People ‘still willing to torture’

By | December 20, 2008

Decades after a notorious experiment, scientists have found test subjects are still willing to inflict pain on others – if told to by an authority figure.

US researchers repeated the famous “Milgram test”, with volunteers told to deliver electrical shocks to another volunteer – played by an actor. Even after faked screams of pain, 70% were prepared to increase the voltage, the American Psychology study found. Both may help explain why apparently ordinary people can commit atrocities. Yale University professor Stanley Milgram’s work, published in 1963, recruited volunteers to help carry out a medical experiment, with none aware that they were actually the subject of the test. A “scientist” instructed them to deliver a shock every time the actor answered a question wrongly. When the pretend 150-volt shock was delivered, the actor could be heard screaming in pain, and yet, when asked to, more than eight out of ten volunteers were prepared to give further shocks, even when the “voltage” was gradually increased threefold. Some volunteers even carried on giving 450-volt shocks even when there was no further response from the actor, suggesting he was either unconscious or dead. – bbc

Contrary to common belief, this is true human nature: 65% of the people around you would kill you if they didn’t know you, just because some random “Scientist” said “the experiment requires that you continue.”

In Milgram’s first set of experiments, 65 percent (26 of 40)[1] of experiment participants administered the experiment’s final 450-volt shock, though many were very uncomfortable doing so; at some point, every participant paused and questioned the experiment, some said they would refund the money they were paid for participating in the experiment. Only one participant steadfastly refused to administer shocks before the 300-volt level.[1] wiki

The same experiment would not be permitted today due to ethical concerns, but a similar experiment shows we haven’t improved a bit. We are mostly blind followers. On the other side of the coin, if the circumstances are right, most of us would risk our lives to save another person. I think. I heard that. Can anyone confirm?

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