Milgram Experiment

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Discussion

I believe that if rules regarding informed consent had been in effect at the time of Milgram’s experiment, nothing would have changed. Informed consent refers to a “person giving consent has the legal authority to make a consent decision, a clear understanding of what it is he or she is consenting to, and that his or her consent is freely given and may be withdrawn without prejudice” (National Association of School Psychologists, 2010, p. 3). This being said, I do believe that informed consent is necessary because subjects need to know exactly what they are going to be participating in (and what the risks are, if any). In Milgram’s experiment, the subjects did not know that the “student” was not actually receiving any shocks (and that the answers were recorded), but they were told that the shocks were not life threatening and that they were not responsible if anything went wrong. Of course, they did not know that their obedience is what the experiment intended to test, but had they known nothing would have changed; they would have still continued asking the questions and shocking “students” for wrong answers.

Response

I disagree about the claim that informed consent would have fundamentally changed the outcome of the experiment. Since the realization of Milgram’s experiment other experiments of a similar nature test subjects have been informed of the purpose of the experiment and this has not fundamentally affected their outcome. Perhaps the clearest example is the Stanford Prison Experiment, where subjects were informed of the experiment’s purpose (and each gave informed consent to participate in the experiment). Despite of this, the experiment had to be cut short because the “prisoners” became depressed and the “custodians” became aggressive and insensitive towards the “prisoners” even though they both knew this is what the experiment aimed to test. This being said, I honestly believe that informed consent is necessary because this lets subjects know exactly what they are getting themselves into (thus allowing informed decisions, without these decisions compromising the experiment’s objectives).

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