Analysis of the Ethics of Milgram’s and Burger’s Obedience Studies in Light of Their Experimental Results.
Stanley Milgram’s (1963) study of behavioral obedience sought to understand the nature that drives humans to submit to destructive obedience. In his study, Milgram deceived his subject volunteers into believing that the experiment they were submitting themselves to involved learning about the effects of punishment on learning. Under this pretext, a subject “teacher” was to administer electric shocks to a confederate “learner” for every wrong answer in a word-pairing exercise. The subject was to administer shocks in increments, even when the learner protested. The experimenter’s role was to pressure the subjects to continue when they wanted to stop (Milgram, 1963). In doing so, Milgram sought to gauge what it is that influences his subjects
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In this sense, Burger had fully rewarded his participant’s collaboration and permitted them to execute their full self-determination during the experiment, without unnecessary ambiguity. However, an argument could be made that the incomplete, ambiguous disclosure given to the subjects about their right for disobedience was necessary for them to come up with the idea of disobeying on their own. Regardless, adequate information should have been disclosed to the subjects to allow them to deliberate whether they were willing to subject to stress. Similarly, Milgram should have evaluated whether the apparent minimal risk of stress his subjects would be put under would be worth to obtain experimental results that he never made clear how society would benefit from. This would undoubtedly assure that the subjects remain in good health and are treated as autonomous beings, as the guidelines require.
6. One of the guidelines outlined in the Belmont Report and clearly violated in Milgram’s study was an adaptation of the fundamental Hippocratic principle “do not harm” (Section B, 2). With regards to the experiment, the report demands that all participants be treated in an ethical manner that protects them from any harm. In his study, Milgram’s subjects were not only exposed to levels of stress during the study,