Monday, 24 October 2011

Can you turn regular people into murderers?

After watching part of Derren Brown's recent TV programme where he hypnotises people with the desired results being that they willingly try and commit murder. It was interesting, I wish I had watched all of it.

However, it reminded me of something I saw a while back on a programme about Bethlem Insane Asylum.
It is called the Milgram Experiment and its purpose was to examine to what extent regular members of the public would follow orders from a figure of authority. It was created to try and explain the actions of Hitlers SS men during the Holocaust.

The idea was that Stanley Milgram, a psychologist, would present members of the public with an electric shock generator, which they were told was attached to another person behind a screen.

He labelled the shock strengths (these were: moderate, strong, danger, severe shock, and the two highest levels were marked XXX).

The shock generator was however a fake and only produced a sound when activated.

40 members of the public were recruited and told they were to take part on a "memory and learning" experiment.

One by one, they sat by the shock generator, and they were told to deliver electric shocks, starting at the lowest, and gradually getting stronger. The scientist was very persuasive if the subjects became nervous about delivering the shock, and told them he was fully responsible for anything, which gave them a sense of relief so they continued.

Milgrams question he was trying to solve was:
"For how long will someone continue to give shocks to another person if they are told to do so, even if they thought they could be seriously hurt?"

All 40 people obeyed up to at least 300 volts. 25 people continued to deliver up to 375 volts (the maximum level).

Perhaps even more shockingly, the person delivering the shock could hear the other person shouting out for help, asking to leave the experiment, and also shouting out that they had heart trouble. Yet the subject still delivered higher shocks, even up to the point where the receiving person was screaming for their life.

The Nazi war criminals of the Holocaust explained their actions by merely "following orders". What do you all think, can it be explained or do you think they were just cruel people?

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