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The Milgram Experiment: Ethical Issues

It is a widely known fact that research studies involving human subjects must be approved by a committee to ensure the safety of the participants. The modern ethical guidelines are often informed by the failure to consider the physical and psychological health and well-being of the participants. One such research project was the Milgram experiment, a highly contentious study that examined obedience. This post will consider the investigation and discuss how it could be adjusted to follow the ethical standards.

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The Milgram experiment is a controversial study on the subject of obedience to authority figures. It was conducted by Stanley Milgram and asked the participants to deliver electric shocks to other people if they provided wrong answers (Zimbardo, 2011). The individuals taking part in the research were unaware that the persons they were in charge of were actors and did not receive any electric shocks during their sessions (Zimbardo, 2011). Thus, the participant believed they were subjecting others to physical pain and experienced temporary distress during the study. It can be argued that the cost was worth the knowledge gained as it showed how people behave under duress. If the participants were informed that no shocks were delivered to others, the purpose of the experiment would be negated. If the actions they performed in the research were of no significance to the participants and the people who were supposed to receive shocks, Milgram would not be able to evaluate obedience to authority correctly.

Today, the Milgram experiment would not be approved as it does not meet modern ethical standards. Thus, the researchers would need to inform the participants of the purpose of the study, obtain informed consent, notify them of the details of the procedure, and ensure that it does not cause any psychological or physical distress. Moreover, the researchers would be prohibited from misleading the partakers about the purpose or procedure. However, these changes would compromise the initial goal of the study and the moral reason as outlined by Milgram. If the participants are aware the electric shock recipients are in no immediate danger, the conditions under which individuals obey authority and commit actions that go against their consciousness cannot be appropriately explored. Overall, the ethical guidelines limit the scenarios that can be examined in such research.


Zimbardo, P. (2011). The Milgram experiment. YouTube. Web.

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