The point of the experiment is to see how long the participant continues the experiment before they refuse to take part anymore. Some of them question what they are doing or protest to the observing “scientist,” who is instructed to keep telling them to continue.
You’d think, intuitively, most people would stop quite early on. Whenever this experiment has been conducted, however, the majority of the participants go through to the very end.
Thus, the theory goes, perfectly normal people commit to doing terrible things just because someone in a position of authority tells them to.
This new study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, was conducted in Poland in 2015, and is the first Milgram experiment to be carried out in Eastern Europe. The fact that 90 percent of participants went the whole nine yards is a worrying sign, but it’s worth noting that there were only 80 people taking part in the test – a small sample size, to be sure.
With authoritarianism once again on the rise, this infamous experiment is certainly pertinent. Will contemporary people do bad things because of an overbearing political influence? This new study seems to suggest they will.
There is one additional thing to highlight, however. The team, from Poland’s SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, found that “the number of people refusing to carry out the commands of the experimenter was three times greater when the [learner] was a woman.”
The political science behind authoritarianism. Vox via YouTube