Sunday, 4 November 2007

0n3 0f th3 mu3t 0ct/n0v 07 r3ad!ng c0mprehens!on t3xt

This is one of the text from the MUET reading comprehension exam of Oct/Nov 2007. I found this text is very interesting. I am here to share with you.......

The Milgram experiment refers to a series of scientific experiments carried out by Stanley Milgram and described in his 1974 book Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View.

In each of these experiments, an experimenter told the subject and an actor (pretending to be another subject) that they were going to participate in an experiment. The purpose of the experiment was to test the effectiveness of punishment on learning behaviour. The subject and the actor were each handed a slip of paper. Although both slips were marked "teacher", the actor claimed that his said "learner", so the subject believed that his role as "teacher" had been chosen randomly.

Both were then given a sample 45-volt electric shock from an apparatus attached to a chair. The actor was strapped into this chair. The "teacher" was taken to the next room and provided with a set of simple memory tasks to give to the "learner" and instructed to administer a shock by pressing a button each time the "learner" made a mistake.

The "teacher" was told that the voltage was to be raised by 15 volts after each mistake. He was not told that there were no actual shocks being given to the actor, who pretended to be in pain. At "150 volts", the actor requested that the experiment end, but was told by the experimenter that the experiment must go on. The experiment continued, and the actor pretended to be in even greater pain and expressed concern for his own safety as the shocks continued. If the "teacher" subject became reluctant, he was instructed that the experimenter would take all responsibility for the results of the experiment and the safety of the learner.

Milgram was motivated to do this research because the slaughter of so many Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and others designated by the Nazis as "inferior" during the Second World War had required the cooperation of "good people". The fact that millions of ordinary people did nothing to stop the deaths seemed bizarre, and Milgram wanted to see how ordinary, intelligent Americans might react to a similar situation.

Milgram was upset by what he found. Many "teachers" broke into a sweat and protested to the experimenter that this was inhuman and should be stopped. But when the experimenter, who sat by calmly, supposedly recording how the "learner" was performing, replied that the experiment must go on, this assurance from the "authority" ("scientist", white coat, university laboratory") was enough for most "teachers" to continue, even though the "learner" screamed in agony and pleaded to be released. Even some "teachers" who were "reduced to twitching, stuttering wrecks" continued to follow orders.

Milgram did eighteen of these experiments. He used both males and females and put some "teachers" and "learners" in the same room so that the "teacher: could clearly see the suffering. In some experiments, he had "learners" pound and kick on the wall during the first shocks and then go silent. The results varied from situation to situation. The highest proportion of "teachers" who pushed the lever all the way to 450 volts - 65 percent - occurred when there was no verbal feedback from the "learner". Even more surprisingly, 40% of those who could see the "learner" still turned the lever all the way.

Milgram's experiments raised a storm in the scientific community. Not only were social researchers surprised, and disturbed at the results, but they also were alarmed at Milgram's methods. Milgram's experiments resulted in a rethinking of research ethics. Professional associations of social researchers adopted or revised their codes of ethics, and universities began to require that subjects be informed of the nature and purpose of social research. Not only did researchers agree that to reduce subjects to "twitching, stuttering wrecks" was unethical, but almost all deception was banned.

More importantly, however, the results of the Milgram experiment leave us with the disturbing question: "How far would I go in following authority?"



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