I’ve just read an account of a participant from the original Milgram experiment. The account in the January 2004 issue of Jewish Currents recounts Joseph Dimow’s experience at the hands of Milgram and the experimenter.
When is it proper to refuse to obey authority figures, even if they have been democratically chosen for their positions? In 1961, I participated in a famous experimental study about obedience and authority — although I and other participants were led to believe it was a study of memory and learning.
It’s not very often that we get such an insight into an experiment – from the participant’s point-of-view. Although it has been written many years after the experiment if some of the suggestions in the article are true Milgram wasn’t entirly truthful about his experiment in his write-up and there seems to have been a lot more psychological harm caused.
Then the most disturbing part of the entire experience occurred: The professor brought in the learner and I was flabbergasted. His face was covered in tears and he looked haggard. He offered his hand and thanked me for stopping the experiment, saying that the shocks hadn’t really hurt but anticipating them had been dreadful. I was confused as to whether he was in earnest or acting. I left unsure, and waited outside for the learner so I could discuss it with him.
It’s a fantastic read for anyone who studies Milgram – a participants view of one of the most notable psychological experiments of the 20th Century.
Thanks to Debs for finding this excellent article.