Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Gimme some of that ole timey psychology...

Here's the first installment of a fun lil series that will highlight researchers who kept it real.

Back before little things like ethics and IRBs got in the way of doing fun research like finding a baby named albert and banging pots and pans behind him everytime he saw a white mouse just to see if he would grow up to be afraid of santa clause's beard, you know important stuff.

Anyhow, first on my list is none other than Stanley Milgram, a real playa who's application to the psychology club AKA the American Psychology Association was put on hold due to the questionable ethics of his experiments.

He is probably most well know for his dabblings in obedience research, most notably the shock experiment, in which participants believed they were divided into two groups, learners and teachers (in actuality all participants were teachers and the learners were confederates* not the good ole boy kind, the hey we're in on the hustle kind).

So anyhow, teachers (shown as S below) were asked to read questions and learners (shown as A below) who were located in an adjacent room, were supposed to answer. For every wrong answer, the teacher was instructed to press a button on this fan-dangled contraption which delivered a variable shock to the learner. The device was a sham as well, but the participants didn't know that either (gullible ole participants!).

Now for the good stuff, the shock box (shown up top) had a dial ranging from 45 volts to, get this, XXX. With each wrong answer, the participant had to ratchet up the electric ante a notch or two, regardless of what the learner said (ie Stop this! Help! I don't want to participate any more! My heart, My heart! AAAAArARGHGGH *slump*).

When the teacher hesitated, the experimenter (shown as E above) would try and work his mental mack game and get the participant to continue, despite their better judgement.

The premise was to answer the question How far will people go, in terms of hurting others, when commanded to do so by an authoritative figure? On a short sidenote, the basis of the question stemmed from the atrocities of the Nazi's and people wondering how such acts could be done.

So how did this turn out?

More than two out of three people delivered the full shock monty and Peter Gabriel went on to write a song about it (no, not Shock the monkey, rather We do what we're told).

DIZAMN! That's like 67% doing the wrong thing 100% of the time!

It seems that a lab coat and clip board often trumped cries for help, feigned heart attacks, and even illusions of death.

If you want more details, you can peep them here.

Damn, Stanley, you'sa straight research gangsta and this blogs for you!

Now i am off to go buy a lab coat and clip board.

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