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Word Count: 384
Stanley Milgram a psychologist at Yale University conducted a study focusing on the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience He examined justifications for acts of genocide offered by those accused at the World War II Nuremberg War Criminal trials Their defense often was based on obedience -that they were just following orders of their superiors In the experiment so-called teachers who were actually the unknowing subjects of the experiment were recruited by Milgram They were asked to administer an electric shock of increasing intensity to a learner for each mistake he made during the experiment The fictitious story given to these teachers was that the experiment was exploring effects of punishment for incorrect responses on learning behavior The teacher was not aware that the learner in the study was actually an actor merely indicating discomfort as the teacher increased the electric shocks When the teacher asked whether increased shocks should be given he was verbally encouraged to continue Sixty percent of the teachers obeyed orders to punish the learner to the very end of the 450 volt scale No subject stopped before reaching 300 volts At times the worried teachers questioned the experimenter asking who was responsible for any harmful effects resulting from shocking the learner at such a high level Upon receiving the answer that the experimenter assumed full responsibility teachers seemed to accept the response and continue shocking even though some were obviously extremely uncomfortable in doing so The study raises many questions about how the subjects could bring themselves to administer such heavy shocks There are also ethical issues raised by the experiment itself Is it ethical to expose subjects to such stress Does the search for knowledge always justify such costs to subjects Who should decide such issues The experiment demonstrated what history has taught us human beings are capable even under less than extreme conditions of doing bad things particularly when placed in a context
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