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Researchers Replicate Milgram's Famous Obedience Experiment

By , black-rose-bielefeld.de GuideJanuary 14, 2009

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The January issue of American Psychologist features a new study that replicated Milgram's classic obedience experiment. In Milgram's original experiments conducted during the 1960s, participants were asked to deliver electrical shocks to a "learner" whenever an incorrect answer was given. In reality, the learner was actually a confederate in the experiment who pretended to be shocked.

The purpose of the experiment was to determine how far people were willing to go in order to obey the commands of an authority figure. Milgram found that 65% of participants were willing to deliver the maximum level of shocks despite the fact that the learner seemed to be in serious distress or even unconscious.

Recently, Jerry Burger, a psychology professor at Santa Clara University, replicated Milgram's famous study with some modifications to address the ethical concerns of study. In an article published in the APS Observer, Burger described the relevance of Milgram's study today:

"The haunting black-and-white images of ordinary citizens delivering what appear to be dangerous, if not deadly, electric shocks and the implications of the findings for atrocities like the Holocaust and Abu Ghraib are not easily dismissed. Yet because Milgram’s procedures are clearly out-of-bounds by today’s ethical standards, many questions about the research have gone unanswered. Chief among these is one that inevitably surfaces when I present Milgram’s findings to students: Would people still act that way today?"

Burger made several alterations to Milgram's experiment. First, the maximum shock level was 150-volts as opposed to the original 450-volts. Participants were also carefully screened to eliminate those who might experience negative reactions to the experiment.

The results of the new experiment revealed that participants obeyed at the same rate that they did when Milgram conducted his original study more than 40 years ago.

The January issue of American Psychologist also contains discussion from other psychologists about the comparisons can be made between Milgram's experiment and Burger's study. According to Arthur G. Miller, Ph.D. of Miami University, "...there are simply too many differences between this study and the earlier obedience research to permit conceptually precise and useful comparisons."

However, Alan C. Elms, PhD, of the University of California, Davis points out that while "direct comparisons of absolute levels of obedience cannot be made between the 150-volt maximum of Burger’s research design and Milgram’s 450-volt maximum, Burger’s “obedience lite” procedures can be used to explore further some of the situational variables studied by Milgram as well as to look at additional variables," such as situational and personality differences.

Learn more about the Milgram obedience experiment.

Further Reading:

  • "Replicating Milgram: Would People Still Obey Today?" - By Jerry M. Burger, from American Psychologist (Available in PDF Format)
  • "Reflections on 'Replicating Milgram' (Burger 2009)"- By Arthur G. Miller, PhD, from American Psychologist (Available in PDF Format)
  • "Obedience Lite" - By Alan C. Elms, PhD, from American Psychologist (Available in PDF Format)


February 3, 2010 at 2:51 am
(1) Lfd says:

I think it would be interesting to determine the level of social conscience compared to 40 years ago, as we generally accept that society has been to a certain degree desensitised to violence, whether in a ?real world? setting or as seen in the media.

May 14, 2010 at 10:32 am
(2) Mike Hawk says:

i bleve that if they would issue the same shock (450 volts) the result we b less people obeying the commands but not by a large, significant amount

June 8, 2010 at 7:42 am
(3) kelvin says:

i thnk there is no rational behind comparing the results of the two experiments as they are fundamentally different?it would have been ineresting to come up with a verbatim replication..albeit ethically impossible

August 16, 2010 at 8:05 pm
(4) Matt says:

Derren Brown completed a similar experiment, of course because it?s TV you can?t trust the editing but it?s still interesting to watch

September 23, 2011 at 11:21 pm
(5) Bill says:

One would think that the rate may be higher than the 60s. Now people ware more used to violence because of more graphic movies.

Boys Girls Clubs

January 10, 2012 at 8:36 pm
(6) Jayj says:

As important as the Milgram experiments are, I wonder how people were originally chosen for the study. Wouldn?t there be a proportion of people who refused to give shocks at all? I?m curious.

January 11, 2012 at 2:39 am
(7) Prax says:

If the results are different from what appeared 40 years ago, that again proves that situational variables are of primary importance in determining conformity. So, the conclusion of the original exp is correct.

March 29, 2012 at 8:54 pm
(8) Kat says:

I?m confused? how could a famous experiment like this possibly be replicated? Would subjects not catch on?I mean, I?m sure enoughf people know how this story ends?

October 18, 2012 at 2:38 am
(9) Jake says:

How is the test fundamentally different? The same variables are used, only with the difference being the voltage used. In reality the shock was never delivered; the reaction from the learner were prerecorded sounds. The thesis is the same.

January 28, 2021 at 6:50 pm
(10) Anonymous says:

I think the labeling of the ?instrument? delivering the shock is NEAR irrelevant. How many people do you think actually know what Voltage really means when relating to dangerous levels? And in regards to another post, how many people do we think really know about this experiment? I learned about it when I was in High School due to an elective Intro to Psychology class, even then I didn?t really pay attention because I had no interest. My curiosity was sparked when I heard about Burger?s ?replication? and it was on TV?sadly I admitted that?TV is successful because of Psychology, it plays into our very lives now!! I see people going through what could be described as withdraws from not getting to watch their shows. It is disgusting in my opinion.

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