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Critically evaluate whether Milgrams research on obedience was ethical

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Introduction

Natalie Barker A.C 1.1; 2.1 Access to HE Psychology; Methods and Ethics Assignment Critically evaluate whether Milgram's research on obedience was ethical In 1963 Stanley Milgram conducted psychological research on obedience to test the hypothesis of dispositional attribution about whether people obey persons in authority, regardless of the act being asked of them. Milgram recruited 40 males to participate in the study of memory and learning being conducted at Yale University. Ethics can be defined as a consideration of what is acceptable or right behaviour in the pursuit of a particular personal or scientific goal (Cardwell 2000). Ethics are also guidelines within psychological research which must be adhered to in order for the research to be valid and not breach the human rights of the participants. Milgram was criticised for breaching a number of ethics such as informed consent, deception, distress and withdrawal throughout the research. It is these in particular which will be explored further throughout the essay. After this research was undertaken a number of leading Psychologists and experts in the field expressed much criticism to how Milgram conducted the research, none more so however than Diane Baurmind. ...read more.

Middle

The experimenter did not force the participants to give the electric shocks although they were always encouraged to carry on with the experiment. However a small number of the participants did refuse to continue further with the experiment. While others went on to comply after prompting from the investigator to continue, the experimenter makes it very difficult for the teacher to halt the experiment using lines such as 'the experiment requires that you continue'. In this case, do the experimenters, who to the teacher pose in a position of authority, coerce them into continuing rather than force them? This can be answered by looking at the verbal prompts which can be seen as a means of persuasion. The teacher may have placed their trust in the person who holds the position of authority, and may also think they have a greater knowledge in the field. The participants did not have learning difficulties therefore no advantage had been taken. The participants would know the difference between wrong and right. This shows that although the participant questioned the experiment or stated that they did not want to continue further they were told by the experimenter to continue hence proving the theory on obedience. ...read more.

Conclusion

What would the effect be on the participants if they took part, and were sent home without any chance to talk through or evaluate their experience? (Cardwell 2003). This is a question that can not be answered but it can be said that Milgram, although his research came under scrutiny, would have not be allowed to do research of this kind again if he was not adhering to current ethical guidelines. In conclusion Milgrams research was criticised as unethical by psychology experts such as Baumrind, Orne and Holland. However it was ground breaking and has been replicated by many. The research was conducted in 1963, it may be argued that this experiment would not be allowed to go ahead in our society today. Potentially due to the number contraventions against ethics on this basis, it can be concluded as being unethical. Baumrinds criticism of the research was valid and with her wealth of experience in the field, her criticisms were well publicised. Although we do acknowledge that the research by today standards was on some levels unethical, the findings of the research were a fascinating insight into human psyche. These findings may have altered dramatically had ethics been stringently upheld. This was a breakthrough in psychological research and findings have helped to understand human behaviour ever since. ...read more.

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