sovay: (I Claudius)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote 2015-11-05 07:21 pm (UTC)

[I had to rewrite this comment from scratch after LJ ate it; if it seems a little abbreviated, that's why.]

That makes the movie seem a little more possible, but my abhorrence of psychological experiments is pretty huge.

That's fair. In case it was the particulars of the Milgram experiment, I thought I would make sure.

(While its conclusions continue to be unsettling, Milgram's obedience experiment bothers me less as a piece of research than the Stanford prison experiment conducted by Philip Zimbardo, partly because I find Milgram a more ethical researcher than Zimbardo, who participated in the same abusive power dynamics he had designed the experiment to study. Its results are irreproducible by any ethical standards, in great part because of Zimbardo's non-neutrality in running the simulated prison. There is a scene in Experimenter in which Milgram describes a few of the modifications he made to the original experiment, all designed to make it harder for the teacher to continue to obey—allowing the learner to bang on the wall in apparent desperation, requiring the teacher to hold the learner's hand to a copper plate—physical contact, not just impersonal button-pressing—in order to deliver the shock, even moving the experiment out of the prestigious orbit of Yale entirely. It doesn't seem to matter. People remain willing to crank up the voltage just because an authority figure in a lab coat instructs them to. Milgram is flabbergasted, depressed, and fascinated. It isn't what he thought would happen. He knows how to hack basic human social conditioning to create compliance with atrocity; he has no idea how to make it go the other way. To be fair, everyone after him is still trying to figure that one out.)

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