Was Stanley Milgram’s Study of Obedience Unethical?. Christine Malone Minnesota State University Moorhead. The Issue: .
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Was Stanley Milgram’s obedience study unethical or was he justified in subjecting the participants to a stressful situation based on his debriefing/follow-up procedures and the knowledge derived from the results?
Blass objectively reviews research sparked by Milgram’s obedience studies. So often Milgram’s set of obedience experiments overshadows his other work and more importantly, the work of other researchers in the area of obedience. Blass reviews 35 years of research, providing a status report on four questions surrounding obedience to authority.
Milgram used “the legitimate authority” explanation—1) accept authorities definition of situation and just perform as ordered and 2) shift into agentic state—relinquish responsibility to authority and follow orders without regard to morality.
Others have proposed an “expert-command authority” explanation
Research has shown that obedience in Milgram’s paradigm seems to be the result of both of these explanations.
Blass (1992) himself attempts to separate these two explanations—naïve observers considered the expert power explanation as most likely, followed very closely by the legitimate power explanation.