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Obedience A Monster

For many years, a popular question that people ask to those who follow a leader “How far would you go for them? ”. This question has been answered many times by not only the people in these situations, like those in Democratic Kampuchea (Pina et al. , 2010, p. 291), but also scientists like Stanley Milgram (Milgram, 1965, p. 59). These assurances are important to study to be able to understand the psychological effects that these types of relationships have. The first thing that will be examined is Stanley Milgram’s original experiment.

Milgram’s experiment was conducted at Yale University, this experiment consisted of “forty males between the ages of twenty and fifty” (1963, p. 2). These men came to the experiment on their own admission, newspaper articles and post mail for an “A study of memory and learning at Yale” ( Milgram, 1963, p. 3). Even though the sample was highly random and could have led to an extremely disappointing sample, on the contrary, the group was very diverse in both careers and education. The true experiment being conducted was seeing how far these men would go when told by a “superior” that is what they must do.

The men were told that when they arrived that the experiment was about testing the correlation between punishment and learning, and the effects on the learner, as well as the teacher. Then they were told the teacher and the learner was going to be picked at random, however, “the drawing was rigged so that the naive participant was always the teacher” (Milgram, 1963, p. 3). The learner was always someone who knew exactly what the real experiment was, and was told to answer certain questions wrong.

This was due to the fact that the teacher was told for every wrong answer the learner gave the participant was to increase the voltage of the shock. The reactions from the shocks were scripted, due to the fact that no real shocks were given to the learner. “Starting with 75 volts the learner begins to grunt and moan. At 150 volts he demands to be let out of the experiment. At 180 volts he cries out that he can no longer stand the pain. At 300 volts he refuses to provide any more answers to the memory test, insisting that he is no longer a participant in the experiment and must be freed. (Milgram, 1965, p. 60)

This resulted in certain participants to stop the experiment earlier than others, but some participants still continued even after the learner asked to be let go. The participants were told after the learner refused to give any more answers that they were to accept that as a wrong answer and up the voltage. Of the forty participants, twenty-six continued until the very end giving the learner 450 volts. Out of the other fourteen participants, five stopped made it to 300 volts, four stopped at 315, two stopped after 330, and one at each voltage of 345, 360, and 375 (Milgram, 1963, p. -7).

These results, however, do not show the real nature of the participants. When a participant told the “scientist” that they could no longer go on with the experiment the “scientist” would respond with one of the four approved responses “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. (Milgram, 1963, p. 4)”. These were used to make the participant feel as though they really had no other choice but to follow the orders.

They also had “special” for prods when the first four were not enough “although the shocks may be painful, there is no permeant tissue damage, so please go on. ” And “whether the learner likes it or not, you must go on until he has learned all the word pairs correctly, so please go on” (Milgram, 1963, p. 5). All participants whether they made it to the end or not all showed signs of regretting what they were doing. They all wanted to stop and those who didn’t prove that obedience to a superior can cause a follower to do as that superior wants.

Milgram’s study is a very significant example of how obedience can take over a person’s whole persona. Most of the participants realized that the learner was in pain rating their pain on a scale from one to fourteen, at a fourteen (Milgram, 1963, p. 5). This, however, did not make most participants stop because only fourteen of the forty stopped before the highest voltage. This is evidence that even if someone does not truly believe in what they are doing, as long as someone is there telling them, it is the only way, they will do it.

Milgram’s research is considered to be the classic obedience study. There have been many other lab studies done since Milgram’s classic but some of the best results have come from real life examples. Many communities in the world have fallen due to giving a leader too much obedience. In these communities, one person has all of the power that comes from obedience. This can make for some very life threatening situations because these leaders can use their power to make their followers kill others. One study, in particular, stands out among the others when Cambodia became the Democratic Kampuchea.

This was an amazing case because once the city was taken over it was also sealed off from the outside creating an almost lab-like experiment (Pina et al. , 2010, p. 294). During the late 1970’s Cambodia became overrun and taken by the young soldiers of the Red Khmer army. This army would rule for four years, tearing children from their families and telling them “(they are) no longer a family” (Pina et al. , 2010, p. 291). These soldiers that ripped children from their families were also children themselves.

They were raised to believe that the people who lived in the city where “bourgeois and capitalists” (Pina et al. , 2010, p. 291). Their obedience was shown not only through their participation in the overtake of Cambodia, but also by the little things they did. The young soldiers were seen “drinking motor oil and eating toothpaste” (Pina et al. , 2010, p. 291). The soldiers were also described as “killing machines” and seemed to have almost “robotic obedience” (Pina et al. , 2010, p. 294). These things that the people of Cambodia witnessed the young soldiers do was due to their “training”.

The training that these children got was based on two major things alienation and obedience (Pina et al. , 2010, p. 294). From the very beginning, the soldiers are taught that differences were not acceptable and that you must alienate yourself from those that are different. The reason for this is one of the biggest goals the Democratic Kampuchea had was “a society with no classes and no differences” (Pina et al. , 2010, p. 295). Everyone that was different was considered an enemy and they were to be killed.

The soldiers were also told “to kill ten friends rather than keep one enemy alive” (Pina et al. , 2010, p. 295), this was an example of the obedience they were to have. These child soldiers were also taught to even rat out their own people if they did something wrong. The leaders of the Democratic Kampuchea were able to teach the soldiers these things by using fear. They instilled a state-wide terror to eradicate any perceived enemies of the “revolution”. However, though, many of the killings were random at best, “it was difficult to find a “fault” that could not imply death” (Pina et al. 2010, p. 295).

These children were to further the revolution, using any means necessary, even having them execute others. Both studies that have been observed here have a major component in common, how far people will allow their obedience to take them. There are only a few differences between the two studies. First, unlike Milgram’s study, Pina et al. study show that if you raise someone to be totally obedient that they can go so far as to kill another person, even a parent. In Milgram’s study, the participants were willing to give up their time and then got to go home.

While the kids in the Democratic Kampuchea were raised in fear and terror, not allowed to trust anyone, and have no home to go to. Since Pina et al. study was not one done in a laboratory but one done in the real world there are many other implications that may have allowed for the data to end the way it did. However, without Milgram’s study, there would be no baseline to compare to. In reality, then, Pina et al. study show how far Milgram’s study could have gone. This look into social psychology allowed for many human qualities to show themselves.

The overarching theme being obedience, but these studies also showed how fear can be used to make someone become obedient as well. Overall, Pina et al. study solidifies much of Milgram’s original study. In the first study, Milgram’s experiment showed that if a superior tells a follower to do something they will do it. They will follow those in power blindly even if it means hurting another human. Pina et al. study show that someone can raise children to do whatever they want as long as they perceive that a superior wants them to. The two studies are very similar if it is looked at in a broad sense.

In both studies “prods” were used to encourage the continuation of the study, for Milgram’s it was sayings such as “you must go on” (1963, p. 4). In Pina et al. case, it was propaganda that was shown to the children to make them believe that the “bourgeois” was their true enemy and not the people killing their families (2010, p. 291). Both forms of “prods” where successful in motivating the “participants” to do as the superior wanted. The Red Khmer army was able to make the children they kidnapped do as they wish, even to the extent of killing someone.

Milgram’s study is proved because the Democratic Kampuchea was not an experiment but a real-life encounter with manipulative people. Since it was not in a lab and no one was setting out to do an experiment on obedience, this army set out on taking over a city. This example then becomes one for Milgram’s study. Milgram set out to see how far obedience would make a person go, not knowing that he would find out information that he would later claim to be disturbing (1965, p. 75), and the study of the Democratic Kampuchea supports his findings.

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