Having read the article titled Some Conditions of Obedience and Disobedience to Authority written by Stanley Milgram (1965), one is forced to contemplate on the intensity with which people have to undergo mental pressures in adhering to orders and instructions. Such tendencies are experienced by all in real-life situations whereby action has to be taken despite one’s unwillingness to do so in the given circumstances. The experiments as conducted and narrated in the article were very successful in ascertaining the behavioral patterns of individuals under different situations. The only handicap in conducting the experiments was the fact that they were not conducted in real life situations in that the subjects were expected to give orders irrespective of specific real life situations and if the victim did not obey subjects were supposed to punish him or as implied in real life situations, to take disciplinary action against him. But the article did convey the pattern of human behavior in terms of human tendencies in different situations. It was necessary to conduct the exercise because it is only under such circumstances that effective research can be done to make humans understand the consequences of not obeying orders and instructions under different situations. Some of the results were very shocking such as the total refusal by victims to answer despite the severe punishments being given to them which were in the nature of true examples of extreme cruelty being inflicted on the victims. Surely, in real life situations, such extremities are very rarely experienced and in this context the given experiments were not warranted.
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Using such deceptive exercises is one amongst a number of ways to ascertain behavioral patterns so as to bring about improvements in the performance and satisfaction levels of individuals. In having conducted the study in four different situations it was clearly revealed that the closer the authority is to the subject in delivering orders, the greater is the possibility of obeying on his part. But the results clearly indicated that there is reduced tendency of subjects to give in to unreasonable demands however much the pressure may be in meting out disciplinary action against the defaulters. That teaches us of the ingrained humanity in humans in showing concern for each other. As humans we are required to obey commands in different life situations which may not be orders in the real sense but required to be acted upon in keeping with our duties or as per the demands of given situations. As subordinates we are expected to do things which may not be in keeping with our value systems but may be logically required to be executed due to exigencies of the job. In a family situation we have to repeatedly obey the dictates of family members in keeping with our duty towards them or due to the love and affection we have for them. Taking action on matters which are against our conscience is at times very painful and brings about a sense of guilt and may not be logically correct in the given circumstances. The exercises in the article give away the fact that humans do have the tendency to have sensitivity for each other as was evident from the results that the more severe the punishment to be given, the lesser will be the obedience levels by subjects. Such results form the basis in explaining why humans display responsibilities and a sense of duty towards what they are supposed to responsibly do in different life situations. I for one would never offer myself to be a party to such exercises because I believe that there are other more humane ways of conducting such experiments. The cruelty and inhuman treatment given to volunteers is uncalled for especially in the modern world of today where we have a human rights obligation on fellow human beings. Given the extreme physical and psychological cruelties being inflicted on subjects, it would appear that only those people who are in desperate need of money would volunteer to take part in these experiments. But in keeping with the concern of fellow human beings such exercises should not be conducted and must be made illegal in view of the extreme inhuman treatment being given to participants.
Milgram, Stanley, Some conditions of obedience and disobedience to authority, Human Relations, Vol. 18, No. 1, 57-76 (1965).