Experiment Still (Literally) Shocking 50 Years Later

Re-creation of famous Milgram trial shows subjects will still shock people when told
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2017 8:46 PM CDT

(Newser) – The Milgram experiment was a famous '60s study in which researchers tested subjects' obedience to authority by ostensibly having them administer electric shocks to unseen partners at the researchers' encouragement—a way to see why atrocities were carried out by Germans "just following orders" during the Holocaust. When people today hear about the experiment, they usually reject the idea that they'd be susceptible to carrying out cruel acts simply because they were told to, saying, "I would never behave in such a manner," Tomasz Grzyb tells the Independent. But Grzyb, co-author of a recent study in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal, says the new experiment re-created the Milgram project, in Poland this time, and that nothing much has changed over the past 50 years: The obedience level was still high for modern-day subjects asked to carry out similarly shocking actions.

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For the recent trial, which couldn't exactly duplicate the original due to ethical concerns, 40 men and 40 women between the ages of 18 and 69 were placed before 10 buttons with increasing shock levels—and 90% of the subjects went all the way up to the highest level when asked, a press release notes. If participants believed a woman was receiving the shocks, they were less willing to go all the way, but the researchers say the sample size was too small to draw real conclusions from that. The scientists chose Poland as their locale because Milgram-style tests had never been carried out in Central Europe, where the authors found the question of rigid obedience to authority to be "exceptionally interesting," they write. More than 50 years later, "a striking majority of subjects are still willing to electrocute a helpless individual," Grzyb says in the release. (A wristband designed to shock people into shape.)

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