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Until 1961 when it was proved otherwise, people and theories used to suggest that oonly disturbed people could easily kill. This experiment will test the ability of people to obey orders and harm others without even knowing them or their mistakes. Therefore, from this experiment we will easily conclude that it is easy for a person to harm another and that unlike earlier beliefs, individual characteristics are less important.
In earlier surveys, it was thought that only a handful of the population, about 1-3%, were capable of harming others. In an example of a war trial with Adolph Eichmann, he claimed that he was only following orders. The experiment was to test whether people can harm others just by obeying orders and whether the “good” people are able to harm others. The aim of the experiment is to test whether a person will shock another simply by being told to do so.
There were 50 participants who were recruited by a recruiting agency.
Participants were tricked by use of an electric shock and that they were giving electric shock to the other person on another room.
The shock generator had different voltages from 20 volts up to 500 volts and the harm each can cause.
The participant (acting as a student) in the other room knew about it and was told to act to the different shocks s/he “received”. The other participants’ role was like that of a teacher delivering shocks to the student. The teachers were made to believe that they were delivering real shock to the student. The student could pretend crying out loudly to test and see whether the teacher will continue administering shocks. At less than 200 volts, the student could scream but at more than 250 volts the learner could bang the wall while at 400 volts s/he could become silent. The teacher was told to deliver more shock to the silent student. If the teacher asked to stop, they were further instructed to continue instead, at 400-volts when the student was silent.
Out of the 50 participants, 65% (32) delivered maximum shocks at 500 volts and the rest 35% (16) disobeyed the experimenter before reaching maximum shocks.
A high percentage of the participants became very agitated and angry at the experimenter. Some teachers followed orders although they felt uncomfortable to continue. This experiment shows that people are likely to harm others if they are just ordered to do so. This is a different result from what was previously thought on harming others.