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The Milgram Experiment: A New Finding

Updated on September 30, 2017
Milgrams Shock Machine
Milgrams Shock Machine | Source

New ideas about the Milgram Experiment

In 1963 Stanley Milgram set out on a psychological quest to understand the reasoning behind the violent genocide that occurred in World War II (Milgram, 1964). His experiment would go down in the annals of psychology as one of the most shocking and ground breaking experiment in history. By default I was assigned to study this experiment in great depth. It is through that study that I came to a conclusion that would shock Milgram himself.


The Milgram experiment involved men between the ages of 25-40 from various backgrounds and social standing (Milgram, 1964). These men were solicited to participate in an experiment involving the effects of negative reinforcement on learning (Milgram, 1964). The participants were taken to a room with a research assistant, it was discussed who between two men would participate as the student and who would participate as the teacher. The trick was that the man picked as the student was an actor. The participants were always chosen as the teacher.

The participant and the actor were then led to a room with a shock treatment machine. The participant was given a nominal shock by the researcher to show how the machine worked. The actor was then hooked up to the machine and the participant was taken to another room where he was taught the procedure for the experiment. The teacher was told to read a list of words to the student and then have the student tell the teacher the words in the same order. If the student got an answer wrong the teacher was to give the student a shock.

The participant was required to increase the shock every time the student (actor) got a wrong answer. In reality the student (actor) was not receiving the shocks at all, however the participants did not know this fact. At various times during the experiment the actor would scream or beg to be let go. If the participant hesitated to continue the shocks the researcher would urge the participant to continue.


The results of the Milgram experiment were astounding, 65% of all the participants were willing to continue the experiment until it reached lethal shock levels (Milgram, 1964). Milgram attributed the results of the experiment to “implied authority”. In other words the researcher served as an authority figure over the participants causing them to do what they were told. Milgram applied this idea to the acts committed by the Nazi army against the Jewish people.


What if Milgram was wrong? In studying the Milgram experiment I came up with a different conclusion. If Milgram was right about implied authority being what caused people to complete the experiment then why didn’t everyone who participated complete the experiment? Why did the 35% leave?

At this point I would like to propose a basic truth of human nature “you cannot make a man do anything that is against his nature” without force. If something is against a man’s nature then he simply will not do it. This includes lying, cheating, stealing, harming others, and killing. I will give you an example of this: In September of 2011 a lone gunman entered the IHOP in Carson City Nevada and opened fire on the patrons. Eventually the gunman left the restaurant on foot still shooting at people running across the parking lot. A local shop owner had a gun and although he got his gun out, he could not bring himself to shoot the gunman. It was against the shop owner’s nature to kill another person.

If it is against a person’s nature to do something, they simply will not be able to complete the task. What this means is that it was not against the nature of 65% of the people in the experiment to hurt another person without provocation. This is a scary thought. It means that there is a possibility that 65% of the population is wired for violent behavior. I propose that this is the case. The third leading cause of child death in the United States is being killed by a parent.

The Milgram experiment has been reproduced several times with similar results. It is not a fluke that violent crime is in the news daily. The people who will not commit violent acts against other person only represent 35% of the population. This is discouraging albeit very true. Milgram in his attempt to discover a cause really discovered the darkest part of humanity.

It is my feeling at this time that the ability to hurt others is a trait. I was calling it the psycho trait however, I have decided that is an inaccurate description. Eventually I will come up with a more accurate description. It is difficult to proclaim this a disorder when apparently 65% of people have it. It would appear as though the 35% are the unusual group. Who are the 65%? The answer is that I simply do not know. More research needs to be done in order to establish possible DNA or statistical evidence.

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    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 5 years ago

      Dang, this is scary. I am in the 35 percentile, thank goodness. Thank you for the insight.