Obedience, Authority and Moral Conflict

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Submitted By tcolley65
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Obedience, Authority and Moral Conflict
Thomas E. Colley
ENGL 213, P11: Writing in the Social and Natural Sciences
Dr. Joan O’Leary
January 28, 2010

Obedience, Authority and Moral Conflict In the 1963 report, “The Perils of Obedience,” psychologist Stanley Milgram detailed the results of experiments on the obedient response of individuals to the commands of an authority figure while experiencing moral conflict. Milgram conducted his experiments with diverse subjects in many countries. The trials consisted of three participants: the learner, the teacher and the experimenter. Witnessed by the teacher, the experimenter strapped the learner to an apparatus that appeared to be “a miniature electric chair.” The teacher tested the learner on his ability to remember the second word of a pair when prompted by reading the first word. Seated in front of an instrument panel in a separate room, the teacher administered an electric shock of increasing intensity to the learner for any memory errors. Milgram provided a detailed description that left little doubt that the shock and intensity administered was the result of the teacher’s manipulation of this device. Unbeknownst to the teacher, the learner was part of the trial and responded to the shocks in an increasingly agonizing display. Milgram’s findings, which directly contradicted his predictions, demonstrated full compliance in 60-85% of the participants. Obedience in the face of moral conflict was directly related to the subjects’ ownership of responsibility. Once the teacher perceived that the experimenter assumed responsibility, the teacher’s continued compliance and participation was assured, even while displaying verbal and physical disagreement. Variations to the experiment, that shifted responsibility from the experimenter to the teacher, resulted in significantly less compliance.…...

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