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December 19th, 2008


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05:27 pm - Milgram lives
The bloody idiots

People 'still willing to torture'

Decades after a notorious experiment, scientists have found test subjects are still willing to inflict pain on others - if told to by an authority figure.


I call the test subjects 'idiots' at least partly because - hello? Most famous psychological experiment ever? Didn't it ever occur to them 'Oh yeah, this is the one where they try to trick you into electrocuting people'.

Anyway, to me this isn't about the inherent cruelty of humans, but about their social malleability and weakness.

Thanks (if that is the right word - given how unsettling it is) to andrewducker for the link.

(15 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:hafren
Date:December 19th, 2008 05:49 pm (UTC)
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You don't think they might have enjoyed it? And been too ill-informed to have ever heard of Milgram?

I'm beginning to think an awful lot of people are, actually, quite unpleasant and quite stupid. It would explain the way they vote.
[User Picture]
From:buymeaclue
Date:December 19th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)
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You don't think they might have enjoyed it?

Unlikely, at least as a general case. Part of what made the original experiments so interesting was how distressed the participants were by what they were doing (without, of course, mostly realizing that they could simply stop doing it).

Milgrim wrote a little book about the experiments; it's a fascinating read, especially once you start to get into the variations.
[User Picture]
From:hafren
Date:December 19th, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC)
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(without, of course, mostly realizing that they could simply stop doing it).

But they did know they could stop. They were being told not to stop, sure, but that is not the same thing as not being able to - some people did just say sod you, and stopped anyway. Most didn't, which presumably means that however distresed they were, it wasn't enough.
[User Picture]
From:buymeaclue
Date:December 19th, 2008 06:51 pm (UTC)
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It sounds like you've got your mind made up firmly enough that further discussion is likely to be an exercise in frustration, so I'll just direct you, again, to the book.
[User Picture]
From:hafren
Date:December 19th, 2008 08:21 pm (UTC)
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I've read it. It doesn't, IIRC, make any excuses for people who bleat "I was only obeying orders". Nor does the law.
[User Picture]
From:buymeaclue
Date:December 19th, 2008 08:35 pm (UTC)
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It sounds like you've got your mind made up firmly enough that further discussion is likely to be an exercise in frustration.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:December 19th, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC)
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I agree they are ill-informed. I'd say authoritarian and conventional more than sadistic, though it comes to the same thing very often.
[User Picture]
From:watervole
Date:December 19th, 2008 07:25 pm (UTC)
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It's always easy to assume that other people know what we know.

I remember a post on LJ several years ago where a woman was waxing indignant about a newspaper report where an objection had been made to a symbol on an Xmas wreath on the grounds that it was 'satanic'. She said 'How can anyone not recognise a peace symbol?'

I said 'Looks like a CND symbol to me', to which the reply was 'What?' I then commented that 'surely 'everyone' knew what a CND symbol was', but she failed to see the irony and got quite pissed off at me.

What we know, we assume everyone knows, but what other people know that we don't is obviously specialist and obscure...

Interestingly enough, people who know about Milgram can still be capable of acting nasty if you set the circumstances correctly. Just make the 'victim' a right-wing, anti-abortion, Creationist who believes in racial segregation, etc and see how fast the concern evaporates.
[User Picture]
From:vilakins
Date:December 19th, 2008 11:21 pm (UTC)
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Actually I feel pretty good about knowing I'd refuse to do that--and would report the testers. I've often been the one to report something wrong when everyone else just sat there like idiots hoping someone else would do something or take charge (sound not working in a film, a guy having a fit, morons using a laser pointer in a film). One of the revelations of MBTI was that most people fall into categories that revere authority, something I've never got.

In fact I've never been popular with management because I question stupid decisions (and this is always worse from a female). One guy I worked for was an ex-army officer who drove us developers nuts with his petty rules and stupidity. One day I said to him, "Would you expect us to jump off a cliff if you ordered it?" "Yes," he said. "Well, here's news for you," I said. "I wouldn't." I was made redundant not long after.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:December 20th, 2008 01:08 pm (UTC)
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That's a coincidence. I am the one who goes out back to complain when the projector isn't in focus in our cinema. Which may be a reflection of how bad our local Showcase is.

I believe that any group needs a smattering of awkward cases who are prepared to make a fuss and criticise authority. People sometimes roll their eyes a bit, but they'd miss them if they were gone. I think it reassures people to have a few non-conformists around, a bit like the canaries in the coal mines. I think that's why we/they don't get ostracised for it, people just smile a bit 'Oh, there she goes again'.
[User Picture]
From:vilakins
Date:December 20th, 2008 07:24 pm (UTC)
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I might get on all right with colleagues, but management never seem to like me. They don't like people who think and question, and it's severely damaged my career.
[User Picture]
From:pennski
Date:December 20th, 2008 06:42 pm (UTC)
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Ooh that's fascinating to know about the MBTI combinations. I like to think I would refuse and have got better about being the awkward one when circumstances demand.

Which MBTI are you? I'm guessing something with an NTJ?
[User Picture]
From:vilakins
Date:December 20th, 2008 07:21 pm (UTC)
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Good guess! INTP. :-)
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From:pennski
Date:December 21st, 2008 11:10 am (UTC)
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Aha - we meet on the NT angles. I find lj masks the normal E/I boundaries because we tend to be talking to people we want to!

So do ENTJs have respect for authority?
[User Picture]
From:vilakins
Date:December 21st, 2008 09:07 pm (UTC)
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Nope! I'm not very up on it, but I know some of the groups most people fall into do. It struck me at the time (when we were sorted at work), because it explains so much evil.

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