Basic Instincts: The Science of Evil
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of ABC News
Posted: March 7th, 2009
"Primetime" wanted to know if ordinary people today would still follow orders, even if they believed their actions were causing someone else pain. Would as many follow the seemingly dangerous and painful orders as in the original experiment [conducted by Stanley Milgram at Yale in 1963]? After contacting respected psychologist Jerry Burger at Santa Clara University in California, ABC News was able to replicate Milgram's study in a modified way. Burger said, "People have often asked the question, 'Would we find these kinds of results today?' and some people try to dismiss the Milgram findings by saying, 'That's something that happened back in the '60s. People aren't like that anymore.'" In ABC News' version of the Milgram experiment, we tested 18 men, and found that 65 percent of them agreed to administer increasingly painful electric shocks when ordered by an authority figure. 22 women signed up for our experiment. Even though most people said that women would be less likely to inflict pain on the learner, a surprising 73 percent yielded to the orders of the experimenter. Out of the 30 people we tested with an additional accomplice acting as a moral guide, 63 percent still inflicted electric shocks, even though the accomplice refused to go on. Our subjects had an unusually high level of education. 22.9 percent had some college, 40 percent had bachelor's degrees and 20 percent had master's degrees.