Obedience is a basic part in the structure of society, and its destructiveness has been questioned throughout time. Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment to test the destructiveness of obedience; however, Diana Baumrind discredits Milgram and criticizes his experiments in her article Review of Stanley Milgram s Experiments on Obedience.
Baumrind s commentary discusses how Milgram s experiments could not make a difference in society claiming that the subjects experienced emotional harm and the procedures were carried out in an environment which could have influenced the results. Milgram s experiments were an attempt to discover the control authority has over society.
Milgram wanted to test the level of obedience in society by seeing how much pain a person would inflict on another because they were given orders. The experiment was conducted at Yale University inside a laboratory. The tests consisted of a teacher who is the subject, a learner who is an actor, and an experimenter who gives the orders. The teacher gives the learner shocks, increasing the voltage with each wrong answer, while the experimenter
watches. The learner protested the shocks by screaming and yelling. Throughout the experiments, many of the subjects argued with the authority figure due to the harm they were inflicting on the learner, but did not stop the tests fearing that they would seem disrespectful. Some of the subjects were happy with the experiment thinking they were a step which could lead
to scientific knowledge. Those that were upset with the experiment thought that due to the learners protests nothing was accomplished. A survey was taken before the experiment to see how far people thought the subjects would go. Many people believed that the subjects would be disobedient, but the results were different. Many of the subjects were actually obedient throughout the experiment. Milgram concluded that many people were able to carry out
destructive deeds because they were following orders. By obeying orders and participating in the experiment, the subjects experienced emotional harm.
Baumrind believes Milgram s treatment of the subjects was unethical; as a result, the subjects were changed, but not society. Each subject chose to participate in the experiment expecting that the psychologist would have some concern for them; however, this was not the case with Milgram and his subjects. The subject first endured emotional harm by having to inflict the learner with shocks despite his protests. Afterwards, during a conference with the experimenter, the subject was informed that there was no electrical current. The subject then feels foolish, his mind weakens, and he loses self-esteem. Milgram claims that the subject was returned to the proper state of mind after the experiment. Baumrind finds that the emotional harm endured was great and Milgram s claim that he dissipated their harm was hard to believe
(Baumrind 376). The subjects entered the experiment with hopes of being a part of discovering scientific knowledge, but left feeling foolish realizing that they were the ones being tested. Society was not changed, just the subjects. The subjects would no longer answer to authority the same way; as a result of the pain they endured and the authoritative laboratory setting.
Baumrind asserts that a laboratory setting did not accurately represent society; therefore, the experiments could not have made an impact on the public. The unfamiliar setting causes the subject to be more submissive than usual society. The subject volunteered himself to the tests; therefore, he knows he should follow through with the experimenter s orders. Milgram
concluded that by being obedient one could carry out evil deeds, such as Nazi Germany (Milgram 371). Baumrind finds his conclusion does not represent society or Nazi Germany, but only the behavior of his subjects within a laboratory.
Baumrind s article justifies her claims that the subjects endured emotional harm and the setting caused the subjects to be submissive. These points make Milgram s experiments seem unconvincing. Society was not accurately represented; therefore, there was no overall impact on
human nature. One could question how long the subjects endured pain after the experiment. The article implies, but never supports, that the subjects had emotional harm for a lengthy duration after the experiment. One could not know the emotional effect the experiment had on the subjects without a direct consultation with them. By following up on the subjects, the article
could have been more effective. Even with this weakness, the lack of influence the experiment had on society was accurately represented.
According to Diana Baumrind, Milgram s tests could not have accurately represented society. Little scientific knowledge was gained due to the setting and the negative effects experienced by the subjects. Baumrind s findings discredit Milgram and imply that society and science were not changed. The only thing that the experiment changed was the subjects attitude
towards authority. Baumrind reveals that even though the destructiveness of obedience has always been questioned, experiments such as Milgram s would never find the answer.