UK Daily Mail
Friday, Dec 19, 2008
Most of us would torture others if ordered to do so, a study has found.
Scientists revealed that 70 per cent of volunteers, when encouraged by authority figures, continued to administer electric shocks – or at least thought they were doing so – even after an actor claimed they were painful.
Researchers at Santa Clara University in California said the experiment can only partly explain the widely reported prisoner abuse at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq or events during World War II.
Jerry Burger said: ‘What we found is validation of the same argument – if you put people into certain situations, they will act in surprising, and maybe often even disturbing, ways.
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Burger was copying an experiment published in 1961 by Yale University professor Stanley Milgram, in which volunteers were asked to deliver electric ‘shocks’ to other people if they answered certain questions incorrectly.
Milgram found that, after hearing an actor cry out in pain at 150 volts, 82.5 per cent of participants continued administering shocks, most to the maximum 450 volts.
The experiment surprised psychologists and no one has has tried to replicate it because of the distress suffered by many of the volunteers who believed they were shocking another person.
‘When you hear the man scream and say, "let me out, I can’t stand it," that is the point when the real stress that people criticised Milgram for kicked in,’ Burger said.