of the ‘ world. (p. 24) The Nazi extermination of European Jews is the most extreme- instance of abhorrent immoral acts carried out by thousands of people in the name of obedience. Yet in lesser degree this type of thing is constantly recurring: ordinary citizens are ordered to destroy other people, and they do so because they consider it ' their duty to obey orders. Thus, obedience to authority, long praiSed as a virtue, takes on a new aspect when it serves a malevolent cause; far from appearing as a virtue, it is transformed into a heinous sin. Or is it? The.moralquestionaofwhether one.shouldebeywhencom- W . 'i w . . mands conflict with conscience was argued by Plato, dramatized 'in Antigone, and treated to philosophic analysis in every histori— cal epoch. Conservative philosophers argue that the very fabnc of society is threatened by disobedience, and even when the act prescribed by an authority is an evil one, it is better to carry out the act than to wrench at the structure of authority. Hobbes stated further that an act so executed is in no sense the responsi— bility of the person who carries it out but only of the authority that orders it. But humanists argue for the primacy of individual conscience in such matters, insisting that the moral judgments of the individual must override authority when the two are in conflict.‘ The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enor- mous import, but an empirically grounded scientist eventually comes to the point where he wishes to move from abstract discourse to the careful observation of concrete instances. In order to take a close look at the act of obeying, I set up a simple 'l'he Dilemma of Obedience [ experiment at Yale University. Eventually, the experiment was t involve more than a thousand artici ants and would be repeater . We but at the beginning, the canception wa simple. A person comes to a psychological laboratory and is tolt to carry out a series of acts that come increasingly into conflic with conscience. The main question is how far the participan- will comply with the experimenter’s instructions before refusing to carry out the actions required of him. But the reader needs to know a little more detail about the experiment. Two people come to a psychology laboratory to take part in a study of memory and learning. One of them is desig. nated as a “teacher” and the other a “learner.” Theexperimente] explains that the study is concerned with the eife'hts ofk punish- ment on learning; The learner is conducted into a room, seated in a chair, his arms strapped to prevent excessiVe movement, and an electrode attached to his wrist. He is told-that he is to learn a list of word pairs; whenever he makes an error, he will receive elec- tricshocks ofincreasingintensity. " ' " The real focus of the experiment is the teacher. After watch- ing the learner being strapped into place, he is taken into the main experimental room and seated before an impressive shock generator. Its main feature is a horizontal line of thirty switches, ranging from 15 volts to 450 volts, in 15-volt increments. There - are also verbal designations which range from SLIGHT SHOCK to DANGER—SEVERE SHOCK. The teacher is told that he is to adminis— ter the learning test to the man in the other room. When the learner responds correctly, the teacher moves on to the next item; when the other man gives an incorrect answer, the teacher is to give him an electric shock. He is to start at the lowest shock level (15 volts) and to increase the level each time the man makes an error, going through 80 volts, 45 volts, and so on. The “teacher” is a genuinely na'l've subject who has come to the laboratory to participate in an experiment. The learner, or victim, is an actor who actually receives no shock at all. The point of the experiment is to see how far a person will proceed in a d. -:.l 4 ] Obedience to Authority concrete and measurable situation in which he is ordered to inflict increasing pain on a protesting victim. At what pomt Wlll the subject refuse to obey the experiinepter? . I Conflict arises when the man receiving the shock begms to indicate that he is experiencing discomfort. At 75 volts, the “learner” grunts. At 12.0 volts he complains verbally; at 150 he demands to be released from the experiment. His protests conu tinue as the shocks escalate, growing increasingly vehement and emotional. At 285 volts his response can only be described as an agonized scream. mm experiment agree that its gripping quality is somewhat obscured in print. For the subject, the situation is not a game; conflict is intense and obvious. On one hand, the manifest suffering of the learner presses him to quit. On the other, thle experimenter, a legitimate authority to whom the subject fee s some commitment, enjoins him to continue. Each time the subject hesitates to administer shock, the experimenter orders him to """"ccfitiriaé'.' Te" "esn-'i"c"ate""himse1f"' frOm" the "situation, the "subject" must make a clear break with authorityWi- gation was to find when and how people would defy authorlty in th ' ' ive ' There are, of course, enormous differences between carrying out the orders of a commanding officer during times of war and carrying out the orders of an experimenter. Yet the essence of certain relationships remain, for one may ask in a general way. How does a man behave when he is told by a legitimate authority to act against a third individual? If anything, we may expecft tie experimenter’s power to be considerably less than that o t 3 general, since he has no power to enforce hls imperatives, a: participatiOn in a psychological experiment scarcely evokes t _e sense of urgency and dedication engendered by participation in war. Despite these limitations, I thought it worthwhile to start careful observation of obedience even in this modest Situation, in the hope that it w0uld stimulate insights and yield general propo— sitions applicable to a variety of cirCumstances. ' A reader’s initial reaction to the experiment may be to wonder The Dilemma of Obedience [ 5 why anyone in his right mind would administer even the first shocks. WOuld he not simply refuse and walk out of the labora— tory? But the fact is that_no one ever does. Since the subject has comefimfimn he is quite willing to start off with the procedure. There is nothing very extraordi- nary in this, particularly since the person who is to receive the shocks seems initially cooperative, if somewhat apprehensive. What is surprising is how far ordinary individuals will go in complying with the experimenter’s instructions. Indeed, the re- sults of the experiment are both surprising and dismaying. De- spite the fact that many subjects experience stress, despite the fact that m the ex erimenter, a substantial ro or- tion continue to the last shock on the enerator. matter how vehement the pleading of the person being shocked; no matter how painful the shocks seem to be, and no matter how much the victim pleads to be let out. This was seen time and againin our ""‘stu’dies'and 'ha's”'beefi"observed"in several universities w ere e m to go to almost any lengths on the comm constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation. A commonly offered explanation is that those who shocked the victim at the most severe level were monsters, the sadistic fringe of society. But if one considers that almost two-thirds of the participants fall into the category of “obedient” subjects, and that they represented ordinary people drawn from working, mana- gerial, and professional classes, the argument becomes very shaky. Indeed, it is h' ' ' ' 'n connection with Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book, Eichmann in Jem- salem. Arendt COntended that the rosecutions e ' Eic mann as a sa istic monster was fundamentally wrong, that 9 came closer to bein n unins ired bureaucrat who sim I sat at his desk and did his job. For asserting these views, Arendt ecame the object of considerable scorn, even calumny. Some— how, it was felt that the monstrous deeds carried out by Rich— incarnate. After witnessing hundreds of ordinar e'o le submit ' to the authority in our wn ex errments I must conclud t 6 ] Obedience to Authority mann required a brutal, twisted, and sadistic personality, evil e duality of evil comes clo e ordinary person who truth an one mi ht dare ima me. \ _ shocEed me victim did so cut of a sense of obligation—a concep— r ‘ Ll " . . . - ' "vi/v“ tion of his duties as a subject—and WW); / ../‘ aggressive tendencies. _ This is, perhaps, the most fundamental lesson of our study: Wfl"_‘—fl -"‘--'\' xhfldlk; .._._._... v ordinary pegwle sun 1 dom their jobs,‘and" wlfhoutany par— ticular hostility on their part, can ecome a _ e destructive process. oreover, even w en e es me i ects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist author— ity. A variety of inhibitions against disobeying authority come m intolplay and successfully-keep the person in his place. Sitting back in'one’s "armchair, it is" easy 'to‘ Condemn‘ the actions of the obedient subjects. But those who condemn the subjects meaSure them against the standard of their own ability to formulate high-minded moral prescriptions. That is hardly a fair standard. Many of the subjects, at the level of stated opinion, feel quite as strongly as any of us about the moral requirement of refraining from action against a helpless victim. They, too, in general terms know what Ought to be done and can state their values when the occasion arises. This has little, if anything, to do with their actual behavior under the pressure of circumstances. " " If people are asked to render a moral judgment on what constitutes ' ' ' ' ' tion the unfailin 1y see disobedience as re er. But values are net the only forces at work in an actual, ongoing situation. They are but one narrow band of causes in the total spectrum of forces impinging on a person. Many people were unable to realize their values in action and found themselves continuing in the experiment even though they disagreed with what they were doing. The force exerted by the moral sense of the individual is less "\ The Dilemma of Obedience { '7 effective than social myth would have us believe. Though such prescriptions as “Thou shalt not kill” occupy a pro-eminent place in the moral order, they do not occupy a correspondingly intrac- table position in human psychic structure. A few changes in newspaper headlines, a call from the draft board, orders from a man with epaulets, and men are led to kill with little difficulty. Even-the forces mustered in a psychology experiment will go a long way toward removrng the individual from moral controls. ' I Moral factors can be shunted aside with relative ease by a calcu— at, then, keeps the person obeying the experimenter? First there is a set of “binding factors” that lock the subject into the: situation. They include such factors as politeness on his part, his desire to uphold his initial promise of aid to the experimenter, and the awkwardness of withdrawal. Second, a number of adjust- ments in the subject’s thinking occur that undermine his resolve to break with the authority. The adjustments help the-subject maintain his relationship with the" experimenter, while?" atthe same time reducing the strain brought about by the experimental conflict. They are t ical of thinkin that comes about in obedi- ent persons when they are instructed By authority to act against helpless individuals. One such mechanism is the tendency of the individual to )ecome so absorbed in the narrow technical as ects of the that he loses si ht of its broader consequences. The film Dr. rangelooe brilliantly satirized t e a sorption o a om er crew in the exacting technical procedure of dropping nuclear weapons on a c0untry. Similarly, in this experiment, subjects become immersed in the procedures, reading the word pairs with ex- . quisite articulation and pressing the switches with great care. They want to put on a competent performance, but they show an accompanying narrowing of moral concern. The subject entrusts the broader tasks of setting goals and assessing morality to the experimental authority he is serving. The most common adjustment of thought in the obedient subject IS for him to see himself as not responsible for his own t. " man 8 ] Obedience to Authority actions. fie divests himself of responsibility by attributing all initi ' l itimate authorit . He sees himself not as a erson actin in a morall accountable way but as the agent of external authority. In the postexperirnenta 1n — view, when subjects were asked why they had gone on, a typical reply was: “ _ ’ ve done it b myself. I was just doin what I was told.” Unable to defy the aut ority o t e'experi- menter, they attribute all responsibility to him. It is the old story of “just doing one’s du ” heard time and time a ain e e ense statements of those accused at Nuremberg. But it wou 6 wrong to think of it as a thin alibi concocted for the occaslon. at er, 1t is a fundamental mode of thinkin for a rent into a so or inate osition in a structure of au orit . The disa earance of a ens '- 11y 18 e most farureaching conse uence of s ' ' to Although a person acting under authority performs actions that raviolatestandards of conscience,"'it wouldnot "be true ' to say that he loses his moral sense. Instead, it acquires a radi- cally diEerent focusWa—mmmmtfl WW1 'that the authority has of him. In wartime, a soldier does not ask whether it is good or bad to bomb a hamlet; he does not experi- ence shame or guilt in the destruction of a village: rather he feels pride or shame depending on how well he has performed the mission assigned to him. 7 Another psychological force at work in this situation may be termed “collateranthrgpgmorphism.” For decades psychologists have discussed the primitive tendency among men to attribute to inanimate objects and forces the qualities of the human species. A . COuntervailing tendency, however, is that of attributing an imper— sonal quality to forces that are essentially human in origin and maintenance. Some people treat systems of human origin as if they existed above and beyond any human agent, beyond the control of whim or human feeling. The human element behind / -- . I -—~ ___.—-h . 34W 3 2: agencies and ihstifdfidrfi‘derfemwfl' comma . e oes not as the seemingly obvious question, Weriment? Why should the designer be served while the Victim suffers?” The wishes of a man—the designer of the experiment—have become part of a schema which exerts on the subject 5 mind a force that transcends the personal. “It’s got to go on. Its got to go on,” repeated one subject. He failed to realize that a man like himself wanted it to go on. For him the human agent had faded from the picture, @de acguired an impersonal momentum of its own. Noaction of itself has an unchangeable psychological quality. Its meaning can be altered by placing it in particular contexts. An American newspaper recently quoted a pilot who conceded that Americans were bombing Vietnamese men, women, and children but-felt that the bombing was for a “noble cause” and thus was "justified." Similarly; insist "'s"fiBjéét§"”ifi""t}ié""éitpériinént' behavior in a larger context that is benevolent and useful to society—the pursuit of scientific truth. The ps cholol icalS labo- ratory has a strong claim to legitimacy and evokes trust and confidence in those w 0 come to erfo ' ch as shockm a victim which in isolation a ears evil, acquires a totally diiferent meaning when placed in this setting. But allow- ‘ mg an act to be dominated b its context, while neglectin its uman conseouences, can be danger0us in the extreme. At least one essential feature of the situation in Germany was not studied here—namely, the intense devaluation of the victim prior to action against him. For a decade and more, vehement anti-Jewish propaganda systematically prepared the German population to accept the destruction of the Jews. Step by step the Jews were excluded from the category of citizen and national and finally were denied the status of human beings. Systematid de- valuation of the victim provides a measure of psychological justification for brutal treatment of the victim and has been the constant accompaniment of massacres, pogroms, and wars. In all 10 ] Obedience to Authority The Dilemma of Obedience [ 11 likelihood, our subjects would have experienced greater ease in perform a subsidiary act (administering the word-pair test) be- shocking the victim had he been convincingly portrayed as a I fore another subject actually delivered the shock. In this situation, ‘ brutal criminal orapervert. 1 37 of 40 adults from the New Haven area continued to the , ,— Of considerable interest however is the fact that many sub— highest shock level on the generator. Predictably, subjects ex— l . . . . . jects harshl d ' a conse uence o act1ng‘i cused their behavror by saying that the responsrbihty belonged to . against him. Such comments 515, “He was so stu id and stubb'o the man who actually pulled the switch. This may illustrate a e eserved to et 3 oc e ,’ were common. Once havin a against the victim, these subjects fOund it necessary to view him dangerously typical situation in complex so'ciety: it is s cholo i— C . . . . . . ._ ate link in a chain of evil action b t ' r e fina (D so a: r+ O “E O I-r (D r-l ED CI} 0 Rd E? E“ r’--_‘ n- E D" (D 3:! 0 :1 CD 5 O E. ti '1 8 CE’ as an unworthy individual, whose unishment was made in vi- any of the people studied in the experiment were in some sense against what they did to the learner, and many protested even while they obeyed. But between thoughts, words, and the critical step of disobeying a malevolent authority lies another 1 ingredient, the capacity for transforming beliefs and values into 1 action. Some subjects were totally convinced of the wrongness of what they were doing but could not bring themselves to make an ' :"'0Pen”bl'eal<"With" authority:"(Some'"derived'satisfaction"from'their" " thoughts and felt that—within themselves, at leastw-they had been on the side of the angels. What they failed to realize is that subjective feelings are largely irrelevant to the moral issue at hand so long as they are not transformed into action. Political control is effected through action. The attitudes of the guards at a concentration camp are of no consequence when in fact they are allowing the slaughter of innocent men to take place before them. Similarly, so-called “intellectual resistance” in occupied Europe— in which persons by a twist of thought felt that they had defied the invader—was merely indulgence in a consoling psychological mechanism. Tyrannies are perpetuated by diffident men who do not possess the courage to act Out their‘beliefs. Time and again in e e eriment eople isva ue w at ey ‘ uld‘ ,7 ' rces to trans ate eir values into A variation of the basic experiment depicts a dilemma more common than the one outlined above: the subject was not ordered to push the trigger that shocked the victim, but merely to The person’who’ass " Consequences of the action. Even Eichmann was sickened when Em camps, but to participate in mass murder he had only to sit at a desk and shufiie papers. At the same time the man in the camp who actually dropped Cyclon—B into the gas chambers was able to justify his behavior on the grounds that he was only following orders from above. Thus there is a fragmentation of the total human act; no one man decides to carry Out the evil act and is confronted with its consequences. as *full're's" 'o'nsibilit" "for __ Perha 5 this is the most common characteristic of 30cm or anized evil in modern so ' The problem of obedience, therefore, is not wholly psycho- logical. The form and shape of society and the way it is develop- ing have much to do with it. There was a time, perhaps, when men were able to give a fully human response to any situation because they were fully absorbed in it as human beings. But as soon as there was a division of labor among men, things changed. Beyond a certain point, the breaking up of society into people carrying out narrow and very special jobs takes away from the human quality of work and life. A person does not get to see the whole situation but onl a small m3 act wiEEOut some kind of over-all direction. He yields to authority but in doing so is alienated from his own actions. George Orwell caught the essence of the situation when he wrote: As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me. They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor 12 ] Obedience to Authorlty I against them. They are only “doing their duty,” as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life. On— the other hand, if one of them succeeds in blowing me to pieces with a well— placed bomb, he will never sleep any the worse for it. CHAPTER Method of Inquiry Simplicity is the key to effective scientific inquiry. This is especially true in the case of subject matter with a psychological content Perehslsgicalmattm by 1:5,,9aturfir itsediflicultrtoflget at, "and likely itohave many more sides to it than appear at first glance. Complicated procedures only get in the way of clear scru- tiny of the phenomenon itself. To study obedience. most‘simply, we must create a situation in which one person difdersihnother person to perform an observable action and we must note when obedience to the imperative occurs and when it fails to occur. If we are to measure the strength of obedience and the condi— tions by which it varies, we must force it against some powerful factor that works in the direction of disobedience, and whose human import is readily understood. Of all m l ' i Ies the one that comes closest to bein 'e 5 person w 0 IS neither harmful nor threatenin to oneself. 1' map e IS t e counter orce we shall set in o osition to W m coming to our laboratory will be ordered to act against another individual in increasingly severe fashiOn. Accord- ingly, the pressures for disobedience will build up. At a point not known beforehand, the subject may refuse to carry out this 13 ...
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2.1.Milgram1974 - mar-mimmwm-m...“ .. A. ___ _ , ,l ‘ _

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