MovieChat Forums > Experimenter (2015) Discussion > So much of Milgran has been debunked

So much of Milgran has been debunked


1)he noted and edited out expressions of disbelief by subjects.

A second was “animated and alive” but couldn’t be used in Milgram's film because he told the experimenter that he didn’t believe the experiment was real, and that the moans and groan sounded phony


2) In fact Milgram's experiment was never successfully duplicated the obedience success rate he claimed. In fact since he varied his own controls an conditions with each subject , he himself did not even duplicate his own results.

3) We also know he picked a man for supervisor (the man who was telling the "teachers" to continue) who was financially dependent on the job. We also now know that man, did not chose "teacher" subjects at random, but included many of his friends, acquaintances and family members. the only man who went to "5" (intense shock) on the meter was a friend of the supervisor. this points to interpersonal trust of a known person rather than blind obedience authority

4) We now know many of the "teachers" (subjects who asked to administered the shock) expressed disbelief at the time

50 We also now know that Milgran would himself intervene with disobedient "Teacher" subjects and subject them much more strident pressure than claimed in the experiments. And the supposed consistent low pressure "script" of the "observer" (the person telling the "teacher" to continue) varied as well

6) We know for certain that fully 2/3 of the subjects did in fact refuse to go beyond the second shock level (defined by machine label as "slight," "moderate," "strong," very strong" and "intense"), while milgram has been shown by the later scholarship to have manipulated the data to indicate 65% went to level 3, 4 or 5. In fact 2/3 the subjects discontinued administering shocks after the first expression of pain by the "learner."

What milgranm showed is a portion of people were obedient in administering harm. We know now he manipulated and exaggerated how many and that his control were sloppy,

There are similar findings with problems replication of Zimbardo, which has also been criticized as exaggerating the results.

I suggest anyone interested read Gina Perry's excellent, meticulous (and very well reviewed in peer reviewed Psychology Journals) shredding and dehoaxing Milgrams work: Behind the Shock Machine


or get a taste here: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2013/10/02/the-shocking-truth-of-the-notorious-milgram-obedience-experiments/

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So - do you think obedience is a good thing?

That it should not be studied?

Because if we study it and become aware of it we could escape it - and that would be a bad thing?

Just curious - there are a lot of people who think fascism is a good thing.

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It's hard to debunk something that can't be replicated for ethical reasons.

You missed what I have long felt was the biggest factor contributing to the high compliance rate -- the fact that there is no need, if the stated purpose of the study is believed, for there to be two subjects. I have always believed that even if every legitimate subject didn't consciously process that their role is meaningless, it was subconsciously affecting their behaviour. Think about it: On some level, would you not have wondered why Mr. Lab Coat Guy wasn't doing the reading and zapping? What purpose did the 'teacher' serve? None at all.

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"...the fact that there is no need, if the stated purpose of the study is believed, for there to be two subjects. I have always believed that even if every legitimate subject didn't consciously process that their role is meaningless, it was subconsciously affecting their behaviour. Think about it: On some level, would you not have wondered why Mr. Lab Coat Guy wasn't doing the reading and zapping? What purpose did the 'teacher' serve? None at all."


Humans are indeed the only animal formally known of interpret it's own interpretations. In any test where the subject gets payed to be a part it should be likely to see such behaviour in a higher rate, thus making people unconsciously not believe that they (in this case) give any punishment.

@mimosveta
It is flawed in more ways, like path dependency - it does not account for normative behaviour (aka the only way to conduct an experiement truly testing the actions of humans in relation to authority is if the person who is part of the test has no inclination either way, of leading or being led - or skillfully controls both sides of group dynamics). Society is full of socially acceptable behaviour - as for the majority of people; if you get payed you've done (or will do) something of value...
Or desirability bias; that they are free to leave directly might escape the brain as we pick up on what we rationalise is key information... The people who are there for the test might be more inclined to pay attention to the parts that refer what they have to do (if you then fast and casually pass off the reward it can skew the response you get from the test by cognitive bias).

[EDIT] Spelling.
[EDIT 2] Might have spoken unclear, interpret it's own interpretations in a deeper manner.
Crows have been shown to be able to create tactics in getting a reward out of a set row of obstacles that requires more than a couple of actions in coherence.

Ignorance is only a bliss if you haven't reached awareness.
My imdb posts are getting altered.

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would you not have wondered why Mr. Lab Coat Guy wasn't doing the reading and zapping? What purpose did the 'teacher' serve? None at all.


I also thought that the "cover story" of the experiment was a bit faulty, because it did not explain the need for the Teacher. The cover story should have explained to the subjects as to why the experiment needed the Teacher to be different from the experimenter. I don't know if the cover story we hear in the movie was exactly the same that Milgram used. Perhaps Milgram had a more consistent cover story.

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You missed what I have long felt was the biggest factor contributing to the high compliance rate -- the fact that there is no need, if the stated purpose of the study is believed, for there to be two subjects. I have always believed that even if every legitimate subject didn't consciously process that their role is meaningless, it was subconsciously affecting their behaviour. Think about it: On some level, would you not have wondered why Mr. Lab Coat Guy wasn't doing the reading and zapping? What purpose did the 'teacher' serve? None at all.



Removing the "teacher" would leave only the two individuals who were in on the experiment, and thus there would BE no experiment. The "teacher" subjects WERE the purpose of the experiment, and they knew beforehand that it WAS an experiment, and one that involved "minor" electric shocks as punishment. Also, this experiment took place nearly 50 years ago; you can't ask ANYONE living in today's North American society whether they would've questioned this or that. In fact, you couldn't perform this exact experiment today because people in general are both far more informed (including about historical events like this) and far more skeptical, reactionary and confrontational, for better AND for worse. Those traits certainly existed in 1962, but fewer people were motivated to constantly act upon them as they are in 2016. In 1962, an experiment like this provided valuable insight. Today, the insight wouldn't be that a majority of test subjects complied, but how a much more sizeable majority resisted.

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I'm not sure anything can debunk such claim. Sure his experiment was flawed, but the only reason it was flawed is that all subjects knew they were in experiment.

It's not hard to make a guess that you are the subject and not the other guy.

However, what happens when figure of authority tells someone they have authority over to do something?

They always do it. You hardly need to recreate the experiment, you can see it everywhere around the world, every day.

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knows that Winter Is Coming

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What you describe is peer review, not debunking. There's a difference. Furthermore, you missed in the movie saying that they would try to vary the script.

Unfortunately the fudging of data does happen sometimes, and not just in the social sciences. There's a famous story in Physics of the Millikan oil drop experiment (an experiment that Robert Millikan did to measure the mass and charge of the electron).

After Millikan published his results, other physicists set out to try to reproduce his results. The odd thing though is if you look at a history of the measured charge on the electron, that you could plot them on a curve that showed a regular increase as time went on. Of course that's absurd.

What turned out was happening is that Millikan didn't have access to the best equipment when he was doing his experiment and there were thus errors in his measurements. The experiment was still a landmark, even if the numbers he came up with were wrong.

The problem is that no one would acknowledge that the great Millikan made a mistake. So every single time that someone tried to replicate the experiment and got a different result, they'd fudge the numbers a little to make them closer to Millikan's answer. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Eventually, the numbers zeroed in on the right answer. Everyone was convinced though, up until then, that Millikan was right, which is why they assumed that they themselves were wrong when their numbers differed.

The point of this isn't that fudging numbers is right, just that it happens more often than it should.

BTW, you can come up with a different interpretation of the data, and you can determine that the data is flawed. Neither one of those is 'debunking'. You debunk something that is claimed as fact, such as 'Vitamin C cures colds (it doesn't). You'd have to be more specific about what specific claim that Millikan made that has been PROVEN to be false. Simply showing that his experiment and data were wrong is not the same thing. You do not debunk an experiment, or its data, you debunk the claim that was made. Remember that EVERYTHING about an experiment could be wrong, yet you still might make the right conclusion. You have to prove it wrong to debunk it.

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@haldurgz
Is this for me?
If it is directed to OP just ignore this post.

You have several valid points but i believe some contend with both common sense and scientific manner.

I have not and have no intention to replicating this experiment to see if I will debunk it or not, what i were pointing to was what these days what are obvious flaws are in it (yes, as far as i can tell).

What turned out was happening is that Millikan didn't have access to the best equipment when he was doing his experiment and there were thus errors in his measurements. The experiment was still a landmark, even if the numbers he came up with were wrong.

Reliability is not always needed for an experiment to have value, then again if you do not have it, you are not measuring what you are describing. Eureka(!) moments are just that - when information is understood on itself or in its context - bad "informative" data can be just as crucial to understanding a field as good "uninformative" data.

The problem is that no one would acknowledge that the great Millikan made a mistake. So every single time that someone tried to replicate the experiment and got a different result...

Path dependency/desirability bias, though I am not read in on every single test of the subject (if you are not please refrain from absolute statements as it can/will impact the perception of others)


Do i think this research was made without the notion of trying to deceive the general population and fit a regressive political agenda to gain funds and notoriety - no. Do i think it was an important area nonetheless - yes.
Do i think he was an unscrupulous man throughout his life - no, you can see the written change in behaviour towards the material in the movie and i hope it is based on reality (i'm simply not read in enough to make a destinction there).
Do i think this is important because it "drained" an area of study or political asumption - yes. Will the same issue arise again - it no doubt allready is, though science is hard to manipulate in a good manner when there is transparency.

You'd have to be more specific about what specific claim that Millikan made that has been PROVEN to be false.

If i wanted to formally debunk his theories then yes, I am not doing that on this movie forum, instead I am pointing out flaws in it. Yes, (your underlying point about accumulation of information being key is taken, that point were never disregarded in the first place).

If it was directed to OP just ignore this post.

[EDIT] Spelling.

Ignorance is only a bliss if you haven't reached awareness.
My imdb posts are getting altered.

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But Milgram's study literally was replicated in 2006 by Dr. Jerry Burger at Santa Clara University. Of course, he instituted a few changes to account for modern IRB and ethical guidelines.

Milgram found that 65% (26/40) of participants continued to the end (450 volts); Burger found that 65% of men and 73% of women continued. Burger also looked at other variables like education, age, and ethnicity -- all of which had no effect.

Here are some links:

The ABC news documentary on the replication:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwqNP9HRy7Y

Burger's website:
http://burger.socialpsychology.org/

APA press release:
http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2008/12/replicating-milgram.aspx

APS article
http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2007/december-07/replicating-milgram.html

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Are you appealing to authority?

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Your words have a more sensational flavor to them than even the blog post by Gina Perry that you link to.

The experiments were conducted more than half a century ago and science has come a long way in terms of design, controls, and ethics. The experiments were far better than the Stanford experiments where students dressed as prisoners and guards and acted their roles. The Stanford experiments, also shown in a recent film, were conducted in 1971, a full decade after Milgram. The students immediately knew the agenda was to show that prison guards abuse authority.

A weakness of Milgram's conclusion is that he blames blind obedience on society, not human nature itself. He feared America was replicating the same weaknesses in its citizens that allowed German citizens to permit the Holocaust. I guess that sells more books than saying every one of us is a genocidal maniac waiting for an excuse, although this position has millions of years of human (and sub-human) history to support it. For balance though, on the ethics controversy, no critics in the film could define a more ethical way to measure what Milgram was seeking to isolate. They just complained that he caused the "teacher" to believe he was delivering a painful shock when in fact he was not.

There is also a general flaw with the Nazi and Holocaust analogy that gets replicated across cultures and into modern news stories in the United States. The Nuremberg Trials after WW2 defined the principle that blind obedience is no excuse -- for the elite. Wealthy and powerful Germans claimed they were just following Hitler's orders. That explanation was rejected as a defense.

But non-elites are different. Rank and file soldiers and rank and file people are expected to follow orders, not to assess their legality. People in jobs that require only GEDs do not possess the skills of Pentagon lawyers or moral philosophers. And practically speaking, we cannot have every conscript referring his drill sergeant to a criminal attorney when the order comes to get out of bed. Rank and file people follow orders.

But the experiment's premise implies that citizens participating in genocide would have resisted if their distorted German society had not turned them into robots. Likewise, if America was a good society, people would refuse to obey authority when it came to administering electrical shocks. That's not how people are.

Most recently, the idea that enlisted soldiers are supposed to know what is legal in a complex situation was the basis for convicting Abu Ghraib soldiers in 2003. In that environment, there were conflicting definitions of torture from the highest levels along with senior people praising the effectiveness of the middle-of-the-night escapades. Yet the 20-something year old enlisted soldiers were placed on trial and found guilty.

Despite the real lesson of Nuremberg, it seems that when elites need scape-goats, hapless, uneducated grunts certainly do suffice. Therein may lie another story, and, since the film and Milgram like to stretch, maybe another Holocaust.

🇱🇷

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Very interesting, thank you.

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