Monday, 9 March 2009

P is for...Psychology

I dabbled in Psychology a few years back, nothing serious, just an A level at evening class but it really was an exciting subject and some of the experiments quite eye opening and uncomfortable reading.
The two most famous would probably be the Milgram experiment and the Stanford Prison experiments, both which showed us humans in a bad light and could explain a lot of the happenings in Iraq.
The Milgram Experiment was devised directly from the Nazi war trials when the famous defence 'I was only following orders' was scrutinised.
The experiment was to find out how much pain a person would inflict on another person, even if fatal, if they were ordered to do so by an authority figure.
The person was told by the authority figure to give increasing electric shocks to a victim every time they got a question wrong. The victim was in another room and not actually attached to anything but screamed in fake pain with every electric jolt.
Some test subjects paused at 135 volts and began to question the purpose of the experiment. Most continued after being assured that they would not be held responsible.
An incredible 65% (26 of 40) of participants administered the experiment's final 450-volt shock, even though the victim had stopped screaming and banging on the wall and pleading for them to stop and had fallen silent.
The other experiment that makes you pause for thought is the Stanford Prison experiment where two groups of young men were separated into guards and prisoners. The experiment grew out of hand with prisoners suffering sadistic, cruel and humiliating treatment from the guards and it was forced to a stop after only 6 days.
Human nature is a strange thing as these experiments show. Conclusions i reached are that a good number of us will do as we are told by an authority figure and that authority figures can be very keen to dish out the abuse to there perceived subordinates. Whether this is the conclusion everyone would reach i don't know, but
its not a pleasant thought.

3 comments:

Noah "Nog" said...

Come to one of my college's Student Council meetings. You'll turn into a monster in no time.

Paul said...

You could take the Milgram experiment one step further and mix it with the Simpsons episode where you can dish out electric shocksanyone you don't agree with. Bring it up at the next SC meeting.

Stephen K said...

As a former Psych major I am familiar with these experiments. And yes, they are very disturbing.