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rasoulallahbinbadisassalacerhso  wefaqdev iktab
الإثنين, 05 شباط/فبراير 2024 17:37

What the Experiment Requires

كتبه  By The Memory Hole
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“Let me out of here! I told you about my heart problem; let me out of here!”

Bill Menold was listening to a man plead with him on the other side of a wall on the Yale University campus in 1961. This was supposed to be a simple memory test, but Menold was beginning to have his doubts. In this experiment, he was given the role of teacher, next to him was John Williams, the experimenter, and in another room was Jim McDonough, the learner, screaming for help. When McDonough gave a wrong answer in the memory test, he received an electric shock, which increased in voltage each time. He was now up to 150 volts. Menold had an idea to avoid the situation devolving any further, turning to Williams and offering: “You know what, I’ll switch with him. I’m smarter than this guy and you can ask me these questions.” Williams informed him that since the roles had already been assigned, the experiment had to continue as is.

The stress Menold was feeling compounded as he increased the shock to 165 volts on McDonough. He was sweating uncontrollably, unsure of how to proceed in this situation. The possibility of this being a setup was in the back of his mind. I mean, Yale doesn’t go around torturing people, he thought. He was not certain one way or the other. Am I really hurting this guy or am I the guinea pig here? Yet he pressed on, increasing the shock levels to 175 and then 190 volts. His clothes were soaking wet from sweating, McDonough’s screams becoming louder with each iteration. Menold felt he was in an alternate reality where nothing made sense. He began laughing maniacally and he appeared to be losing his mind. No longer screaming for help, McDonough fell silent following the administration of 330 volts, after answering yet another question wrong. Menold thought through three possibilities: Either he’s unconscious, he’s dead, or this thing is a complete sham.

Since McDonough was no longer speaking, Menold asked to stop the experiment. “I’m not taking responsibility for this,” he said to Williams, who responded nonchalantly: “Don’t worry about it, Yale University is taking full responsibility.” Despite McDonough’s continued silence, Williams prompted Menold to continue. Still feeling the stress of the situation, Menold wanted to get it over with and pressed on until he reached the final stage of administering 450 volts. There was only silence in reply on the other side of the wall, from a man with a professed heart condition

With the experiment over, Menold braced for impact. He was preparing himself for the worst, in case McDonough was still conscious and came at him in an angry state. He was “scared to death” of what was going to happen next. I’m going to have to calm him down if he gets upset. If he’s going to take a swing at me, I’m just going to restrain him. He was younger and in better shape, he reasoned, than McDonough, as he was in his 20s and McDonough appeared to be in his 40s. He could adequately defend himself if needed. As the door opened, Menold was greeted by a surreal sight: McDonough entered the room, unscathed and in a pleasant mood. “Hello, how are you?” he said as he shook Menold’s hand. For a few minutes the experimenter, teacher, and learner remained to discuss the experiment, and Menold was relieved to discover that there was no animosity or apparently any physical damage that had occurred. He still lacked an understanding of what had happened and why. Menold and McDonough left the building together and went their separate ways upon reaching a nearby street. Menold could not believe that he was freely allowed to leave given the circumstances; he found it incredible that “nobody was gonna shoot me or put me in a prison cell. I still didn’t know what had happened. I was a basket case on the way home.”

That evening in his consternation, Menold approached his neighbor who happened to work as a master electrician. “You’re not going to believe what happened,” he told him, explaining his experience at Yale. The electrician responded: “Bill, it wasn’t real. Those things couldn’t really happen with the voltages that you just said.” Menold felt slightly better with the knowledge that the pain may have been faked, but he remained concerned with what he had done. “It didn’t make me feel very good,” he reflected. “You know, the cruelty involved. The question was always geez, what can they make you do here?…Or what did you do? They didn’t make you. No one held a gun to my head.” He only received official confirmation that the experience had been a hoax months later in a form letter sent to him by Stanley Milgram, an assistant professor at Yale. He had been an unwitting participant in social psychological experiments that would later garner prodigious fame and be known to the general public as the Milgram Experiment. Menold was unimpressed: “I don’t have much regard for Milgram...because I think that was terribly unethical—and I’m not just saying that because I did all this stuff. I think it’s immoral to use people. They might say, ‘Well, it’s for the greater good,’ but that doesn't make it right!”

Menold largely forgot about the experiment until the 1980s, when his girlfriend, who worked as a psychology professor, mentioned she was teaching about Milgram’s work. Once he informed her that he had been a participant in the famous experiments, she “went nuts” and persuaded him to speak to her class. Menold, now in his 40s, walked into a classroom of eighteen and nineteen-year-olds, completely unaware of what their reaction would be. Their judgment of him was clear from the start: it was as if “Adolf Hitler walked in the room,” he recalled. After recovering from the surprise of their harsh perception of him, he admonished the class for their superior attitude: “It’s very easy to sit back and say, ‘I’d never do this or that’ or ‘Nobody could ever get me to do anything like that.’ Well, guess what? Yes, they can."

Milgram claimed that the results were shocking to him and his associates, so much so that additional tests to contrast the results with German subjects had to be cancelled. He claimed that the subjects had been appropriately debriefed that the tests were fake. In the official account of the experiments, the participants were prompted a maximum of four times and if they continue to resist at this point, the test was ended. The experiments had resulted in a 65% obedience rate overall, Milgram’s paper claimed, the rate at which subjects administered shocked at the lethal level of 450 volts. This led to the Milgram Experiment being cited continuously in the ensuing decades as proof of human nature’s ability to be compelled to commit violence on the innocent. The only problem was that none of these claims were true and the reality of the experiments was much more complicated.

 The Tailored Experiments

Once the targets of the experiment were properly informed of the hoax, including that McDonough and Williams had been merely actors, those recruited to participate unwittingly in the experiment were asked to record their thoughts in a follow-up questionnaire. “After completing the experiment I really was ashamed of myself!” wrote one. “I kept thinking why didn’t I refuse to give pain to my fellow man, instead of going through as directed to the end! In discussing this with a friend, who also took part in the experiment, at another time, he related the whole incident to me, not knowing I went through the same bit, he on the other hand refused to give punishments and walked out. Thus I hated myself all the more for not doing the same! Why I didn’t, I still don’t know.”

Milgram had some idea of the results he was looking for and spent the months preceding the experiments, which officially began on August 7, 1961, to tailor the conditions to ensure more compliance rather than less. For example, the shock machine contained the labels “moderate shock,” “strong,” “very strong” “intense,” “extremely intense,” and “danger: severe shock.” The final two voltages were initially labelled “lethal” or “extreme shock—danger” in early drawings and prototypes but these were ultimately dropped and replaced with the more vague “XXX.” Milgram ran a series of pre-tests from July 27 to August 4 to hone the cover story, tweak the volume of McDonough’s cries, edit the script, and experiment with the effects that making the learner more visible to the teacher had on obedience. As they were to later discover, those in the pre-tests also showed signs of distress and that many who were classified as obedience had great difficulty reaching the 450 volts, arguing with the experimenter as they went along. By the time of the official launch, the experiments had already been crafted with a particular expected result in mind.

By the time Bill Menold arrived in the Yale basement in New Haven, Connecticut that October, the experiments were running on weeknights and during weekends continuously. “I was intimidated,” he admitted. “This was being done at Yale University, and having grown up in that area, Yale was like God.” He arrived on time at 6:45 pm, in front of the gray Linsly-Chittenden Hall and discovered a sign outside pointing to the memory and learning experiment downstairs. A Yale student had helpfully added “don’t forget” as a joke in pencil. “I thought it was funny,” he remembered.

Menold was met in the basement by an austere man, John Williams, dressed in a gray lab coat. The second volunteer arrived, who was introduced as “Mr. Wallace,” who was in fact Jim McDonough, the actor hired to play the role of the learner. The two volunteers, one real and one fake, were paid $4.50 ($46 today) each and were told the money was theirs to keep regardless of what happened in the experiment. Williams explained the supposed basis for the experiment: “Psychologists have developed several theories to explain how people learn various types of material. Some of the better-known theories are treated in this book.” He pointed to a book on the teacher-learning process on the table and described one theory relating to punishment and learning. “We want to find out what effect different people have on each other as teachers and learners. And also what effect punishment will have in this situation.” A fake draw between the two volunteers was taken so that Menold would be given the teacher role. The two were then taken into an adjoining room where McDonough took off his jacket and, to Menold’s surprise, was strapped into a chair with electrodes on his arms. Holy mackerel, what is going on here? he thought.

McDonough mentioned having had a heart problem and being taken to a Veterans Administration hospital to treat this condition in the past. “We do this sort of thing all the time,” was Williams’ attitude in response. Williams took Menold back into the main room and pointed to the shock machine: “This machine generates electric shocks. When you press one of these switches all the way down, the learner gets a shock.” After demonstrating how the switches worked, Williams offered him the opportunity to feel what the shock felt like. This was the only real shock delivered in the entire experiment, through a battery located at the back of the machine designed to make the machine appear to be genuine. Menold was taken aback at the intensity of the shock, which felt much stronger than the mild buzzers he had used to play pranks on his friends as a child. He convinced himself to proceed: “I just said to myself that these people know what they’re doing and I’m just going to go along with it and see what happens here.”

Unbeknownst to Menold, McDonough was already unstrapping himself from the electrodes in the other room and setting up a tape machine to play his prerecorded cries. Williams continued with the instructions, explaining that when McDonough got an answer wrong, Menold was to say “wrong,” repeat the correct answer, and administer a shock, which was to increase in intensity with each incorrect answer. Menold observed the features of the machine: “It was a large white panel with many switches…at least a dozen from left to right…and you could see there was a degree of severity as you went up the line.” Menold read a series of word pairs into a microphone for McDonough to ostensibly memorize. McDonough was to give his answers by pressing a switch that would light one of four numbers in the machine. The test began without incident, McDonough asked to choose from a series of terms in the hopes of remembering which one of the four words were part of the original pairs read out loud:

Menold: Blue: boy, girl, grass, hat?

[McDonough buzzes his answer.]

Menold: Correct. Nice: day, sky, job, chair?

[McDonough buzzes his answer.]

Menold: Correct.

Following a few correct answers, McDonough began giving wrong answers, but it was not until the fifth shock at 75 volts that any noise was heard. “It wasn’t a scream, I don’t think,” Menold recalled. “It seemed to me that it was an indication of discomfort.” In his own discontent, Menold tried his best to help the learner by accenting the correct word: “dog, cat, chair, rabbit,” but McDonough continued to get answers wrong. At 120 volts, McDonough began to yell out and Menold thought, Oh God…What the hell am I doing here? What is this all about?

 

Menold was not alone in waiting months to discover the true nature of the experiments, Milgram preferring to guard this secret lest it contaminate their volunteer pool. The experiment’s script was not always followed in the same manner and sometimes others were more easily fooled. Another participant referred to McDonough as “the best actor I’ve ever come across. He deserved an Academy Award for that.” McDonough had approached him, handkerchief in hand, wiping his face and offering a hand. “I want to thank you for stopping it,” McDonough told him. “It wasn’t that it hurt so badly, but the anticipation that I was going to get another shock was dreadful, and that’s what made me cry out.” His acting job was performed so well, the participant thought, Wow, maybe it really was true!

“I seriously question the wisdom and ethics of not dehoaxing each subject immediately after the session...Allowing subjects to remain deceived is not justified, in my opinion, even if such continued deception was thought necessary ‘to avoid contamination,’” wrote a further participant after learning the truth. As Milgram was to learn in the questionnaires returned to him from participants, there were several who believed they were inflicting injury. One wrote: “I actually checked the death notices in the New Haven Register for at least two weeks after the experiment to see if I had been involved and a contributing factor in the death of the so-called learner—I was very relieved that his name did not appear in such a column.” Another wrote: “The experiment left such an effect on me that I spent the night in a cold sweat and nightmares because of the fear that I might have killed that man in the chair.” Yet another wrote that he experienced a mild heart attack since participating and was counseled against subjecting himself to stressful situations: “For this reason I feel that it is imperative that you make certain that any prospective participants have a clean bill of health.”

Subjects brought with them their own experiences with previous psychologically damaging incidents. Former soldiers were part of the volunteers tested; in a follow-up session led by psychiatrist Paul Errera to learn more about the participants’ reactions, he spoke of one volunteer’s past history in war: “He went through hell, you know, and he needed treatment because of the hell he went through.” Another participant relayed his own personal history of torment: “So you talk about pain. I’m the one who can tell you about pain...in four years in a boys home, I was ready to kill the people who did it to me. The punishment brought me to the point of killing and it was only through the reading of the Bible where the Lord says, ‘Vengeance is mine,’ that’s the only thing that kept me from being a murderer today....And I'll tell you, with twenty-four boys in a home, in an orphanage, like I was, I know what punishment is and it was supposed to be a home for boys, not a prison. We were punished worse than a prison.”

It was only in the last two months of Milgram’s program that participants were told about the hoax before leaving the lab. Whereas the first 19 variations or conditions had been performed on men, the 20th was to test obedience rates for women. Their results, while later presented as being conducted under the same circumstances, actually had additional features to increase compliance and hence, achieve results that would shock the public’s consciousness.

The Women Experiment

Women were only included as participants in one variation (#20) of the Milgram Experiment, which happened to be the first in which subjects were told the memory test was a hoax. Williams wrote observations on each of the women, sometimes describing their physical appearance. A 23-year-old home economics teacher was detailed as “a beautiful blond, young, luscious.” A 34-year-old Swedish clerk was “lovely.” Another asked what McDonough did for a living; Williams wrote: “Is she looking for a man?”

Early on in the experiments, Williams had kept a record of the participants’ attempts to cheat to save the learner from receiving shocks, accenting the correct answer or alternatively, minimizing the time that the switch was turned on to send less of a shock to the learner. By this point in variation 20, cataloguing these subtle instances of disobedience had been abandoned and only the voltages were captured.

There were also important changes in the prompts to the teachers that biased the results further towards obedience. Milgram wrote of Williams’ instructions as experimenter:

The experimenter responded with a sequence of ‘prods’ using as many as necessary to bring the subject into line.

Prod 1: Please continue, or Please go on.

Prod 2: The experiment requires that you continue.

Prod 3: It is absolutely essential that you continue.

Prod 4: You have no other choice, you must go on.

The prods were made in sequence: Only if Prod 1 had been unsuccessful could Prod 2 be used. If the subject refused to obey the experimenter after Prod 4, the experiment was terminated. The experimenter’s tone of voice was at all times firm, but not impolite. The sequence was begun anew on each occasion that the subject balked or showed reluctance to follow orders.

In the early variations of the experiment, those who had resisted four times were categorized as disobedient and the experiment was brought to a close. That practice had changed by the time women were brought in and the script was no longer closely followed. Author Gina Perry listened to the original Milgram experiment tapes and in Behind the Shock Machine documented how “Williams insisted that one woman continue twenty-six times. He argued with two others fourteen times; one, eleven times, another, nine times; another, eight times...” Milgram obtained the necessary results: 65% of the women involved in the experiment went to the maximum voltage.

One woman classified as obedient was angry with the results and questioned their validity: “I’m sorry untruths were used to start the experiment. Logically—based on untruths, the end results will be untrue.” In a follow-up session with the psychiatrist, she described her feelings regarding the experiment as it was occurring:

Nancy: A bunch of Nazis, hurting people for no good reason. That’s all I could think of.

Dr. Errera: Well, who were the Nazis?

Nancy: The people who were asking me to go on hurting.

Milgram’s assistant Taketo Murata compiled an analysis of 23 variations of the experiment from follow-up questionnaires completed by participants and found that those who really believed someone was being injured were less likely to obey and gave lower voltage shocks. As this analysis did not help his thesis, Milgram did not use this work and it remained unpublished. He wrote on Murata’s paper that their self-reporting could not be trusted because people would be biased to claim that they knew the experiment was not real. However, when it came to the same questionnaire and results showing that the majority were glad to have participated, this result he had no issues with reporting. Perry extrapolated on the potential implications: “If...people were less likely to obey when they thought the man was being hurt, then Milgram’s experiment tells us the opposite of what we’ve been led to believe: it’s not that inside all of us there’s an Eichmann waiting for the right situation...Taketo’s analysis suggests the opposite.”

 It is of note that in the three variations where the actor pretending to be the experimenter was permitted show concern and act as if the shocks were harmful, the participants’ compliance dropped to zero. In addition, missing from Taketo Murata’s analysis was the fact that in actuality, Milgram ran 24 variations of the experiment. There was one final iteration he preferred to keep completely secret from the public.
قراءة 107 مرات آخر تعديل على الأربعاء, 07 شباط/فبراير 2024 08:19
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