Replicating Milgram

Someone has done it.

The author conducted a partial replication of Stanley Milgram’s (1963, 1965, 1974) obedience studies that allowed for useful comparisons with the original investigations while protecting the well-being of participants.

Seventy adults participated in a replication of Milgram’s Experiment 5 up to the point at which they first heard the learner’s verbal protest (150 volts). Because 79% of Milgram’s participants who went past this point continued to the end of the shock generator’s range, reasonable estimates could be made about what the present participants would have done if allowed to continue.

See the full study, by Jerry Burger, in American Psychologist. The whole issue is devoted to the subject of Milgram’s Experiment number 5–possibly the most famous psychology study in history.

Two psychologists argue that such ‘high-impact’ experiments are too important not to do (under reasonable safeguards)

some high-impact studies may have fallen by the wayside because investigators believed they could not get IRB approval or were daunted by the amount of time and effort that would have been required to get a study approved.

Another challenges the effectiveness and ethics of Burger’s new study design. Finally, thoughts from a junior colleague of Milgram’s who witnessed the original experiments.