Too Shocking to Recall – Until Now …

December 21st, 2008 by Barry Caplan | Tags: none

Little know fact – I studied, nearly minoring in social psychology in college, and my favorite professor was Dr. Maury Silver. Silver was a doctoral student under Stanley Milgram, one of only a very few people thanked by name in Milgram’s book about his disturbing experiments.

I have long thought that this experiment, and others like it, offer fertile ground for the video game creator. Now comes news the experiment, long regarded as too frightening to duplicate, has been duplicated:

Seventy percent of volunteers continued to administer electrical shocks — or at least they believed they were doing so — even after an actor claimed they were painful, Jerry Burger of Santa Clara University in found.

“What we found is validation of the same argument — if you put people into certain situations, they will act in surprising, and maybe often even disturbing, ways,” Burger said in a telephone interview. “This research is still relevant.”

Burger was replicating an experiment published in 1961 by Yale University professor Stanley Milgram, in which volunteers were asked to deliver electric “shocks” to other people if they answered certain questions incorrectly.

Milgram found that, after hearing an actor cry out in pain at 150 volts, 82.5 percent of participants continued administering shocks, most to the maximum 450 volts.

The experiment surprised psychologists and no one has tried to replicate it because of the distress suffered by many of the volunteers who believed they were shocking another person.

It turns out I am expecting a houseful of clinical psychologists for a Winter Celebration party later this afternoon. This will be interesting conversation fodder indeed.

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