To Conform Or Not To Conform?

Imagine that you were asked to participate in an experiment designed to study memory. You volunteer and are taken to a room where an experimenter awaits. In a different room is another participant strapped to an electric shocker. You are instructed to quiz this participant and if the participant answers the question wrong you deliver a small shock to them. As the experiment goes on, the experimenter tells you to increase the voltage and the participant begins banging on the wall complaining of a heart condition. Do you continue for the sake of science, or do you defy the experimenter?

This is what participants of the Milgram experiment had to face in 1961. The experiments began in July 1961, three months after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Milgram devised his psychological study to answer the popular question at that particular time: “Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders?” The purpose of the study was to find the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts conflicting with their personal conscience. Remarkably, 65 percent of the participants agreed to inflict fatal “shocks”. Thankfully, no shocks were actually administered.

Stanley Milgram, Yale psychologist and author of the experiment suggested, “The social psychology of this century reveals a major lesson: often it is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act.”

Do you agree with Dr. Milgram?

It can be easy to conform or give into pressure in a situation you may not approve of. We can be ready to stand up for our values like the current protesters in the Ukraine or go with the flow like those asked to hurt loved ones in North Korea. You may not have to participate in such events but you will have to be ready to leave a socially pressured situation. Be ready to stand up for beliefs you treasure and not be the one that moves with the flow.


Used with permission from KPVI News 6.

For more information on the Milgram experiment please see:

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