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PostPosted: 06 Jan 2009, 13:17 
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Still today, most will torture if ordered: study

Reuters via World Science

Some things nev­er change. Sci­en­tists say they have rep­li­cat­ed an ex­pe­ri­ment in which peo­ple would obe­di­ently give pain­ful shocks to oth­ers if promp­ted to do so by au­thor­ity fig­ures.

Sev­en­ty per­cent of vol­un­teers con­tin­ued to ad­min­is­ter elec­tri­cal shocks—or at least they be­lieved they were do­ing so—e­ven af­ter an ac­tor claimed they were pain­ful, Jer­ry Burg­er of San­ta Clara Uni­ver­s­ity in Cal­i­for­nia found.

“What we found is val­ida­t­ion of the same ar­gu­ment—if you put peo­ple in­to cer­tain situa­t­ions, they will act in sur­pris­ing, and may­be of­ten even dis­turb­ing, ways,” Burg­er said in a tel­e­phone in­ter­view. “This re­search is still rel­e­van­t.”

Burg­er was repli­cat­ing an ex­pe­ri­ment pub­lished in 1961 by Yale Uni­ver­s­ity pro­fes­sor Stan­ley Mil­gram, in which vol­un­teers were asked to de­liv­er elec­tric “shocks” to oth­er peo­ple if they an­swered cer­tain ques­tions in­cor­rect­ly.

Mil­gram found that, af­ter hear­ing an ac­tor cry out in pain at 150 volts, 82.5 per­cent of par­ti­ci­pants con­tin­ued ad­min­is­tering shocks, most to the max­i­mum 450 volts. The ex­pe­ri­ment sur­prised psy­chol­o­gists and no one has tried to rep­li­cate it be­cause of the dis­tress suf­fered by ma­ny of the vol­un­teers who be­lieved they were shock­ing anoth­er per­son.

“When you hear the man scream and say, ‘let me out, I can’t stand it,’ that is the point when the real stress that peo­ple crit­i­cized Mil­gram for kicked in,” Burg­er said.

“It was a very, very, very stress­ful ex­perience for ma­ny of the par­ti­ci­pants. That is the rea­son no one can eth­ic­ally rep­li­cate the ex­pe­ri­ment to­day.”

Burg­er mod­i­fied the ex­pe­ri­ment, by stop­ping at the 150 volt point for the 29 men and 41 wom­en in his ex­pe­ri­ment. He meas­ured how ma­ny of his vol­un­teers be­gan to de­liv­er anoth­er shock when prompted by the ex­pe­ri­men­t’s lead­er—but in­stead of let­ting them do so, stopped them.

In Mil­gram’s orig­i­nal ex­pe­ri­ment, 150 volts seemed to be the turn­ing point.

In Burg­er’s mod­i­fied ex­pe­ri­ment, 70 per­cent of the vol­un­teers were will­ing to give shocks great­er than 150 volts.

At one point, re­search­ers brought in a vol­un­teer who knew what was go­ing on and re­fused to ad­min­is­ter shocks be­yond 150 volts. De­spite the ex­am­ple, 63 per­cent of the par­ti­ci­pants con­tin­ued ad­min­is­tering shocks past 150 volts.

“That was sur­pris­ing and dis­ap­point­ing,” Burg­er said.

Burg­er found no dif­fer­ences among his vol­un­teers, aged 20 to 81, and care­fully screened them to be av­er­age rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the U.S. pub­lic.

Burg­er said the ex­pe­ri­ment, pub­lished in the journal Amer­i­can Psy­chol­o­gist, can only partly ex­plain the widely re­ported pris­on­er abuse at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib pris­on in Iraq or events dur­ing World War Two.

“Although one must be cau­tious when mak­ing the leap from lab­o­r­a­to­ry stud­ies to com­plex so­cial be­hav­iors such as gen­o­cide, un­der­stand­ing the so­cial psy­cho­log­i­cal fac­tors that con­trib­ute to peo­ple act­ing in un­ex­pected and un­set­tling ways is im­por­tan­t,” he wrote.

“It is not that there is some­thing wrong with the peo­ple,” Burg­er said. “The idea has been some­how there was this char­ac­ter­is­tic that peo­ple had back in the early 1960s that they were some­how more prone to obe­di­ence.”

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PostPosted: 06 Jan 2009, 13:22 
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Why in the world would anyone think that these findings would be different than those from the 1960's experiments?
Did somebody actually think that our culture had become less authoritarian in the last 50 years?


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PostPosted: 06 Jan 2009, 13:28 
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Taliesin wrote:
Why in the world would anyone think that these findings would be different than those from the 1960's experiments?
Did somebody actually think that our culture had become less authoritarian in the last 50 years?


Well ... The 1960's and 70's -have- been described as being 'counter-cultural revolutions' ...

Though, given what I'm seeing in colleges, I wonder if it has less to do with authoritarian aspects and more with anti-social sorts of personalities (okay, that's not exactly what I mean, but it's as close as I can get ATM)... :dontknow:

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PostPosted: 06 Jan 2009, 14:10 
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Quite a number of good things happened vis-a-vis cultural norms (especially when it comes to religions),
but the herd mentality imbued by our paternalistic leaders still rules supreme.

One thing that HAS substantially changed is the way humans treat other animals (at least in the US and UK).
50 years ago, it was very uncommon to spend money to treat a sick animal.
Either they got better on their own, or they died and you bought a new one.
Now, we have pet medical insurance.


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PostPosted: 06 Jan 2009, 14:29 
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True, but for some people, rather than having children, they have pets they call 'their kids'. Rather than socializing with (or just socializing their own children), they'd rather avoid the social interaction and invest in their animals.

I'm all for taking care of animals (as demonstrated by how we've dealt with our dogs over the last decade), but to do so at the expense of human contact or human well-being? :dontknow:

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PostPosted: 06 Jan 2009, 15:02 
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Hex wrote:
True, but for some people, rather than having children, they have pets they call 'their kids'. Rather than socializing with (or just socializing their own children), they'd rather avoid the social interaction and invest in their animals.

I'm all for taking care of animals (as demonstrated by how we've dealt with our dogs over the last decade), but to do so at the expense of human contact or human well-being? :dontknow:


Hmmmm... good point there.

My lady-wife and I are empty-nesters, and we call our animal companions 'our kids'.
But, we have a lot of human contact as well.

The little old lady with 17 cats syndrome is a cautionary tale.
I reminded her of this when I bought a new dog for her Yule present.
She wanted a new outdoor dog to guard the yard while I am out of town since our two previous canines went Tango Uniform during the summer.
So, now we have (or are staff to) three dogs, two cats and one cockatiel.
Some days it is like a Hanna Barbera cartoon around the house.


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PostPosted: 06 Jan 2009, 15:08 
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Hex may be rememebring my dad who puts his dog higher in his attention than any single member of his family whatsoever, so far as to interrupt conversations to talk to the dog.

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