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[P]
They're finally all the same

By la princesa in Culture
Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:30:33 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

The Milgram obedience experiments and the Stanford prison experiment remain among the most controversial experiments in social psychology. Much of this controversy is due to the brutal results of the Stanford experiment and the equally unnerving results of the Milgram experiments; and to the unethical behavior of the psychologists in charge. In the larger context of Western society, the results of both studies share surprising similarities.

Their unethical nature merely serves to reinforce the insights they offer into the social norms of Western culture. From shocking a man with a heart condition to locking up a prisoner for hours as punishment, these studies show the perils of duality when misdirected to conform to Western cultural norms.


In the original Milgram experiments, participants acted as teachers and were told by the experimenters to shock their student (a confederate) if the student failed to give correct answers in a simple word-pairing test. Milgram tested the obedience of the participants under multiple conditions. These conditions varied, from making the teachers physically place the confederate's hand on the shock plate for each incorrect response to having the experimenter order the teachers to shock the student by phone to telling the teachers that the confederate had a heart condition. Combinations of confederates and experimenters were also tested.

The central finding was that the majority of participants shocked the confederate until the highest level (450 volts) under most conditions. This majority shrank when disobedience was shown, when the authority figure was remote, or when the participant had to physically place the confederate's hand on the shock plate (Touch-Proximity). These results were completely unexpected. As Blass (1991) notes in his critique of Milgram's research, "When asked to predict the outcome of the obedience experiment, neither a group of Yale students nor a group of psychologists were even remotely close to predicting the actual result" (Blass, 1991, p.398). College students and psychiatrists were unable to consider the possibility that a majority of participants would choose to obey an experimenter's commands, even when it meant shocking another human with 450 volts of electricity.

Milgram's experiments were duplicated in several other Western nations (Blass 1991) and the results were similar: a majority of participants went all the way to the highest shock level. Blass mentions an even more startling variation on the original experiment done in 1976 (Blass, 1991, p.400). The experimenter told one group of participants that they would have to be learners after a session of shocking the victim. The possibility of retaliation did not affect obedience, as 81% of the participants shocked the learner all the way to the highest level.

Milgram's experiments and the related duplications and variations that followed show distressing results. Many theories have been suggested as to why the rate of obedience in these experiments is so high. Milgram focused on the situation as a factor, noting, for example, that when the authority was remote or divided (arguing experimenters), the rate of disobedience went up. Blass suggests that while situation plays a role in obedience, certain personality elements also contribute to one's obeying or disobeying authority. Among these elements are religious belief and level of suspiciousness. As evidence for this supposition, Blass (1991) describes a 1972 dissertation outlining the effects religious belief (or lack thereof) can have on obedience. Highly religious people were less likely to question authority and were also more obedient (Blass, 1991, pp. 404-5).

Given the high percentage of people in America who profess belief in God and the Judeo-Christian religious beliefs America was founded on, the results of the Milgram study seem more rational. A religious person who has been brought up to defer to authority is more likely to obey than an atheist. When Milgram's study was duplicated in West Germany, where the population is not as religious , the rates of obedience were just over fifty percent. Essentially, the people in the Milgram and Milgram-inspired studies were not being cruel because they wished to. They were attempting to conform to the norms of Western culture.

It is this attempt at conforming to norms that produces a disturbing dualism in Westerners. They must reconcile their internal ethical sense with the ethics of Western culture, which often permit obedience to authority to supersede one's personal judgments. The complicit Germans in Nazi Germany might have considered Hitler's policies wrong, but in the Judeo-Christian context of their culture, they subjugated their opinions and obeyed. This was generally accomplished by shifting responsibility. Milgram noted that while many of the participants did not enjoy shocking the learner, they were more likely to go to the highest level when the experimenter claimed responsibility.

The Stanford prison experiment, unlike Milgram's obedience experiments, did not deal with subjects who wished to give up responsibility for their actions. It dealt with participants who wished to assume full responsibility for their actions.

The experiment had equal numbers of men divided randomly into two groups: guards and prisoners. The prisoners endured a realistic mock-arrest and were placed in a simulated prison by the guards. Zimbardo, Haney and Banks, the Stanford experimenters, were attempting to analyze the interactions that occur between guards and prisoners in order to understand the brutal behaviours of prison guards in real prisons. They used only subjects who tested completely normal and average on personality tests.

The guards were told that they could discipline the prisoners and assign them various jobs. No physical violence was permitted. The experimenters were amazed at how quickly the prisoners and guards adopted their assigned roles. The prisoners became passive and submissive. The guards grew increasingly more brutal. At one point a guard locked up a prisoner in solitary confinement all night because he thought the experimenters were not being harsh enough with the prisoners.

In his response to a criticism of the Stanford experiment, William DeJong points out that while none of the participants agreed on a specific stereotype of a prisoner, nearly all agreed that guards "would be oppressive and hostile."(DeJong, 1975, p. 1014). As in Milgram's experiment, it is cultural norms which inform the participants' behaviour patterns. While prisoners are often portrayed in Western culture as either passive or aggressive, prison guards are generally portrayed as brutal, sadistic people. The guards in the Stanford experiment merely took this cultural cue and used it as a behaviour model in the experiment.

The study was terminated early due to intense psychosomatic illnesses among some of the prisoners and physical violence from the guards, though the experimenters had clearly forbidden it at the beginning of the experiment. Given that all the participants tested normally and showed no signs of deviation, the experimenters were surprised at how swiftly the roles of guard and prisoner were adopted. However, given Western cultural norms that reward aggression in males and provide a stereotype of a particularly aggressive male in this situation (guarding a jail full of prisoners), the guards were actually conforming to societal norms. The prisoners, though they lacked a clear stereotype, also followed societal norms in letting the dominant males (the guards) take control of the situation.

The thread linking these two studies is social norms. In both Milgram's experiments and the Stanford experiment, the participants are doing their best to conform to social norms. The dissonance lies in the fact that these social norms are presented in a context that goes against the internal norms of most of the participants. However shocking these studies might seem, the fact remains that sometimes in real life, people are placed in situations where their internal ethics conflict with those of society. In this case, one must either go against social norms and follow one's internal ethics or one must sublimate one's own ethics by shifting responsibility onto authority or society. Because the majority of Westerners wish to be accepted, when there is a conflict between their norms and society's, they choose society's unless they witness other members of society violating the norms. Then one can redefine social norms to reflect the fact that there is a social group compatible with one's internal norms. This does not occur often in Western society, and so Westerners are forced into a state of ethical and moral duality, periodically choosing whether they should violate dissonant social norms or force their internal norms to conform (Levy, 1997).

It is, in fact, this duality that renders the Milgram and Stanford studies unethical. In testing how far people would push themselves to conform to social norms, the experimenters were forced to violate accepted social norms. Both Milgram and Zimbardo et al, had to choose between following ethical psychological principles and not getting the results they needed or violating some of these principles and getting controversial but important results. In both studies, participants were deceived about the amount of physical and psychological stress they would have to endure in the experiment. Common sense would dictate that if the participants had been fully informed, the experimenters would have had far fewer subjects to test. In addition, though they violated social norms in misleading the participants, the extensive debriefings provided at the end of the studies served as a balance. No participant suffered long-term repercussions from the studies.

Though many psychologists have argued that Milgram's obedience experiments and the Stanford prison experiment were unethical and cruel, they served a purpose that justified the temporary cruelty endured by the participants. These studies served to emphasize the duality of people existing in a Western, Judeo-Christian culture. By subjecting them to social norms that were highly dissonant with their internal norms, these experimenters were able to clearly show the battles normal, ordinary people must fight with themselves when their culture emphasizes actions and situations that they disagree with (Levy, 1997).

Carl Sagan, in his book Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, mentions an experiment involving macaques that was similar to the Milgram experiments. Macaques were fed only if they shocked a fellow macaque. Nearly ninety percent of them chose to starve rather than shock another macaque. Sagan uses this anecdote to criticize human ethical and moral standards (Sagan, 1992, pp.117-8). His criticism, while justifiable, neglects the fact that Western human society is far more complex than macaque society. Though obedience to authority, though it involves torturing another, and willingness to be a brutal guard seem cruel, they are socially sanctioned actions within the context of Western civilization. As the civilization has grown, so has its ethical and moral norms. Because of this complexity, sometimes one's internal ethics will conflict with society's. An example would be Nazi Germany. The majority of the Germans were conforming to social norms, even though they often disagreed with them. According to Milgram, "Even Eichmann was sickened when he toured the concentration camps" (Milgram, 1974).

This is the price one pays for living in a technologically advanced, complex society. It is possible that in less complex, non-Western societies, people have little or no societal conflicts with their internal norms. This conflict is what remains at the heart of the Milgram experiments and the Stanford prison study. In a complex society, one must occasionally do cruel things because it is a social norm. One must be of two minds, both good and bad, alternating with changing cultural mores. The unasked question in these studies, the question that has not been definitively answered is: Does one wish to exist in a society that forces one to behave evilly or cruelly or occasion in return for technological and social advancement? Sagan terms the macaque experiment a "Faustian bargain". Perhaps the term is better applied to Western civilization.

References


Blass, Thomas. (1991). Understanding Behavior in the Milgram Obedience Experiment: The Role of Personality, Situations, and Their Interactions. Journal of Personality and Social Behavior, 60, 398-407.

DeJong, William. (1975). Another Look at Banuazizi and Movahedi's Analysis of the Stanford Prison Experiment. American Psychologist, 30, 1014.

Levy, A. (1997). Obedience and Individual Responsibility. A Heart of Good and Evil. Available: http://web.archive.org/web/19970704234734/http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~adlevy/evil.

html [1997, December 3].

Milgram, S. (1974). The Perils of Obedience. Harper's Magazine. [Online]. Available: jmcneil.sba.muohio.edu/Private/PerilsofObedience.html [1997, November 30].

Sagan, C., and Druyan, A. (1992). Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. Random House: New York.

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They're finally all the same | 413 comments (373 topical, 40 editorial, 1 hidden)
Another question: (3.66 / 3) (#2)
by Bill Barth on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:09:40 PM EST

Nice article, BTW, +1 when it comes out of editing. You ask:
Does one wish to exist in a society that forces one to behave evilly or cruelly or occasion in return for technological and social advancement?
I think that it's more interesing to consider whether complex societies can exist (or form) if individuals do not behave cruelly in accordance with social norms when the circumstances demand.


Yes...I am a rocket scientist.

Are "simple" societies better? (2.50 / 2) (#82)
by BCoates on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:37:46 AM EST

Is there any evidence that "simple" and/or non-western societies have less apalling results when for a test like milgram's?

It's not like genocide is a purely European practice.

--
Benjamin Coates

[ Parent ]

Freud Extension (3.00 / 2) (#3)
by JChen on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:12:55 PM EST

The experiments themselves were reflexive of the society that they were conducted in; the cruelty standards set by the experimenters showed (personal opinion) that these "scientists" are, at least on a low leve, trying to extend their perverted fantasies regarding pain and suffering, power and dominance unto their subjects in their experiments.

Let us do as we say.
question (3.66 / 6) (#4)
by pistols on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:15:33 PM EST

Does anyone know whether the Stanford experiment has been performed in non-western cultures? I find the results of the Milgram's study in West Germany interesting, although the link with religuous stance still seems weak. Has anyone ever attempted either of these studies in more remote cultures?

wow (4.90 / 11) (#6)
by pb on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:25:25 PM EST

What a perceptive analysis of two experiments that have never failed to impress me.  To continue the analysis, I would hypothesize that the same sort of conformity takes place whenever people try to figure out the customs and norms of the local culture.

Actually, a more modern example of this is happening right here, as we speak: theboz posted an article telling people to discuss things differently (or perhaps to discuss different things) based on how things have changed on kuro5hin over the past few years.

Many people thought his idea was a good one, but would be quickly voted down--this is analagous to sublimating your own opinion in favor of what you think everyone else's opinion is.  However, authority still prevailed--some people were confused about the mission of the site, what it was used for, and what it should be used for.  But long-time users of the site corrected them, and theboz's story is now on the Front Page.

Some people find this entire phenomenon to be totally revolutionary.  Kuro5hin is not just a system that lets the users control the content--we also control the cultural mores and norms of the site by example, based on what we post and what we say each and every day.

It's a sort of cultural inertia that shifts the focus of the community as the community grows and changes.  For example, the only ways that I see to have a community that's more like kuro5hin.org was are as follows:

  1. To rigidly limit membership -- this is somewhat against the spirit of the whole site
  2. To rigidly follow the mission statement -- this is also somewhat against the spirit of the site, but at least we have a mission statement and a FAQ, which provides some structure for our new users.
  3. To have the elder community members play a more active role in shaping the community and setting a good example for others.
So, in a system where autocracy is not the answer, we all have to be model citizens, lest we end up in some sort of demented, high-tech Stanford Prison Experiment -- and I'd like to thank la princesa for intellectually providing me the tools to think about this correctly.
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
Oh no. (2.45 / 11) (#9)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:34:49 PM EST

Blass suggests that while situation plays a role in obedience, certain personality elements also contribute to one's obeying or disobeying authority. Among these elements are religious belief and level of suspiciousness. As evidence for this supposition, Blass (1991) describes a 1972 dissertation outlining the effects religious belief (or lack thereof) can have on obedience. Highly religious people were less likely to question authority and were also more obedient (Blass, 1991, pp. 404-5).

Why do I now fear that the kurobot militant atheist religion-haters gang will jump into this and claim that it "shows" what they "knew" to be right "all along", that religious people are dispositionally biased to bow to authority? (Hint for the inevitable militant atheist flamers: if you don't know the relative role of situational vs. dispositional factors in social psychology, you might want not to respond...)

Anyway, what's the reference to this 1972 dissertation?

--em

Well... (5.00 / 2) (#168)
by Dephex Twin on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:29:30 AM EST

Why do I now fear that the kurobot militant atheist religion-haters gang will jump into this and claim that it "shows" what they "knew" to be right "all along", that religious people are dispositionally biased to bow to authority?
Well, no need to worry about that happening now... looks like you took care of it for them!


Alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems. -- Homer Simpson
[ Parent ]
No! (4.20 / 15) (#13)
by ucblockhead on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:42:25 PM EST

In his response to a criticism of the Stanford experiment, William DeJong points out that while none of the participants agreed on a specific stereotype of a prisoner, nearly all agreed that guards "would be oppressive and hostile."(DeJong, 1975, p. 1014). As in Milgram's experiment, it is cultural norms which inform the participants' behaviour patterns.
No, it is not cultural norms which inform their behavior patterns. It is the participants' impressions as to what those norms are and the participants' impressions as to what the experimenters want to find.

This is the fundamental flaw with the Standford experiment, and it is such a large flaw that it renders the results meaningless. You cannot have a psychological experiment in which the participants know what the experiment is. If you do, the results you get will be based not on the subjects' psychological makeup, but on the subjects' opinions as to what the researchers want to discover and the subjects' beliefs on what others will do.

These people were not acting like "normal" people in a prison situation. They were acting like people in an experiment about prison situations. The guards may well have been harsh not because of human nature, but because they thought that guards would be harsh, or that the experimenters wanted to show that guards would be harsh. Prisoners were likely passive not because they'd normally be passive in a real such situation, but because they expect others to be be passive. This was all subconcious playacting, basically.

It does not matter if they overtly agreed on any stereotypes. It is well known that when in experiments people often a) lie and b) don't react the way they think they will. You may well be testing subconcious impressions, something the subjects may not be aware of. You may also be testing subjects' beliefs as to what the experimenters want to see happen, something they will lie about. That's why psychological experiments typically keep subjects in the dark about what is being tested.

As a psychological study, it is just a crock of shit. It is utterly worthless.

(Note the Milgram experiment does not suffer from this flaw.)
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

hmm? (none / 0) (#18)
by pb on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:52:01 PM EST

Aren't these the stereotypes that people have about prisoners and prison guards?  I don't think anyone was told to be sadistic, merely that they were playing the roles of prisoners and prison guards.

I don't see how you could do an experiment without informing the participants about what their roles in it are.  Of course you can't tell them the results, however; you don't know the results yet.

Similarly, I don't see how you could run a prison without at least telling the prison guards what their role is; I suppose the prisoners will find out soon enough anyhow, once they're locked in their little cells.
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

knowledge (4.00 / 3) (#25)
by ucblockhead on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:10:46 AM EST

It doesn't matter what they were told.  It doesn't matter what they say.  If they know they are being experimented on, their actions are not natural

This is well known.  It is why experiments are designed specifically to prevent such knowledge.

And no, there is no way to ethically run this experiment in a blind fashion.  This impossibility doesn't suddenly make doing it wrong give you good results.

It's like Hans the counting horse.  Hans the counting horse appeared to be able to add.  Turns out his owner was subconciously signalling him.  The owner himself did not know that he was doing it.

People are more preceptive than horses.  They perceive things subconciously.  It doesn't matter that the researchers didn't overtly say what they wanted.  As long as the subjects and researchers interacted, the subjects may well have subconciously picked up what the researchers subconciously wanted to find.

That's why experiments are typically run blind.  To avoid that problem.

In any case, you first sentence merely says that the participants were acting the way thought prisoners and guards would act.  This is not necessarily the way they'd act in the real situations.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

right. (none / 0) (#31)
by pb on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:21:45 AM EST

In that case, I think the only thing that's left would be to study actual prison guards and prisoners.  But why would they be acting out stereotypes of prison guards and prisoners?  I suppose it all has to start somewhere, which is what I think the experiment tried to test.

You could also study instances where people are put in these same situations naturally, but I expect that would be more difficult to find.  The I'd say The Stanford Prison Experiment did the best job it could to accurately simulate what it would be like to become a prisoner and to be imprisoned; the only differences are that this was an experiment, and we know that these people are psychologically relatively average.

Obviously the former difference is a detriment, while the latter is actually an improvement, which makes it easier to study the psychology of prisoners and prison guards.  So although I see your concerns, I don't think it seriously invalidates the entire experiment to the extent that you're proposing.
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

Best job (4.50 / 2) (#44)
by ucblockhead on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:44:43 AM EST

In this case, the "best job" was worthless. No good experiment on this subject is possible. They'd have been better off studying real prisoners.

It did not, in any sense, simulate what it would be like to become a prisoner. It only simulated what it would like to pretend to be a prisoner for a few days. Very, very different things.

The study is completely invalidate for the simple reason that the subjects know what the experiment is. Period. Because of this, they are not going to act "naturally". Period.

No amount of "well, we have to do it this way because it is easier" changes that.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Isn't it worth something as it is? (3.00 / 1) (#181)
by Dephex Twin on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:57:49 AM EST

Maybe it doesn't have much value in terms of the intended information, but it does provide some interesting insight into the nature of people that are supposed to perform a role.  They knew they were doing an experiment, and knew they were supposed to act a certain way.  So this experiment doesn't prove at all the people will naturally gravitate towards these roles.  But having seen how seriously both the prisoners and the guards took their roles, being willing to treat each other cruelly like that... it's kind of strange, especially since these were supposedly normal college kids.  They were *just* doing an experiment.  But they used violence and cruelty.  Perhaps this shows how their desire to perform in the experiment is stronger than their conscience, because they were just doing their jobs as test subjects.  The whole removal of responsibility thing.

I don't know if that made sense but I think there is some value there.



Alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems. -- Homer Simpson
[ Parent ]

Unknowing subjects (2.00 / 1) (#133)
by R343L on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:50:32 AM EST

It is why experiments are designed specifically to prevent such knowledge. and That's why experiments are typically run blind.

No. Some experiments are done without the knowledge (or consent) of the subject. But the vast majority of psychological research is done with the knowledge and consent of the subject. In the vast majority of studies, the subject may not know the purpose of the study before hand, but they will surely be told what to expect (e.g. you will be shown X and asked to do Y). The subjects are always told what the study was about afterwords (in the debriefing) as well as being given the opportunity to indicate that they were made uncomfortable or upset by the study. Subjects usually sign waivers, etc. as well. At an accredited research institution (i.e. a university), any study involving humans must get approval from an ethics committee of some type (and possibly other committees depending on funding sources). That ethics committee will probably ask why the study needs to be done without participant knowledge or consent (consent is important). Ethics committees prefer experiments with knowledgeable participants: less chance that someone will be hurt.

Now, if by blind you mean that a participant isn't told what hypothesis is being tested. That is usually true. But in the case of the Stanford prison study, that wouldn't have mattered (they probably didn't know what specific hypothesis was being tested before hand -- just what would happen and what they would be expected to do. e.g. "act like a prison guard".)

Rachael
"Like cheese spread over too much cantelope, the people I spoke with liked their shoes." Ctrl-Alt-Del
[ Parent ]

What about real prison guards? (3.50 / 2) (#30)
by pexatus on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:21:20 AM EST

You seem to think we cannot glean anything about how real prison guards might act from this experiment, because these people are acting and a real prison guard isn't.

What if you were to get a job as a prison guard today? How would you handle the job? How much of the job would feel like "acting" because you aren't sure what's expected of you? How much would you rely not on what you know to be the correct course of action (because you don't know the correct action), but simply on what your expectations of the job are? We're all acting, every day of our lives.

Besides, we can learn other ideas from the experiment besides "How do prison guards act?" I think the experiment tells us something more general about human nature. The hypothesis "most people have the capacity to be cruel" was certainly validated, even if the much more constrained hypothesis, "all people hired as prison guards will invariably become cruel" was not. I don't this makes the experiment an utterly worthless crock of shit, as you put it.

[ Parent ]

people can be cruel (3.33 / 3) (#33)
by ucblockhead on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:27:06 AM EST

Gee, you'd think the "holocaust" thing would have laid that particular issue to rest...

In any case, the experiment didn't validate anything other than perhaps what the particular participants believed.

I'm personally not at all convinced that they'd get the same results with a different group in a different time.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

The Stanford experiment (4.33 / 3) (#103)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:49:40 AM EST

was not designed to simulate prison conditions, but conditions in which certain groups have authority over other groups. The guard-prisoner metaphor is one way to assign authority (like freshman-senior, doctor-patient etc.), but the fact that it is a metaphor does not make the conditions studied less valid. After all, what is authority?

[ Parent ]
bollocks (3.14 / 7) (#109)
by streetlawyer on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:16:22 AM EST

You cannot have a psychological experiment in which the participants know what the experiment is.

Have you done a lot of empirical or theoretical work on this very controversial issue in the science of psychology? Or are you, perchance, just talking straight out of the top of your head?

For added credit, what would you say to someone who started yammering on in an equally ill-informed manner relating to computer science or some other field where you have expertise, not bothering to read any of the literature, but working on the basis of their own personal prejudices about what "seemed obvious"?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

in defense (4.00 / 1) (#154)
by ethereal on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:59:28 AM EST

I think it's a pretty standard protocol in the sciences that the observer should attempt to limit their influence on the experiment as much as possible; this removes any question that the results are valid and reproducible by another observer. In some sciences the impact of the observer or knowledge of being observed is higher than others, of course. But knowing how people have acted in the past when they knew they were under observation versus when they thought they were unobserved, a reasonable person would say that yes, knowledge of the experiment probably does affect the outcome somewhat in psychology. As you point out, a "reasonable person" is not necessarily a trained psychologist or scientist, though.

I would put the shoe on the other foot: can you provide evidence from reputable psychologists or professional organizations who state that they have tested this out and found that, in fact, participant knowledge of the existence of the experiment has not impacted the results? Because until that can be shown, then I think it's more reasonable to fear for the worst and presume that such knowledge has tainted the experiment, than to assume that it has not. It would be irresponsible to not control for the impact of participant knowledge merely on the assumption that such knowledge doesn't matter.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

not the question (2.00 / 1) (#164)
by streetlawyer on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:19:04 AM EST

The question is not whether there is some effect, or whether we should try to minimise the effect. It is rather, whether experiments in which people know they are being observed are so utterly tainted that they are of no use at all ("utter shit", I think the phrase was). The fact that almost all psychological research is carried out on willing subjects who know they are being monitored (indeed, many psychologists regard it as utterly unethical to carry out research on any other basis) suggests that there is a fairly wide gap between "no effect" and "some effect, but results are still useable". I don't understand what you mean by "control for" the effect of participant knowledge, by the way.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
knowing they are being monitored (5.00 / 1) (#195)
by ucblockhead on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:07:18 PM EST

Typically the way these things work is that you tell the subject that you are studying X when you are actually studying Y. Often, the experiment will happen in the waiting room, "before" the "experiment".

Obviously there will always be some effect, and obviously you can only minimize it, not remove it. But my contention is that in the Stanford experiment, it is not minimized enough to make the experiment worthwhile.

There's a lot of bad science in psychology, and most of it is defended using the efficacy argument.

Back to the Stanford experiment, it only takes a few minutes with google to show that the experiment is not particularly repeatable. Now I'm sure you will say that this is because the researchers were biased...but that's really my point...with these sorts of experiments are very susceptible to the problem of subjects acting the way they conciously or subconciously think the experimenters want them to.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

experience (5.00 / 2) (#192)
by ucblockhead on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:58:10 AM EST

I have a degree in psychology. I know how a good psychological study is run. As an undergrad, I was involved in the running of a few.

I also know how people tend to care more about what a study says than how good it is.

So yes, I've read the literature, and no, I'm not "talking straight out of the top of my head". So kindly fuck off.

(Perhaps it's because I come from the cog sci tradition, which generally tries to avoid the kind of bullshit mascerading as science that so infects social psych.)

The whole issue of "their own personal prejudices" and what "seems obvious" is precisely why this experiment is crap. The subjects aren't acting as they would in a real situation. They are acting out their own personal prejudices and in ways that seem obvious. They are doing so because they know they are being watched.

Unfortunately, this experiment, despite being crappy, gets lots of headlines because it conforms to people's prejudices. Now maybe those prejudices are actually true (and Milgram, a well designed experiment, implies that they are), but that doesn't make a bad experiment that happens to conform to them any better.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

ha ha ha (2.25 / 4) (#203)
by streetlawyer on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:32:54 PM EST

(Perhaps it's because I come from the cog sci tradition, which generally tries to avoid the kind of bullshit mascerading as science that so infects social psych.)

And thus you have just displayed your own prejudices ... presumably therefore, we should discount what you say as ... what was the phrase ... "a crock of shit".

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

whatever (5.00 / 2) (#208)
by ucblockhead on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:49:52 PM EST

I do not deny my prejudices...however, I went into great detail as to why the experiment was shit...you came back with "what do you know...you're just a comp. sci. weenie". I disabused you of that notion, leaving you with exactly no argument. You've not added to it, so one suspects that you've got nothing to add.

If you want to explain to me why the problems I outlined don't basically invaildate everything, I'm all ears. But save you're "shut up, you're just a geek who knows nothing but computers" argument for someone who is.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

I beg your pardon (1.00 / 1) (#211)
by streetlawyer on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:00:43 PM EST

Please feel free to substitute "cog.sci weenie" for "comp.sci weenie" throughout. The fact remains that you're completely dismissing a whole huge chunk of the literature based on nothing more than an utterly naive view about the possibility of independence of experiments from an experimenter. For this reason, I have no compunction at all in believing that you are lying when you claim to be "all ears" and in not discussing the matter with you further.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
pay attention (5.00 / 2) (#222)
by ucblockhead on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:21:36 PM EST

If you'd been paying attention, you'd notice that I've said nothing but good things at the Milgram experiment...I'm not "dismissing" a whole chunk of literature...again, if you'll pull your ego out from in front of your face and pay attention, you'll note that I did not say that the field was all bad, only that it was susceptible to bad experiments...bad experiments like this. There's plenty of good social psych work. Like, you know, that Milgram experiment thing.

In any case, if you want to take your ball and go home, that's fine with me...you've not actually contributed any interesting arguments other thing "you're a geek" and "you're niave" and "you're lying". That's all just ad hominem, and in this case misdirected, so I hardly feel the need to bother defending any of the actual statements I've made.

But if you tire of playing with your ball at home, I'll be happy to discuss this or any other social psych experiments, those that are good and those that are crap.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Oh, we're paying attention, all right. (2.25 / 8) (#280)
by RobotSlave on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:47:29 PM EST

The first thing I've noticed, as an attentive observer of this thread, is that you've just backpedalled mightily. Your initial post, a criticism of the Stanford study, and by implication, of the article you were responding to, made no mention of Milgram.

You did not voice your opinion or otherwise indicate any knowledge of the Milgram study until you were accused of being a "cog-sci weenie."

Furthermore, it should be noted that your initial post contradicts itself-- you admit that the study is an observation of behaviour that "was all subconcious playacting, basically," yet you reject any conclusion drawn from those observations as "meaningless," based on an imagined distinction between cultural norms and "the participants' impressions as to what those norms are."

Where do a culture's norms reside, if not in the perceptions of its members?

While there is certainly a distinction between a real prison and a simulated prison consisting of willing participants, this distinction has hardly been ignored or overlooked by the researchers.

The conclusions drawn from the Stanford study can certainly be debated, but they can not be swept aside by a rejection of the methodology. The study has been done, the observations have been made, and refusing to regard what occurred as "real" comes across as rather childish, and does not mean that the events do not have to be explained within your pet theoretical framework, be it cognitive, social, behavioral, or utterly crackpot.

[ Parent ]

Learn to read (5.00 / 3) (#284)
by ucblockhead on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:46:25 PM EST

What, streetlawyer couldn't hack it so he sent for the cavalry? Well, perhaps he should have filled you in more fully.

Here is my first post on the subject.

Here is the last line of my first post on the subject:

(Note the Milgram experiment does not suffer from this flaw.)

A cursory reading of this topic outside this particular thread will give you a number of instances of me mentioning and defending Milgrim. But I suspect you got a link to the parent of this particular thread and didn't bother going beyond it.

Perhaps you should make sure you've read up on on debate before you enter it next time. Otherwise, you might say something equally stupid.

In any case:

Where do a culture's norms reside, if not in the perceptions of its members?

In the actions of its members when they know no one's looking. You do realize that there is a difference, right? You do realize that experimental subjects often have a subconcious drive to please researchers and that this can effect results of scientific studies, right? You do realize that good experimental design means controlling for this, right? This isn't rocket science, just psych 101.

While there is certainly a distinction between a real prison and a simulated prison consisting of willing participants, this distinction has hardly been ignored or overlooked by the researchers.

Bullshit. Other than some handwaving, they ignored the problem.

The word "real" is, of course, yours. My contention is not that the study is not "real", (which is a meaningless word in this context) but that because of flaws in the experimental design, the observations do not prove what the researchers purport them to prove. They prove nothing about how people actually, and at best give insight into how people act in artificial, contrived situations where they know they are being watched...but then, so does "Survivor".

But that doesn't stop researchers from using unrepeatable results from grabbing headlines.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Learn to respect those who question you. (2.11 / 9) (#289)
by RobotSlave on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:51:21 PM EST

I missed that last line. I assumed it was a .sig, and I don't read .sigs.

As to your attempt to redefine "social norms" to suit your argument, do you realize that if no-one is looking, then behaviour can not be said with certainty to be subject to "social norms?" How do you expect to observe social norms, absent society?

Psych 101, as you know, also tells us that it is unethical to perform experiments on subjects without their knowledge or consent. Most psychological studies are done with the full awareness and cooperation of the subjects, as you are well aware.

Furthermore, you have done nothing to substantiate the claim that the subject's awareness of an experiment completely invalidates the results of that experiment-- you've simply offered it as an "obvious" idea, or one that more "scientific" (and presumably less "social") psychological theorists have arrived at a consensus on.

I hope the irony of this is not completely lost on you.

The only complaint of substance that you have at present is that you feel the Stanford researchers are "grabbing headlines." Outside the academic community, this sort of criticism is commonly referred to as "sour grapes."

Again, if you want to be taken seriously, then please direct your criticism of the Stanford study at its conclusions, rather than the observational methods that yielded the facts that those conclusions are drawn upon.

And get that fucking chip off your shoulder.

[ Parent ]

Fucking A... (5.00 / 2) (#292)
by ucblockhead on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 12:25:07 AM EST

Do I really have to repeat everything I've said in every goddamn post here? I really seriously wonder why I should bother given that you've already shown pretty clearly that you were more interested in gunning for me than actually reading what I said...

Anyway, it's all basic psych...it's not exactly unusual stuff. Any class in experiment design will teach it.

The way these studies are typically done, when you need to keep the subject unaware of what is actually being studied, is you tell them that you are testing one thing, and then you test another. For instance, one experiment on how much people remember had a guy run though the room where people were waiting to be called into the "experiment" and later quizzed them on his appearance...it was used to show how poor eyewitness testimony is. (A number of variations on this have been run.) Subjects knew they were being experimented on, just not when the experiment occurred.

Of course, that won't work in this case, which is why a good study on this sort of thing is likely impossible.

Furthermore, you have done nothing to substantiate the claim that the subject's awareness of an experiment completely invalidates the results of that experiment-
This has been studied quite a bit...go looking, I am not your google. Do you know anything about psych? Anything at all?

The only complaint of substance that you have at present is that you feel the Stanford researchers are "grabbing headlines."
More poor reading comprehension...go look at my other posts on the subject.

Again, if you want to be taken seriously, then please direct your criticism of the Stanford study at its conclusions, rather than the observational methods that yielded the facts that those conclusions are drawn upon.
In other words, you want me to ignore any problems with the experiment, and just focus on what the researchers claim they proved...that's...um...an original view of how science works.

Here's a clue for you, genius: if the study design is bad, then the conclusions are meaningless.

Here's another clue for you: I don't necessarily think the description of humanity put forth by the researchers is wrong...it's just that their experiment is not good enough to say anything on the matter...this is why I prefer Milgrim, a study that shows similar things, and because it is well designed, actually shows it.

And get that fucking chip off your shoulder.
I'm sorry, but when someone comes in gunning for me without bothering to read enough of what I actually said to avoid stupid mistakes, I tend to get a bit miffed. Go back to adequacy and tell streetlawyer to fight his own battles because clearly you don't have the stamina to do the reading necessary to make a competent stab at it.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Sorry, big shot. (2.42 / 7) (#296)
by RobotSlave on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 02:08:13 AM EST

The subjects in studies that employ a misdirection of intent are still conducted on subjects who are aware of the fact that they are being observed. There is no ethical way around this, and you know it.

Yes, I've taken a few psych courses. And I've also taken a few philosophy courses, whose fundamental questions you appear to be completely unaware of, just like so many other dogmatic empiricists.

I did not ask you to "ignore problems with the experiment." I asked you instead to stop acting like a fucking asshole and start admitting to the fact that the experiment did, in fact, happen, and that certain results were, in fact, obtained.

The fact that the construction of the experiment offends you does not give you license to pretend that the behavior of the subjects in that experiment is of no consequence or importance.

You are free, however, to interpret that behavior in a manner other than that suggested by the Stanford researchers. I certainly don't think their explanation is compelling, but you've done nothing but try to deny their right to draw any conclusion at all.

I am not "gunning" for you, you stupid turd. This is a web site, OK? Words over wires, that's all. No-one is pointing a gun at you, or threatening to beat you up. You are overcome with emotion, and exhibiting a comical approximation of a flight-or-flight response in a completely inappropriate situation. Relax. No-one is going to bite you. It's just a glass screen in front of you, see? Reach out and touch it. It's OK, really. Nobody is going to punch you.

Yes, whatever conclusions are drawn from the Stanford study should be tested via further experiment, preferably in a less ethically questionable manner. A single experiment, unto itself, is not science, no matter what the field. But to dismiss any conjecture out of hand simply due to your discomfort with the methodology is regressive, and comes across as defensive and partisan, especially when your reactionary remarks are being made with regard to an area of study in which so little is known.

You think you can win an argument by insinuating your superior book-count? Why not just go straight to dick size? It's just a relevant to the topic at hand, after all.

The fact that you keep repeating yourself suggests to me that you are unwilling or unable to understand the criticism that has been offered. Your reliance on point-by-point rebuttal rather than original composition reinforces this impression.

Now, get that fucking chip off your shoulder.

[ Parent ]

Read before you post (5.00 / 2) (#314)
by ucblockhead on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 11:21:15 AM EST

The subjects in studies that employ a misdirection of intent are still conducted on subjects who are aware of the fact that they are being observed. There is no ethical way around this, and you know it.
No shit. I never said otherwise. Perhaps you should learn to read. I even gave examples. Go look before replying next time, so that you don't look like an idiot.

I did not ask you to "ignore problems with the experiment." I asked you instead to stop acting like a fucking asshole and start admitting to the fact that the experiment did, in fact, happen, and that certain results were, in fact, obtained.
No, certain things happened. What those things were results of is an open question because of the bad design of the experiment. So yeah, of course I deny their right to draw the conclusion they did.

(Of course one might perhaps draw other conclusions, but the sorts of conclusions...just as one can draw conclusions after watching "Big Brother". But I'd hardly call "Big Brother" an experiment.)

I am not "gunning" for you, you stupid turd.
We both know that you were given a link to a post upthread. If you'd been following the entire discusion from the beginning, you wouldn't have done something as stupid as accusing me of not mentioning Milgram.

But to dismiss any conjecture out of hand simply due to your discomfort with the methodology is regressive, and comes across as defensive and partisan, especially when your reactionary remarks are being made with regard to an area of study in which so little is known.
Gah! If you'd fucking read around a bit instead of being intent on "winning" the argument for your adequoid cohort streetlawyer, you'd notice that I don't dismiss the conjecture... The experiment is bad. It shows nothing. As I said before in a post you were apparently too lazy to read, Milgram goes a long way towards proving the same conjecture. And as I also said before, the holocaust pretty well put the proof to the idea that people can be horribly cruel.

See the problem with you types is that if the experiment claims to prove what you want, you automatically assume that it is a good experiment. Because of this, you are incapable of believing that someone might call an experiment crap for any other reason then being offended by the conclusions. I am not offended by any of the conclusions that the Standford study alleged to have proved, I just don't think they particularly proved them.

You think you can win an argument by insinuating your superior book-count?
I'm not sure where the fuck that came from...the only one demanding academic credentials is streetlayer.

Oh, you mean the last sentence...I see...more reading comprehension problems...I was refering to your apparent inability to read posts here, not anything about your book knowledge (though your jumped conclusion tells me a lot about how "adequate" you think your own book knowledge is). You still seem woefully ignorant as to what has actually said here, so I'd suggest that if you want to reply in an intelligent fashion, that you take a few deep breaths, and go read all the other posts in the discussion. Perhaps that will give you a chance to post something without seeming like a blithering idiot.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Who is having the greater trouble reading, here? (2.14 / 7) (#335)
by RobotSlave on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 10:42:41 PM EST

What stikes me about your bull-headed replies is that you have not once given any indication of comprehension of the problem that has been pointed out in your criticism.

This sort of incomprehension is endemic both here and at slashdot, and though I am not such a formalist as to assign causality to style, I nonetheless feel that the use of point-by-point rebuttal is at the very least strongly indicative of exactly this sort of failing.

Nobody "gave me a pointer" and told me to attack you, you miserable, paranoid worm. I found the thread on my own, and I overlooked your little footnote referencing Milgram. I've said as much, and harping on the oversight as if it were enough to negate the substance of my argument is not only redolent of deceased equine, but also perfectly parallels your dogmatic and tediously repeated insistence on formalist perfection in experimental method prior to consideration of results.

This parallel suggests to me that the true problem here is in your dogmatic mindset, and that you do not in all liklihood realize that scientific discovery would slow to an imperceptible crawl if all research were held to the absolute empirical standard you cherish, and no conjecture permitted on the basis of imperfect experiment.

You do not understand the criticism that has been offered. If you did, you would be able to restate it, would realize that it does not pose a threat to your imagined personal status, and would not find yourself mired in a sysiphean cycle of point-by-point rebuttal.

Incidentally, the word Adequacy does not have any special argument-destroying powers, to those who are familiar with with the simplest forms of fallacy in forensics. By all means, feel free to express your opinion of Adequacy, but please don't expect it to have any bearing whatsoever on the matter at hand.

[ Parent ]

What criticism? (4.25 / 4) (#336)
by ucblockhead on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 10:56:38 PM EST

Here's a question: statistically speaking, can you extrapolate the behavior of 18 college students onto the whole population? Were the results statistically significant?

Here's another: has the Stanford prison experiment been replicated?

As to the rest, it is clear you are lying because had you read anything other than the particular thread, you would have not made such an idiotic mistake, as you would have seen me defend Milgram repeatedly. You would have seen the posts that talked about Milgram at length, and were not "little footnotes".

The trouble is that both you and streetlawyer are so blinded by your own egos and the "kurobot" stereotype that you don't read and you don't think before you post. Had you, you might have noticed that your "points" were addressed in another thread, attached to this story, by me.

And yes, I know all about logical fallacies...calling you an adequoid is the same as streetlawyer's love of the term Kurobot. What amazes me about you idiots from adequacy is how all your arguments boil down to nothing but ad hominems in the end. And the irony is that you all take such umbrage when the same sort of thing is directed at you.

But I forget...I'm just a fool kurobot, and don't understand irony.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

I didn't think so. (1.80 / 5) (#337)
by RobotSlave on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 11:42:28 PM EST

See? That's the whole problem. You can't understand what I'm saying. Thank you for confirming my suspicion.

Did I at any point call you a "kurobot," or imply that your preference for Kuro5hin has any bearing whatsoever on the validity or your arguments? Hello? Are you the same person who has been waving the term "reading comprehension" around all this time?

I'm sorry if I haven't read every last thread in this article, and unearthed every morsel of opinion that you have lavished upon the Kuro5hin readership. I don't hang on your every word, ucblockhead. Get over it.

I didn't notice the last line in your fucking post. It was an oversight. Continuing to harp on it in every damned comment, long after I've admitted to the oversight, is just making you look infantile, and more than a little bit paranoid.

At this point, you're completely out to lunch, ucblockhead. You've lost all sight of the argument, and spun off into a deranged ranting persecution complex, predictably coupled with increasingly shrill and self-important reiterations of your unimpressive credentials (illustrated with laughably simple introductory examples), and bombastic declarations about your magnum opus of Kuro5hin commentary.

I do not pretend that a thorough study of my published work will refute any specific criticism, though if any particular article addressed the matter at hand, I might link to it in support of my argument. You have not done as much, presumably because you do not understand the argument at hand, and thus can not determine which of your comments might have any bearing on it.

Answers to your questions: No. No, the significance of the results is not statistical in nature. No, of course not; repeating the experiment would be considered unethical.

These answers do not in any way diminish my central thesis, which you have yet to show even the slightest sign of comprehending. Here's a hint: it is not an ad-hominem.

[ Parent ]

Actually (3.66 / 3) (#338)
by ucblockhead on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 12:17:30 AM EST

Someone tried to replicate the experiment, and failed. (As I mentioned elsewhere.) What does that tell you about the original experiment's validity?

I'm not sure what your babbling about in regards to credentials...I've not mentioned them other than to disabuse streetlawyer of his "you are all geeks" idiocy.

And yes, I know all about your bullshit "even though it's not a perfect experiment we can reach conclusions any" point...it's a stupid point...I already told you why it's a stupid point...

And no, I don't expect you to read every thing I've written, but one wonders why you chose to read this particular deep thread, and not all the others...well, this one doesn't wonder...the reason's clear. It's because you idiots can't stand to have your precious egos attacked...you've always got to have the biggest intellectual dicks on the block.

Though frankly, it is pretty pathetic to call articles on adequacy "published work". Delusions of grandeur and all that. "Hey, guys, I got something published on a website that my friends and I run!!!" I don't go around calling stories on Kuro5hin "published work", but then, my whole existance isn't dependent on feeling superior to everyone else.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Oh, so you *do* understand, now? (1.83 / 6) (#340)
by RobotSlave on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 01:11:15 AM EST

What? You mean to say you understand my point? Nothing you've written until now would suggest as much.

I don't think you've offered anything to support the assertion that my point is "stupid" beyond the assertion itself. You've gone to great (and condescending) lengths to explain the strict methodology that you are (disturbingly) partial to, but you have done nothing to show that drawing some limited conclusion from a flawed experiment is "stupid."

Again, your ranting and raving about Adequacy contributes absolutely nothing of substance to the debate. Feel free to continue your hateful gibbering, though, if it makes you feel better.

Your continued paranoid obsession with finding some sinister motive for my reading and posting to this thread is grotesque. I skimmed the comments, something or other caught my eye, and I found the thread interesting enough to read all the way through. I'm sorry if that doesn't fit very well with your persecution complex, but that's what happened.

I find it interesting that you have taken me up on my earlier, rhetorical suggestion to bring dick size into the argument.

Just admit that my point is not stupid, and I'll go away. Feel free to toss in more paranoid ranting about Adequacy, a penis insult or two, a bit of chest-thumping, some intellectual absolutism, and whatever else you feel is necessary to restore your imagined alpha-status. So long as you admit to the validity of the central argument that I have been trying to get you to pay attention to, I'll leave whatever else you decide to thow in alone.

[ Parent ]

I understood you point (5.00 / 2) (#347)
by ucblockhead on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 11:57:42 AM EST

I understood your point all along. I even answered it. You were apparently too hot to post to bother reading it. It's clear all along that you are better at belligerent posting then reading. I've said this before...read...think...then post.

The reason the point is stupid is because it the conclusions made here imply that the behavior of people of any age, in any culture, in any time period can be deteremined by looking at the behavior of 18 college students in California in 1972. That's obviously not good science.

At the very best, you can come to the conclusion that some people can do shitting things in an artificial situation. But that's hardly news. And it is not the conclusion the researchers have come to.

So yes, your point is stupid. It basically says that good scientific methodologies are not important.

(And tell your friend "adequate" nathan that I don't give a fuck about ratings. (There, I insulted adequacy again, so you have an excuse to continue link-whoring that site. I realize that you guys need all the help you can get, what with the following traffic and all. I suppose all the lunix g33ks caught on.))
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Not quite. (2.00 / 5) (#362)
by RobotSlave on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 11:42:44 PM EST

My point is not that scientific methodologies are not important. My point is that some limited conclusions can be drawn from flawed experiments.

You have finally begun to acknowledge this simple fact, but you have painted yourself into a corner and can not admit that the point is not stupid without losing face.

In point of fact, science would effectively cease to exist if scientists were not permitted to draw conclusions from flawed experiments. Do you honestly believe that there is such a thing as a "perfect" experiment?

Science does not draw its authority from individual, flawless experiments. It depends, instead, on multiple (and sometimes flawed) experiments, both in establishing theories, and rejecting them.

Take the brouhaha over "cold fusion" a few years back. The initial findings were eventually discredited not by any rejection of the methodologies employed, but rather by multiple experiments by other researchers that failed to support the initial conclusions.

An even better example is the case of "polywater." The initial experiments in that case were, in fact, reproduced, and a great deal of speculation took place before new experiments were eventually devised, and the initial conclusions discredited.

At no point in either case did anyone suggest that the initial conclusions ought to be rejected on the basis of flawed methodology. In fact, it is precisely because drawing conclusions from single, imperfect experiments is normal, accepted scientific practise that any follow-up experimentation was done at all. Without those initial, provocative conclusions, no-one would have bothered to attempt to reproduce the results.

You say that a single attmept to replicate the results of the Stanford experiment has been made, but a single failure to reproduce results does not, on its own, discredit the initial conclusions.

The real strength of the Milgram study is that it has, in fact, been repeated many times, and the results reproduced with varying degrees of success.

It seems that you have begun to criticise the conclusions of the Stanford researchers, rather than deny anyone the right to draw conclusions from a study that upsets you. This is encouraging.

At this rate, it may only require another half dozen posts or so to get to the point where you can both see the problem with your initial criticism of the study, and admit to the flaw without feeling you've lost face.

Oh, and if you really didn't care about comment ratings, ucblockhead, then you would not have bothered to figure out who made them. I've exchanged comments with nathan before, true, but I didn't ask him to fuel your persecution complex.

[ Parent ]

ratings (2.33 / 3) (#366)
by adequate nathan on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 07:34:37 AM EST

I am at most an Apprentice Evil Adequacy Troll. I rated RS up in this thread because he was both right and entertaining.

By the way, UCBlockhead, I found this thread because I routinely read jsm's comments. Your anti-Adequacy hysteria gets lamer and lamer with every squeal you make. We're not out to get you - honest!

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

persecution (5.00 / 2) (#368)
by ucblockhead on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:47:15 AM EST

To feel persecuted, one must fear harm.

You Adequacy types aren't evil, just pathetic. A bunch of lamers making themselves feel better by tricking other losers into think that they are serious.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

fight the good fight, ucblockhead (1.00 / 2) (#379)
by adequate nathan on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 09:52:00 PM EST

If you didn't feel that I had harmed you, you wouldn't have whined about my comment ratings. I had no role in the thread until you dragged me in bodily.

As for my patheticness, I'll leave you to consider who's more pathetic - someone whinging about a few ratings or someone quietly reading and appreciating threads.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

YHBT (nt) (5.00 / 1) (#380)
by ucblockhead on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 10:51:08 PM EST


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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
learn from Kierkegaard: (1.00 / 1) (#382)
by adequate nathan on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:11:13 PM EST

When you troll, the troller is not changed. It is you who is changed.

I don't expect you to get what I mean by this one, though.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

Kierkegaard was a depressive loon (3.00 / 1) (#383)
by ucblockhead on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:15:25 PM EST

One should always change six times before breakfast.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Sigh... (none / 0) (#367)
by ucblockhead on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:43:35 AM EST

As I've said before repeatedly, I don't find the conclusions upsetting.

I'll not bother any further with someone who cannot read without making stupid errors.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Thank you. (1.75 / 4) (#375)
by RobotSlave on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 06:43:34 PM EST

I didn't expect you to admit you were wrong gracefully, but I'm glad you've finally admitted it, nonetheless.

[ Parent ]
I didn't admit I was wrong. (none / 0) (#376)
by ucblockhead on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 08:03:11 PM EST

And if you understood what the fuck was going on, you'd know that.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Yes, you did. (1.60 / 5) (#377)
by RobotSlave on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 08:36:44 PM EST

You dropped the argument as soon as you realized you would inevitably lose it, while muttering something about "reading comprehension."

[ Parent ]
"Lose" (none / 0) (#378)
by ucblockhead on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 09:42:03 PM EST

How can I lose when you don't even address the points I make...

All you do is assert...the study is valuable, according to you, because you say it is. You've not offered any other reason why a bad methodology proves anything, or is any way worthwhile.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

"Win" (1.25 / 4) (#385)
by RobotSlave on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:33:37 PM EST

I don't bother with your tangential points because they have no bearing on the issue at hand. I have made the assertion that limited conclusions can be drawn from flawed experiments, and backed this assertion up with examples. You have termed this perfectly reasonable claim "stupid," and failed to back up your blanket characterization.

My assertion does have bearing on your initial criticism of the Stanford study. You claimed that a percieved flaw in the methodology precluded any and all attempt to draw conclusions from the results. This assertion is not only disturbingly dogmatic, it also runs contrary to the scientific method.

One does not dismiss an isolated experiment on the basis of percieved methodological flaws, but I will nonetheless comment briefly on the flaws you have been harping on.

It should be pointed out that the flaws you find in the Stanford methodology are far more a matter of your own opinion than you have been willing to admit. You raise two main objections.

1. You complain that the study is not based upon a statisically valid sample size. This criticism holds the study to a standard that it never pretended to aspire to; the study was clearly not designed to obtain universal results, but rather as a preliminary, exploratory exercise. Prior to determining the gravitational constant to six significant digits, we must drop a brick and a pea, and observe their behavior.

2. You claim that the subject's awareness of the experiment means that the subjects did not behave in accordance with social norms. This assertion appears to be based on a particular theoretical framework, and seems rather disingenuous. There is no compelling reason to assume that social norms vaporize entirely in the presence of observers.

But discussion of particular methodolgy has no bearing on the larger issue. The larger issue is that you can not dismiss conclusions simply because you are unhappy with a particular aspect of the methodology. That is not science.

If many experiments have been done, and a particular study has produced results at odds with other studies, then we might examine the methodology of the wayward experiment, and find an explanation for the aberration in that methodology. We might also find a new theory that accounts for the aberration, but this is beside the point. This process does not work in reverse. It simply does not follow that if any objection to the methodology in a single study is raised, then we are free to dismiss the conclusions entirely.

This is not to say that we are not free to question conclusions. Far from it. The development of theory thrives on the questioning of conclusions, and particularly, on the offering of competing conclusions. Examining results, and offering alternate explanations, is at the heart of science. I invited you to do this with the Stanford study, ucblockhead, but you refused, adamantly insisting on your right to dismiss the Stanford researchers' conclusions entirely based on nothing more than your personal opinion of their methodology.

It is customary, in the scientific community, to offer at least a modicum of respect to competing research, and accord conclusions at least the possiblity of veracity, pending further evidence, rather than sneer, spew bile, imply that the researchers never made it past high-school, and otherwise make a fucking prat of yourself.

The error you have made is not an uncommon one, and it is usually a consequence of a strict empiricist philosophical outlook. The people who make such errors rarely have more than fleeting exposure to the philosophy of science, but boy, are they ever convinced they have it all figured out.

Your initial criticism has been shredded, ucblockhead. You have backed away from it in subsequent posts, to your credit, but shying away from the central point of the debate at every opportunity isn't making you look good.

I think you have mistaken my critique of your philosophical error for a defense of the Stanford researchers' conclusions. I could be mistaken, though-- some people seem to think I have trouble with "reading comprehension."

[ Parent ]

Conclusions (4.50 / 2) (#386)
by ucblockhead on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:59:43 PM EST

I don't bother with your tangential points because they have no bearing on the issue at hand. I have made the assertion that limited conclusions can be drawn from flawed experiments, and backed this assertion up with examples.
Potentially, yes. My contention has always been this particular experiment is too flawed to draw conclusions from.

My assertion does have bearing on your initial criticism of the Stanford study. You claimed that a percieved flaw in the methodology precluded any and all attempt to draw conclusions from the results. This assertion is not only disturbingly dogmatic, it also runs contrary to the scientific method.

No, my contention was not that any flaw precluded attempts at conclusions. My contention was that the particular flaws were so aggregious as to preclude conclusions in this particular experiment.

1. You complain that the study is not based upon a statisically valid sample size. This criticism holds the study to a standard that it never pretended to aspire to; the study was clearly not designed to obtain universal results, but rather as a preliminary, exploratory exercise. Prior to determining the gravitational constant to six significant digits, we must drop a brick and a pea, and observe their behavior.

Whether they pretended to meet standards that they did not is not the issue, of course. And a cursory glance at the web pages linked to this story shows that they certainly did not act like it was a preliminary, exploratory exercise.

2. You claim that the subject's awareness of the experiment means that the subjects did not behave in accordance with social norms. This assertion appears to be based on a particular theoretical framework, and seems rather disingenuous. There is no compelling reason to assume that social norms vaporize entirely in the presence of observers.

Yes, common sense, the hobgoblin of science, which so often misleads. It is not enough to say that something "makes sense", intuitively. You must show it experimentally. And there are plenty of studies that show that people act differently when they think they are being observed then when they think they are not.

But discussion of particular methodolgy has no bearing on the larger issue. The larger issue is that you can not dismiss conclusions simply because you are unhappy with a particular aspect of the methodology. That is not science.

Um...come again? That makes absolutely no sense. None what-so-ever. If we can draw conclusions despite bad methodologies, why bother with good methodology?

And no, I've backtracked from nothing. My original contention was the Standford experiment was a bad experiment, so flawed in methodology as to make it "utter crap". Here, look at my first post on the subject, the post that started this thread. READ it. Note that in it, I say NOTHING about the conclusions drawn. I say the experiment is worthless. That's all I've ever said. I've not backed away from anything in that post. NOTHING.

(By the way, if you'll go read that first post of mine, you'll note that I am quite explicit at offering an alternate hypothesis for their behavior.)

And for the umpteenth time, I've never dismissed the conclusions. Ever. (And I challenge you to post a link that shows otherwise.) I've told you this repeatedly. My point is, and has always been, that the experiment was bad. Whether or not the conclusions drawn about human nature are actually true are an open issue. As I said explicitely in a number of different posts in this thread, and elsewhere in threads attatched to this story.

I think you have mistaken my critique of your philosophical error for a defense of the Stanford researchers' conclusions.

No. I don't care about whether or not you believe the Standford reserchers' conclusions. That has never been the point.

I could be mistaken, though-- some people seem to think I have trouble with "reading comprehension."

Yes, you are, and yes, you do.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Fascinating. (1.00 / 3) (#387)
by RobotSlave on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 12:45:04 AM EST

I find your return to point-by-point rebuttal at this juncture rather telling.

Allow me to quote your first post in this thread.

"This is the fundamental flaw with the Standford experiment, and it is such a large flaw that it renders the results meaningless."

By "meaningless," you most certainly meant that no meaning can not be found in the results, which is simply another way of saying that no conclusions can be drawn from the results.

This is the statement you refuse to back away from. This is the heart of your error. This is the reason you are making yourself look like such a complete didactic idiot.

The fact that people behave differently when they know they are under observation than they would otherwise says absolutely nothing about whether or not social norms affect the behavior of people who know they are being observed. I do not suggest that any degree of social influence, be it enhanced, reduced, or neither, "makes sense." You introduced that phrase. I said that there is no reason to assume that social norms vaporize when subjects know they are under observation.

The reason that scientists bother with good methodology is to test and refine prior conclusions, and to facilitate the reproduction of results. Scientists worthy of the name do not obsess over methodology in an attempt to annihilate any possibility of "meaning" in results that make them uncomfortable. They either leave it alone, or roll up their sleeves, and do the actual fucking work of further experiment, rather that sit back and take ignorant, partisan, self-important pot-shots.

The fact that you do not understand, or refuse to acknowledge, the relationship between replication of experiment and critique of methodology, even after it has been explained to you, is disheartening, though unsurprising.

Again, your waving around the phrase "reading comprehension" seems to have backfired, as might be expected in such a hasty response.

[ Parent ]

you are confused (5.00 / 1) (#392)
by ucblockhead on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 10:46:32 AM EST

Yes, no conclusions can be drawn from the results. Duh.

That doesn't mean that the conclusions that the researchers reported are wrong. Merely that they aren't proved by the experiment. The results are meaningless. Not the conclusions.

I said that there is no reason to assume that social norms vaporize when subjects know they are under observation.

Who said "social norms vaporize"? I said behaviors change. There's a difference.

And as I've said repeatedly, this isn't some weird supposition, but something that's been studied.

And you are still confused. I am not saying that any bad methodology makes any conclusions meaningless. I am talking about one particular experiment here.

Scientists worthy of the name do not obsess over methodology in an attempt to annihilate any possibility of "meaning" in results that make them uncomfortable.

How many fucking times do I have to tell you that I am NOT FUCKING UNCOMFORTABLE with the conclusions drawn. As I've said repeatedly, my beef is with the experiment, not the conclusions.

The reason that scientists bother with good methodology is to test and refine prior conclusions...
No, genius, the reason that they bother with good methodology is so their results have meaning. Otherwise, they might as well just sit in the drawing room thinking about what stands to reason.

The fact that you do not understand, or refuse to acknowledge, the relationship between replication of experiment and critique of methodology...
Experiments with bad methodologies often turn out to be hard to replicate. The one attempt to replicate Standford failed. This implies that there were troubles with the methodologies used. That's why I brought up replication. I thought you were smart enough to make that connection without it being made explicit. I guess not...
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
I don't believe I'm confused at all. (1.00 / 3) (#394)
by RobotSlave on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 06:26:23 PM EST

I have been saying all along that you can not deny the right to draw conclusions from experimental results on the basis of percieved flaws in methodology. This is true in every case, and your belief that it is legitimate in this case does not make it a sound basis for criticism. Far from it.

If this were a philosophy of science class, you would have been kicked out and sent back to the introductory survey course by now.

The fact that behaviors change depending on the awareness of observation says absolutely nothing about whether or not a subject aware of observation is acting under the influence of social norms. Your failure to grasp this would be laughable if it were not so pathetic.

Let me state this as concisely as possible: methodology does not impart meaning. Methodology facilitates replication. Repetition confirms theory. Theory is the closest thing to "meaning" that science offers.

A single experiment with contrary results does not constitute a refutation of prior experiment. We now have two sets of results from two experiments. Which one is "correct?" There is no way to decide, absent further experiment. Examination of the methodologies of the two experiments tells us precisely nothing, absent a larger body of experimental result.

I am disappointed in your inability to understand or refusal to undertake philosophical thought. You interrupt at intervals to object to minor points (and your objections are often quite weak), but you seem to be utterly oblivious to the larger and more complex argument before you.

Methodology does not impart meaning. If you are not imaginative enough to see how absurd science would look if we assumed that methodology did, in fact, impart meaning, then I will be happy to provide a brief sketch for you. Just ask.

[ Parent ]

Sigh... (4.00 / 1) (#395)
by ucblockhead on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 07:33:01 PM EST

In the first part, you are just plain wrong. It is true that when one fails to replicate, one goes back and looks at the methodology, but only because a failure to replicate indicates that the original experiment was probably poorly run.

The fact that behaviors change depending on the awareness of observation says absolutely nothing about whether or not a subject aware of observation is acting under the influence of social norms.

The very obvious alternate hypothesis, which I brought up previously, is that the subjects were acting according to what they thought the researchers wanted to prove. This is a well known issue.

Methodology does not impart meaning.

Well, yes. This is like saying that the algorithm for addition does not impart meaning on the result. But if there is an error in the algorithm, you will not get the right answer.

My contention is not that "methodology has meaning" but that the methodology was so fucked up that if any answers matched reality, it was pure happenstance.

An example of how bad methodolgy can fuck up meaning:

Suppose I want to find out what the incidence of homosexual behavior among human beings is. I find 18 male college students at Stanford, and quiz them about their behavior by saying "Hi, I want to see if homosexuality is really widespread. Please tell me if you had a homosexual experience last year". Three answer yes, the rest no. I then say "sixteen percent of the human race is gay".

Are those conclusions valid? Was this experiment in any way meaningful? Clearly not, as the methodology is crap. Clearly, no one in their right mind would draw any conclusions from such a crappy study, even if they believed that the incidence of homosexuality ran close to the figure found. This doesn't mean that "methodology is meaning".

Examination of the methodologies of the two experiments tells us precisely nothing, absent a larger body of experimental result.
Hardly. It is pretty obvious that you are more likely to be able to replicate a study that used good procedures. If you will recall, people started dissecting they procedures of Pons and Fleischmann the minute the announced "Cold Fusion". Were the people who did so idiots? Were they bad scientists? Did they need to go back and take an intro to the philosophy of science course?

Clearly if I tried to publish the results of my little survey up there, the journals would laugh at me, because what I did was so meaningless as to be worthless. Saying "well, if you haven't tried to replicate, there's nothing you can say" would not get me very far.

Let me ask you this flat out: What do you think that the Stanford study tells us about human nature. (Not what you opinion on how humans act...I'm asking you what conclusions can be drawn from the Stanford study in particular. You tell me conclusions can be drawn. What are they?)

Frankly, you seem to be saying that we can never question scientific assertions unless we, ourselves, have run experiments. We plebs can never question anything scientific, can never, ourselves, look into whether an experiment was poor, whether conclusions drawn had any basis.

I find that attitude a bit frightening. That worship of authority is exactly the sort of thing that Milgram found. If there's a lesson to be drawn from that experiment, it is that the average person should be much more willing to question those who speak from scientific authority.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

You're getting desperate. (1.50 / 2) (#396)
by RobotSlave on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 08:44:07 PM EST

I did not say that we must personally run experiments before we can question assertions, and you know it, ucblockhead.

People started dissecting the methodology of the cold fusion experiments immediately, true. What they significantly did not do is claim that this dissection alone was a basis for dismissal of the conclusions. Do you see the difference between this approach and yours? Once further experiments had been run, it was concluded that problems with the methodology had produced results at odds with the results of other studies. I'm repeating myself, here.

I feel that the results of the Stanford study do, in fact, suggest something about the effects of social norms on human behavior. It is possible that the effect of certain norms was amplified by the awareness of observers. It is also possible that the effect was diminished. The study does not tell us anything of a statistical nature about the effect of certain social norms in the population at large, but it certainly suggests that there is some effect, and indicates that a larger, more statisticly significant (and preferably less ethically problematic) study would yield interesting results. The results of the Stanford study are far from "meaningless."

Note that your hypothetical survey of homosexuality, while statisticly inconclusive, does, in fact, suggest that there is some incidence of homosexuality in the population, and that further study might yield interesting results. It is unpublishable not because it is methodologically unsound, but because it doesn't suggest anything new (we already suspect that some percentage of the population is homosexual), and, perhaps, because it doesn't represent much effort. Your example, of course, references another famous experiment: there were grave methodological problems with the Kinsey study, but those problems do not render the results "meaningless."

Have you ever heard of preliminary medical trials? Do you understand why statistically insignificant studies are undertaken prior to larger studies? Do you realize that every single branch of science started with methodology that would horrify you, and involved statisticly insignificant samples?

Critique of methodology, by itself, can never render results "meaningless." Your refusal to acknowledge this, and thus acknowledge the invalidity of your initial criticism, is a refusal to understand or acknowledge the way science works.

[ Parent ]

dissection (none / 0) (#397)
by ucblockhead on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 09:14:04 PM EST

People started dissecting the methodology of the cold fusion experiments immediately, true. What they significantly did not do is claim that this dissection alone was a basis for dismissal of the conclusions.
Of course the act of looking at the methodology isn't sufficient for dismissal of the conclusions. But obviously the fact that people were looking at the methodology shows that the potential for doing so was there, had the methodological errors been gross enough. That's the point, here. If a poor methodology can't invalidate an experiment, then no one would have bothered to look at the methodology. Instead, you got lots of people saying "this experiment has methodological problems X, Y and Z". So clearly methodology does have value when considering the worth of the experiment, at least among physicists.

I feel that the results of the Stanford study do, in fact, suggest something about the effects of social norms on human behavior.
In other words, if 18 young men act a certain way, then this means that there is a good chance that most people in the human race act that way?

It is possible that the effect of certain norms was amplified by the awareness of observers.
Yup.

It is also possible that the effect was diminished.
Yup.

How large could the magnification possibly be? How large could the diminishment possibily be? Do you have any idea? Can you state with any assurance what the error magnitude is? I know I can't... Given that, you've got this independent variable, and you've absolutely no idea as to its effect on the data. That is the problem here.

there were grave methodological problems with the Kinsey study, but those problems do not render the results "meaningless."
Well, yes...that's because the methodological problems with Kinsey weren't as severe. Remember, I'm not saying that any methodological problem renders an experiment meaningless (nothing would ever get done if that were the case). I'm talking about one particular experiment with one particular set of methodological problems.

The trouble here seems to be that you think I'm attacking the underpinnings of the philosophy here, when all I am doing, and all I've ever done in this thread, is attack one particular experiment.

Perhaps my example was bad...statistical significance is only one issue. It is also far from the only methodological issue in the experiment I described, of course.

(By the way, I must point out that preliminary drug trials are generally aimed at proving a drug's safety, not proving it's efficacy. In general, all trials, preliminary or no, aim to generate statistically significant results. Sometimes they don't, but not finding a statistically significant chance of side-effects is generally a good thing, and means further study.)

I'd also point out that there are almost always run double-blind when possible. The placebo effect, and all.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

I believe that you are confused (none / 0) (#411)
by Orion Blastar on Sun Aug 25, 2002 at 09:04:55 PM EST

if the methodalogy is flawed, how can you trust the results? It is like sending four blind men into a cave to find a candle that was burned out 3000 years ago.

Conflicting results do indeed show that something is wrong here. It could be an indication of flawed methodalogy.

I would love to see your sketch.
*** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
[ Parent ]

Go back to Adequacy you bum! (none / 0) (#412)
by Orion Blastar on Sun Aug 25, 2002 at 09:10:25 PM EST

How much are they paying you to shill for them? Do they like pay you per post to spam for their website? There goes another Adequacy link, another 2 cents for RobotSlave. Whoopie do!
*** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
[ Parent ]
I would have to say it is you who is having (none / 0) (#413)
by Orion Blastar on Sun Aug 25, 2002 at 09:12:01 PM EST

trouble reading and comprehending.

Time for you to go back to Troll school. I think your Trolling License has expired and you need to get recertified.
*** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
[ Parent ]

heh (2.66 / 3) (#297)
by streetlawyer on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 02:19:54 AM EST

I hope the irony of this is not completely lost on you.

Long historial experience of our friend suggests to me that it is.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Interesting nonetheless.... (4.00 / 1) (#212)
by unDees on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:02:38 PM EST

The whole issue of "their own personal prejudices" and what "seems obvious" is precisely why this experiment is crap. The subjects aren't acting as they would in a real situation. They are acting out their own personal prejudices and in ways that seem obvious. They are doing so because they know they are being watched.

Isn't it an interesting side bit of information, though, that the participants may have been acting based on their stereotypes instead of how people might really act in such a situation had they not seen too many cop shows? Granted, it may not be good science, and perhaps the "results" shouldn't be used for anything more than entertaining reading. But still....

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[ Parent ]

Read the study (3.00 / 2) (#144)
by FlipFlop on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:30:38 AM EST

For those posting in this thread with no knowledge of the study, try visiting Phillip Zimbardo's site dedicated to the Sanford Prison Experiment.

Someone said,

"In any case, you first sentence merely says that the participants were acting the way thought prisoners and guards would act. This is not necessarily the way they'd act in the real situations."

After the study, prisoner 416 said,

"I began to feel that I was losing my identity, that the person that I called "Clay," the person who put me in this place, the person who volunteered to go into this prison -- because it was a prison to me; it still is a prison to me. I don't regard it as an experiment or a simulation because it was a prison run by psychologists instead of run by the state. I began to feel that that identity, the person that I was that had decided to go to prison was distant from me -- was remote until finally I wasn't that, I was 416. I was really my number."

If the prisoners really thought they were in a prison, what difference does it make if the 'prison' was a makeshift jail at Stanford University? Some of the prisoners even asked for a lawyer.

It is also interesting to note that the night-shift guards behaved differently, supposedly because they thought the researchers weren't watching.

AdTI - The think tank that didn't
[ Parent ]

I have read the fucking study (4.00 / 3) (#197)
by ucblockhead on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:11:13 PM EST

I first read it fifteen years ago.

Of course they said that. This does not mean that they weren't subconciously acting in ways that they thought they should act...that either matched their prejudices or that they thought would please the researchers.

Those sorts of behaviors are well known. That's what makes these studies so difficult to do correctly.

Of course the prisoners didn't "really think" they were in prison.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

what prisoners thought (3.00 / 2) (#228)
by janra on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:29:42 PM EST

Of course the prisoners didn't "really think" they were in prison.

Are you saying that Clay, prisoner 416, was lying, then? If so, how do you know this? You seem very certain.


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Lying (4.50 / 2) (#230)
by ucblockhead on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:35:41 PM EST

I don't know if he is lying or not. I do know that there is a lot of literature that shows that people a) often lie about their motivations and b) are often not even aware of their true motivations.

Because of this possibility, you can't take the subject's statements at face value.

My suspicion (unproved, so meaningless) is that he was shocked at his own behavior and was subconciously rationalizing it. That's damn common.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

ok (5.00 / 1) (#251)
by janra on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:35:08 PM EST

That makes sense. It just seemed a bit strong to say "of course the prisoners didn't 'really think' they were in prison" after a quote like Clay's.

People have an amazing capacity to believe things that aren't real; regardless of how authentic or not the "prison" they were housed in was, I'm sure at least some, if not most, of the prisoners did start to feel like they were real prisoners. Afterwards, some may (as you suggested) have rationalized their behaviour by making it seem more real in their memories than it was at the time, but I don't think that none of them ever felt like they were in prison at some point.


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Wow (3.28 / 7) (#19)
by cr8dle2grave on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:53:27 PM EST

Experimental sociology manages, yet again, to rediscover one of the most mundane and well worn 'truths' of human existence.

No offense, it's a great article and a definite +1FP once it escapes editing, but are the results really all that surprising? I mean, Freud was going on about the ego, the id, and the superego almost a hundred years ago and Civilization and Its Discontents is both more developed and more sophisticated than anything derivable from this study.

Also, off the top of my head I'd say the internal/external dissonance you find in this study is at the very heart of the philosophies of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Buber, Heidegger, and it is even counted among the formalist's archetypal plots: man vs. society. I think there is also a compelling case to made that this self same dissonance is to be found in Judaism and, in an even more pronounced form, within Christianity.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


wrong! (4.33 / 9) (#47)
by jacob on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:51:53 AM EST

The Milgram experiment actually shocked everybody and continues to shock everybody today. It's actually more intense than the author of this article indicates — it should especially be noted that the confederate actor, whom the subjects were informed had a heart condition, screamed and convulsed, demanded to be let out of the experiment, refused to answer questions entirely, and eventually fell silent and "died" after 330 volts, though the shock device went up to 450 volts. Milgram used to give talks and describe this set-up and then ask the audience what percentage of people they thought would go up to the highest level. Invariably, they'd agree that a few nutcases would do it but the majority of people would stop as soon as the confederate expressed discomfort; no one ever guessed that most people would actually continue shocking the corpse of a man they had just killed merely because a researcher told them to.

The Stanford prison experiment can't really be said to have 'results' in the scientific experiment sense, as the experiment was actually pretty badly designed and they didn't complete it anyway. But what was really surprising about both, and what nobody really knew until these experiments happened, was just exactly how willing people were to play roles that involved them being absolutely wicked to each other. The researchers found they could get a man on the street to kill another man on the street just because they said it was expected of them. And you'd do it too. And so would I.

--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]

Not shocking in the slightest... (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:07:28 AM EST

All posturing for the purposes of commenting aside, I've been aware of these experiments for many years and when I first read about them I wasn't shocked. It's also not shocking that most people are shocked upon hearing the results; we humans have tend to have a unjustifiably generous and flattering view of ourselves. To be fair, I fist encountered the Milgram experiment within the context of cultural studies and cultural anthropology -- disciplines already disposed to a more 'cynical' and socially constructed view of human behavior.

Also, I fail to see how one couldn't anticipate such experimental results working from a Freudian, much less a Nietzschean, perspective.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Lord of the flies (4.50 / 2) (#63)
by Pac on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:39:14 AM EST

William Golding published this mainly average book in 1954. The topmost poster points to the philosophical frame of reference wherefrom it draws it inspiration.

Milgran, with a finely designed experiment, merely measured an expected theoretical result, the same way someone look for the ghosts of some predicted particles after an accelerator run.

We all know we can, in your words, "get a man on the street to kill another man on the street just because they said it was expected of them". How do you think we managed to fight wars ever since Ugh decided he wanted Grub's women and cave? It was not, mind you, by searching helplessly for those deviants among us who would agree to kill the enemy. The man on the street always died and killed pretty well, thank you.

Remember the guy waiting for Godot: "I saw the enemy, and he is us".

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[ Parent ]
Minor correction (none / 0) (#66)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:52:48 AM EST

Remember the guy waiting for Godot: "I saw the enemy, and he is us".

It was Walt Kelley's comic strip character Pogo who famously uttered "I've seen the enemy, and he is us."

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
I mixed my quotes... (5.00 / 1) (#70)
by Pac on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:03:51 AM EST

You are almost completely right. The actual quote is
"We have met the enemy and he is us", by Walt Kelley's Pogo.

We are sorry, you have reached an imaginary number. Please rotate your phone ninety degrees and try again.


[ Parent ]
Waiting for Pogot? (n/t) (4.00 / 1) (#216)
by unDees on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:11:25 PM EST



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[ Parent ]
From Milgram: (2.50 / 2) (#68)
by jacob on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:56:16 AM EST

"Before conducting the experiment, the procedures were discussed with many colleagues, and none anticipated the reactions that subsequently took place ...

"Moreover, there was every reason to expect, prior to actual experimentation, that subjects would refuse to follow the experimenter's instructions beyond the point where the victim protested; many colleagues and psychiatrists were querstioned on this point, and they virtually all felt this would be the case. Indeed, to initiate an experiment in which the critical measure hangs on disobedience, one must start with a belief in certain spontaneous resources in men that enable them to overcome pressure from authority."


--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]

All this indicates... (5.00 / 2) (#87)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:21:48 AM EST

...is that his colleagues, informed by a scientific perspective, had an inferior understanding of human psychology when compared to such non-scientific students of human nature as Freud and Nietzsche.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
well, (3.00 / 1) (#91)
by jacob on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:37:24 AM EST

also that Milgram was not merely verifying the expected theoretical result (at least not the theory he and his peers bought into) and that his experiment did in fact shock everybody. Which was kinda what I was trying to indicate by posting it.

--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]
Ahhh, yes... (none / 0) (#200)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:25:05 PM EST

...right you are. I missed that part of Pac's comment. I really need to be more careful when butting into a conversation ;-)

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Re: Lord of the Flies (3.00 / 1) (#174)
by danceswithcrows on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:44:20 AM EST

William Golding published this mainly average book in 1954.

A book that has sparked plenty of debate, a couple of movies, some high-level criticism, and innumerable bad high-school English papers deserves more than "mainly average". Sure, it's not _Moby Dick_ or anything, but it's better than 90% of what's on the shelves at your local B.Dalton.

How do you think we managed to fight wars [...] The man on the street always died and killed pretty well, thank you.

That's obvious... guess it tends to get lost in the other emotional responses an article/experiment like this generates. Most people are far more savage and willing to obey authority than they think; there's a core of "OOG BREAK HEAD!" under the thin veneer of civilization on every 21st-century digital boy.

Remember the guy waiting for Godot: "I saw the enemy, and he is us"

Beckett came up with that? I thought it was Walt Kelly, whose Pogo character said, "We have met the enemy, and they is us." Kelly's version is better IMHO.

Matt G (aka Dances With Crows) There is no Darkness in Eternity/But only Light too dim for us to see
[ Parent ]

wrong! (3.75 / 4) (#141)
by jonboy on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:20:47 AM EST

And you'd do it too. And so would I.

Not everyone would. And not everyone did in the experiment either. The percentage was certainly high, but not 100%.

The lesson I took from these experiments was to think for myself, and not blindly follow authority.

I was first taught about these experiments in a high school communications class. The teacher opened the class by putting a quote on the overhead projector:
"It is very important that we teach our young people the superiority of their country." -JFK

I looked at this, gave a strange look to the teacher, and muttered "that sounds like something Hitler would say." The next thing the teacher asked was how many people agreed with the quote. Almost everyone raised their hands. The teacher then revealed that, in fact, JFK didn't say this. It was Hitler. Of course, now, no one agreed with the quote.

Perhaps I'm arrogant, but I was not fooled by the mis-attributed quote, and I wouldn't have electrocuted someone to death in a "memory" experiment.

"Think for yourself, shmuck." - Robert Anton Wilson
--
The above post is overrated.
[ Parent ]

that's what they all say (4.66 / 3) (#165)
by jacob on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:21:20 AM EST

Literally. You may be right; maybe you wouldn't. But the scary thing is that when asked, everybody says they wouldn't do it, but when tested, most people will (from about 65% to 90% depending on the variation used). That's very bothersome, and it bothers me as much as it bothers you, but it certainly calls into question the "I certainly wouldn't do it" response.

--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]
On the other hand, (none / 0) (#213)
by unDees on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:04:48 PM EST

...he might be one of the 10% to 35%....

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[ Parent ]
indeed! (5.00 / 1) (#217)
by jacob on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:15:32 PM EST

There's a 10% to 35% chance of it, even! But in my experience 100% of people think they're in that group, which means that most people who claim they wouldn't do it are mistaken.

--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]
Kinda like... (3.50 / 2) (#259)
by unDees on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:56:34 PM EST

...how every one of us thinks we're a better than average driver. I suppose you could have one guy who doesn't think that, and maybe he's such a rotten driver that he pulls down the average, and the rest of us are actually right for once. But that line of thinking belongs in the recent discussion on SUVs, I guess....

Your account balance is $0.02; to continue receiving our quality opinions, please remit payment as soon as possible.
[ Parent ]
Well Duh (2.40 / 10) (#24)
by Lai Lai Boy on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:01:37 AM EST

People with power abuse it.
Film at 11.


[Posted from Mozilla Firebird]

Wrong (2.50 / 4) (#58)
by Pac on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:22:13 AM EST

The novel knowledge is not that. The hypothesis proved is "Given some power, anyone abuses it".

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[ Parent ]
Wrong... (4.00 / 2) (#62)
by ragabr on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:37:58 AM EST

it's that many people, when told to do something they normally would object to by someone in authority, they do it in uncomfortably high numbers.

-------
And my tongue would be made of chocolate. Mmmmm. Chocolate.
-rusty
[ Parent ]
Power and authority (3.50 / 2) (#65)
by Pac on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:46:51 AM EST

You are just looking at the other side of the same coin. No power exists in a vacuum. The power is given to someone by its holders in order to have something accomplished. And there are always plenty of holders.

So we can give a eighteen years old boy the power to kill and at the same time the duty to kill. We know he will obey. He always does. Nevertheless we are indeed giving him the power over the life and dead of someone we call enemy.

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[ Parent ]
I'm not exactly sure what you were saying... (none / 0) (#77)
by ragabr on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:24:05 AM EST

but I think I got the idea that I disagree. At the same time I can't argue. I can't see how people being sadistic when given the chance is the other side of people taking orders when given.

-------
And my tongue would be made of chocolate. Mmmmm. Chocolate.
-rusty
[ Parent ]
"I was just following orders" (4.33 / 3) (#83)
by Pac on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:44:41 AM EST

Now think about Auchwitz, Mai Lai, Hiroshima, Saravejo and El Salvador.

Orders are always a nice excuse for us to let the older layers of the brain take over and carry out whatever was hiding there.

And you misplaced my coin. You see, people were being given order to be sadistic. Not to contemplate the sunset. Not to carry some boxes around. Not to babysit some babies. To hurt, main and kill another human being. And they did it.

We are sorry, you have reached an imaginary number. Please rotate your phone ninety degrees and try again.


[ Parent ]
I contend... (none / 0) (#210)
by ragabr on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:55:04 PM EST

that this *is* different from "given power anyone abuses it." If you're given power and then told what to do with it, you're really not given power, just filling a position.

All I take from the only experiment mentioned in the story that has any validity is that given a tenuous situation, people will rely on what the authorities tell them, even when there's some evidence that the authoritites are wrong (the guy screaming and after a while going limp).

-------
And my tongue would be made of chocolate. Mmmmm. Chocolate.
-rusty
[ Parent ]
Even wronger (2.50 / 2) (#179)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:55:15 AM EST

...The hypothesis proved is "Given some power, anyone abuses it".

Nope. Read again. Try: "Given some power, American prison inmates tend to abuse it."

Drawing a wider conclusion on such thin evidence would not be clever or wise.


This is an excellent example of a fairly dull but decently spelled signature.

[ Parent ]
Acting (3.25 / 4) (#28)
by iwnbap on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:15:53 AM EST

Perhaps what this tells us is that acting is an important part of our culture. If you tell someone to act out the role of a prison guard, they will; if you tell someone to act out the role of a prisoner, they will. As the "guards" became more practised in their role, they became better actors, and were more able to convince the experimenters of their evil guard-like behaviour.

Similarly, most people become practised at detecting the real pain being sensed by an actor. Perhaps they picked up subconscious cues.  Note the description of the one subject in the article, breaking up with laughter as the experiment progresses - one obvious interpretation is that he sees the whole thing as a farce.

The point here is that simply observing "behaviours" is flawed.  It's not possible from a behaviourist perspective to distinguish someone acting at writhing in pain and someone actually writhing in pain, similarly impossible to differentiate someone acting at abusing a prisoner to someone really abusing a prisoner within such a context which assumes that someones external behaviour reflects absolutely their intentions.

Perhaps what might be shocking/surprising is if we discovered that acting as a guard was enjoyable for a lot of people, but that doesn't seem to be as remarkable as the standard "Heart of Darkness" thesis.

No duality (4.00 / 3) (#32)
by driptray on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:26:16 AM EST

In both Milgram's experiments and the Stanford experiment, the participants are doing their best to conform to social norms. The dissonance lies in the fact that these social norms are presented in a context that goes against the internal norms of most of the participants.

What are these internal norms? Am I being too simplistic if I say that whatever the internal norms of the participants were, they were so weak/fluid/nonexistent that the social norms effectively replaced them? IOW, there was no "duality", and no "conflict" between norms. There are simply social norms - the only norms there really exist.

Another way of looking at it is to ask what the basis of any internal norms would be, other than social norms. Some might answer religion, or "human nature", but I would argue that these are both social creations, and as such are just another form of social norm.
--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating

so... (3.00 / 2) (#38)
by pb on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:33:19 AM EST

You have no morals?  No opinions?  No free will?

In my youth, I had this annoying habit called "thinking for myself"; it caused me to ignore or intentionally not adopt many social norms, and it didn't score me many points with anyone.  However, I was true to myself.

What this study shows is that in the presence of authority, people tend to suppress their own opinions because they've been conditioned to follow authority.  Hey, maybe following authority is one of their own morals, as well; I'd argue that it's a key principle in many social structures, like religions and armies.

And even if my morals came from society, that doesn't make the ones I adopted the same as someone else's social norms, so of course there can still be conflicts.
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

My morals (4.00 / 3) (#45)
by driptray on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:44:48 AM EST

You have no morals? No opinions?

None that I didn't get from somewhere else.

In my youth, I had this annoying habit called "thinking for myself"; it caused me to ignore or intentionally not adopt many social norms...

"Thinking for yourself" is a trait that is highly regarded in western society. It's just one of a number of norms in a heterogenous society.

Society is not monolithic. Various norms are all struggle for dominance, so yes, there is always conflict between norms. I just don't believe that that conflict is at the level of individual vs society.
--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]

well, (3.00 / 1) (#46)
by pb on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:50:29 AM EST

As I said, you have to get your beliefs from somewhere, but I wasn't necessarily encouraged to think for myself, and some of the beliefs I hold I came up with by myself.

But even ignoring for the moment where I got my beliefs, that still doesn't eliminate conflicts between individuals and society, as I said previously.  Even our discussion is a good example of this.

I conclude that your way of viewing it is a possibility, but I don't see how you could "know" with any certainty; therefore, simply arguing over where people get their beliefs is semantics; what matters is what they do with them once they have them.
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

re: My Morals (5.00 / 2) (#121)
by pyro9 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:08:06 AM EST

"Thinking for yourself" is a trait that is highly regarded in western society. It's just one of a number of norms in a heterogenous society.

I would say that it is highly regarded in theory, but not in practice.

Thinking for yourself is highly regarded as long as your conclusions meet social expectations. It's like in 'The Life of Brian': (crowd in unison) "We are individuals!"


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
So what happens when people are alone? (none / 0) (#111)
by BCoates on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:18:30 AM EST

And therefore have no "socal norms" to learn?  Surely there is some 'default' human behavior...

--
Benjamin Coates

[ Parent ]

Death (4.00 / 1) (#123)
by driptray on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:26:44 AM EST

When they're alone, they die. If they've received enough sustenance from others to survive to adolescence, then they'll also have managed to have picked up the "social norms" as well.

I wouldn't presume to know what "default human behaviour" would be. How could anybody know? It seems an irrelevant question.
--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]

Because.. (4.00 / 1) (#288)
by rcs on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:39:09 PM EST

Because human society sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus!

A tiny bit o' thinkin' on anyone's part will come to the conclusion that at some point, there was a distinct lack of human society.

But don't let your pretty head be bothered.

--
I've always felt that there was something sensual about a beautiful mathematical idea.
~Gregory Chaitin
[ Parent ]

Pre-human? (none / 0) (#300)
by driptray on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 02:56:32 AM EST

A tiny bit o' thinkin' on anyone's part will come to the conclusion that at some point, there was a distinct lack of human society.

I'm not sure what you're getting at here. Are you referring to pre-human times? If so, I'm not sure what the point would be.
--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]

To the people saying "duh" (4.33 / 12) (#37)
by pexatus on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:32:45 AM EST

I remember the first day of my social psych class, my professor told a story about how people like to tell him that psychology is just common sense. As an example he says, "Well, studies have shown that two people dating are more likely to last if they have contrasting personalities." The typical response is, "Hell, my grandmother could have told you that. Opposites attract; it's common sense." To this he responds, "Well, I made that up just now. Actually, two people are more likely to last if they have similar personalities." If he says the second one first, the typical response is, "Hell, my grandmother could have told you that. Birds of a feather flock together; it's common sense."

20/20 hindsight mislabeled as "common sense" never impressed me. To apply an old joke about economists to this situation: Kuro5hin posters spend half of the time telling you what's going to happen and the other half of the time telling you why it didn't happen.

Common sense (1.50 / 2) (#59)
by Pac on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:23:51 AM EST

Common sense is what tells you that the world is flat.

We are sorry, you have reached an imaginary number. Please rotate your phone ninety degrees and try again.


[ Parent ]
Yeah, and that (1.25 / 4) (#104)
by FredBloggs on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:58:21 AM EST

making illegal a drug which can be harmful is a good idea. Doesn't stand up to more than a few minutes scrutiny.

[ Parent ]
common sense... (3.50 / 2) (#332)
by burntfriedman on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 07:48:53 PM EST

...tells you that you have two grandmothers...who usually don't agree with each other.

[ Parent ]
newer work has been done in this vein (3.83 / 18) (#40)
by eLuddite on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:36:38 AM EST

The experimental psychologist Jean-Léon Beauvois has shown that freedom of choice does not, in practice, mean anything. That is, people given the freedom to withdraw their participation in an unpleasant experiment -- an experiment that runs against their personal ethics even -- participate in the same (very high) numbers as people who were not given the choice not to participate. Furthermore, because the first group knows they are acting freely, they rationalize their decision to extend their participation by changing their opinion of the act they were asked to accomplish.

Think about what this says for democracy and the ruling neo-liberal ideology that asks us to dismantle welfare programs in the name of increasing "freedom." Essentially, formal definitions of freedom are gibberish. Democracy and liberalism are ideological narratives inside our heads. The truth in their premises is pure fantasy, and we believe in it the same way someone might believe in God.

---
God hates human rights.

went too far (3.25 / 4) (#158)
by tealeaf on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:05:24 AM EST

You have a point, but you go too far with it. It's not that freedom is utter fantasy, but rather, freedom is severely hampered by something. That something, some (many?) people claim, is conformity/obedience.

The interesting bit is that people actively choose to conform, as in the case when they are given an explicit choice at the start of the experiment you mention in your post.

We still make many choices and if there were less freedom some of our choices would be inhibited beyond the point of self-inhibition. So fighting for freedom is not worthless, and democracy does have value.

Things that bother me with their inhibitions:

  • Copyrights, because they last too long.
  • Patents, because they are granted willy nilly for anything, overbroad, inapplicable in many cases, such as software or pure science (genes), and last way too long.
  • Property, because people are allowed to buy huge swaths of land and exclude me from enjoying it and because most land is already "owned" by someone, the only place I am welcome is in my tiny appartment plus highways plus a few parks, and most of the big, good parks are a long drive away. I feel that we, as humans, are children of Earth and really we ought to be able to go anywhere within reason. I respect people's privacy, so I wouldn't mind if people owned some land, just not the mind bogglingly huge areas and at least half of all land should be open to public. I realize that people can't cope too well with commons and they tend to destroy them. Also, I do obey property laws. Still, I can't help feeling that, as a human, I am missing out on a lot thanks to other people forcefully excluding me from most of the land.


[ Parent ]
Not necessarily cultural or religious pressures (4.50 / 10) (#41)
by sdem on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:37:23 AM EST

While the obedience learned through participation in Western Judeo/Christian religious services and Western culture in general may have been a factor in the unexpected results of these two widely controversial and discussed experiments, it is hardly the sole cause of the observed behaviors. Many factors come into play in such situations and these are well documented in the field of social psychology (we have been discussing this exact subject matter recently in my Intro to Psych class here at Stanford, so the details are fairly fresh in my mind).

Firstly, one must examine the role that deindividuation plays in such situations. To put it succinctly, deindividuation is the act of conforming to the stereotype of one's uniform. A widely-known example of such a phenomena is observable in the American KKK, whose members wear hoods and robes in order to hide their identity, among other things. The anonymity provided aids people psychologically in committing atrocities that they would not normally be considered capable of. This is also true of soldiers in the military or, as the article's author cited, prison guards. But these stereotypes are hardly confined to Western societies. China has an army, doesn't it? And don't you think that there really can't be much difference, discipline-wise, between prisons here in America and prisons in Delhi? If anything, the Delhi prisons would be far worse, as America is rather strikingly progressive in its correctional system.

Secondly, one must consider the related phenomena of routinization. Routinization more or less self-explanatory, and was evident in such events as the Nazi Holocaust, in which most of the Nazi staff that ran the operation were far removed from any human element in their work and became used to the routine of labelling and tracking Jews. This phenomena was also evident in the Khmer Rouge purges that occurred in Cambodia, in which, for example, prison clerks would make it a routine to document each political prisoner and photograph them before they were summarily tortured to death. Again, the examples given were both of Western and Eastern origin, and don't appear to have roots in any particular culture.

Finally, it is rather ironic that the author of this article would move to decry the practices and behaviors of Western culture when a much more obvious example of an individual's sublimation can be found in Eastern societies. Where else but with the socially-repressed Japanese would you find such behavioral outbursts as tentacle rape anime or school girls getting spalltered in the face with their own enemas? The fact of the matter is, Eastern societies are a much stronger example of cultural conformity. Compare these two popular colloquialisms, one from America and one from Japan (respectively): "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." "The nail that sticks out gets pounded down" (a rough translation). Clearly, while the first indicates that the individual will be rewarded (with lubrication in this case), the Eastern example can and should be interpreted to indicate that non-conforming individuals will be shunned by the society, or "pounded down". I could go on for much longer with mroe examples, but I belive that I have made my point here.

"the troll band is a cross between mr. rogers neighorhood and riker's island" - tacomacide

Conformity in Western Societies (4.00 / 1) (#43)
by pb on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:43:53 AM EST

Actually I think that conformity in Western societies is a good reason why you don't see as much tentacle rape anime--there are still strong taboos in Western society against sex and perversions, starting with the Puritans, and continuing on into present day religious teachings.  Repression here depends a lot on the context of the society as well.

I do believe that the Japanese are pretty repressed, however; I also believe that the Japanese are not necessarily representative of Eastern societies as a whole.  Of course, the U.S. isn't necessarily representative of Western society either--a lot of Europe is far less sexually repressed, at least.
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

Would that... (2.00 / 1) (#48)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:54:03 AM EST

...also explain why I can find within any major city in the US a video store stocking thousands of titles involving everything from mock prison rape of school girls to obscenely obese elderly women getting nasty with skinny adolescent looking young guys? America easily competes any other nation/culture for the title of most perverse. Whether such extremes bespeak repression or hedonism is, of course, an age old debate.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
no, but (none / 0) (#51)
by pb on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:02:49 AM EST

It might explain why you won't find that same titles at Blockbuster or in a small town, or why you'd only find those titles in the back room of a normal independent video store, or why the video stores you refer to in big cities are generally in a poor, undesirable part of town.  That's repression at work.

The rest of it is hedonism, or perhaps just human nature.  :)
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

But of course... (4.00 / 1) (#55)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:12:27 AM EST

...a fully normalized and domesticated taboo fails to deliver the same titilating wallop. It feels so very good because it's so so very wrong.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
No, but I'd wager that China is (3.75 / 4) (#75)
by sdem on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:14:09 AM EST

China is a country where homosexuality is still illegal. In fact, there are (as there seems to be for every infringment in that totalitarian state) strict penalties for those caught practicing or suspected of practicing homosexuality. That is most certainly more repressed than the United States, and even Japan, to my knowledge. Moreover, with a population representing roughly 1/6 of the total population of the Earth, they are more than representative of Eastern culture.

"the troll band is a cross between mr. rogers neighorhood and riker's island" - tacomacide
[ Parent ]
Some links (4.14 / 7) (#42)
by Irobot on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:43:43 AM EST

New Scientist interview with Dr. Zimbardo about a TV reality show
Stanford Prisoner Experiment webpage

I normally wouldn't have posted a comment with only two links, but I swear I came across a news story months ago debunking the Prisoner Experiment results. Of course, I can't find it now, a Google search came up with nothing, and I have to doubt my recollection. Any help?

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn

There was a BBC story about it (4.66 / 3) (#80)
by fluffy grue on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:28:52 AM EST

Basically, the producers of a TV reality show "debunked" the prison experiment because their reality show (which was conducted quite differently) had different results.

BTW, the New Scientist link requires registration, and it doesn't look like it's free.
--
"Is a sentence fragment" is a sentence fragment.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

New Scientist registration (none / 0) (#153)
by Irobot on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:59:05 AM EST

Sorry about that - they do have a free (7-day) registration available (bottom of the page). Thanks for pointing it out.

Can you provide a link to the BBC story?

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

+1 from me cause it's an intresting read... (3.50 / 6) (#50)
by FuriousXGeorge on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:02:21 AM EST

But you make some claims that you can't really support.  How do you know the obedience levels are related to religious beliefs and not some other factors?

--
-- FIELDISM NOW!

because ... (4.50 / 2) (#107)
by streetlawyer on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:10:39 AM EST

Milgrom tabulates the results, in his book.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Milgram (4.78 / 14) (#56)
by jacob on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:13:21 AM EST

I feel like I ought to defend the Milgram experiment — yes, it was a very intense experience for the subjects, but at the end of they day no one was hurt and they learned important things about themselves. In a table in Obedience to Authority (which I note isn't in your bibliography — shame on you! It's Milgram's definitive work on his experiments, and a remarkably readable text!), Milgram reports the results of a follow-up survey sent to subjects a year after their participation in the experiment: 43.5% of all subjects were "very glad" they participated, 40.2% were "glad," 15.1% were "neither sorry nor glad," 0.8% were "sorry," and 0.5% were "very sorry."

Milgram actually has quite a bit more to say on the subject (he devotes an appendix to defending the morality of his experiment) but I think those statistics speak for themselves: like a wrenchingly powerful movie or book, this experiment was very unpleasant for people when they were actually participating in it, but once it was over they were almost all glad they had taken part in it. Or, put another way: I see no reason why testing what a person does when his or her sense of morality and his or her need to play a social role is unethical, and in fact if it leads the participant to better understand that conflict that it's actually one of the more decent things a person can do. Certainly more decent than manipulating their subconscious emotional responses to get them to buy cleaning products they don't need, which is the other major result of psychology. :)

--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

Or maybe... (4.33 / 3) (#229)
by VanM on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:32:03 PM EST

"...I think those statistics speak for themselves: like a wrenchingly powerful movie or book, this experiment was very unpleasant for people when they were actually participating in it, but once it was over they were almost all glad they had taken part in it."

Or, as my persuasion and propaganda prof might say, a bit of cognitive dissonance was in play:  they said they enjoyed it to convince themselves that they enjoyed it. Once they convinced themselves that they were "almost glad they had taken part" they no longer felt guilty about shocking people.

[ Parent ]

One more thing (4.13 / 15) (#60)
by jacob on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:24:06 AM EST

There's a passage from Obedience to Authority that, while certainly not a disproof of your 'religion fosters obedience' argument, is a datapoint in the opposite direction: One of the dissenters, who refused to be persuaded by the experimenter's prodding, was a professor of the Old Testament. In his debriefing, he stated that "if one had as one's ultimate authority God, then it trivializes human authority." Milgram writes of him, "[T]he answer for this man lies not in the repudiation of authority but in the substitution of good—that is, divine—authority for bad."

(Sorry, I forgot about this when I wrote my other post, though it was what motivated me to dig up my copy of Obedience to Authority in the first place.)


--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

Debatable (4.00 / 4) (#122)
by jig on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:15:16 AM EST

"[T]he answer for this man lies not in the repudiation of authority but in the substitution of good--that is, divine--authority for bad."

As the above quote quite clearly states, this is only a change in what or whom is to be obeyed, and as such is not even a data point in the opposite direction. I suppose you could argue that obedience to 'divine authority' makes a person less likely follow earthy authorities. And that would be true, but still, obedience is obedience, regardless of whether it's an elusive being, or a book, or a person that you're obeying.

Having said that, perhaps an atheist could make a case that since there is no god, god cannot tell the strong believers what to do and therefore the strong believers will have to fill in that void with what they think god might want them to do, thus effectively obeying themselves, and therefore end up obeying no one. But I doubt that argument will be very popular.

-----
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get ye all

[ Parent ]

I don't think so (3.50 / 2) (#169)
by jacob on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:33:08 AM EST

I'd say it is. The argument isn't about whether religious people are more obedient to God than non-religious people, but whether they're more obedient to human authority figures telling them to do evil things. This subject clearly disobeyed an authority figure (there's a funny quote where the experimenter says "You have to continue," and the subject says "Maybe in Russia, but this is America!") due to his belief in a more dominant authority.

--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]
I love that quote (4.00 / 1) (#276)
by greenrd on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:20:58 PM EST

Illustrates the point that nearly all political and religious ideologies have at least some good points.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Moving goalposts (none / 0) (#301)
by jig on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 03:41:42 AM EST

The argument isn't about whether religious people are more obedient to God than non-religious people

Read my post again. Nowhere did I say or imply that the argument is over whether religious people are more obedient to god. That would be a very stupid thing to argue over.

but whether they're more obedient to human authority figures telling them to do evil things.

Okay, if that's what you're arguing, then great, I have no problem with it. I even said in my previous post that:
...you could argue that obedience to 'divine authority' makes a person less likely follow earth(l)y authorities. And that would be true...

But if that was what you meant, you certainly didn't make it clear. And further, nowhere in la princesa's sentences is the 'obedience to human authority' idea, implied or otherwise, to be found.

la princesa wrote:

Blass suggests that while situation plays a role in obedience, certain personality elements also contribute to one's obeying or disobeying authority. Among these elements are religious belief and level of suspiciousness. As evidence for this supposition, Blass (1991) describes a 1972 dissertation outlining the effects religious belief (or lack thereof) can have on obedience. Highly religious people were less likely to question authority and were also more obedient (Blass, 1991, pp. 404-5).

And although that phrase is to be found in your post, your objection was to la princesa's "'religion fosters obedience' argument". Showing that religious belief does not necessarily entail obedience to human authority does not support this objection.

-----
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get ye all

[ Parent ]
just moving the target (4.00 / 1) (#128)
by Quila on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:54:06 AM EST

"[T]he answer for this man lies not in the repudiation of authority but in the substitution of good--that is, divine--authority for bad."

Then re-do the experiment with Catholics and have the Pope run it. Same result, as he speaks for their god. All this divine authority argument does is move the authority up one step. But there will always be someone representing that higher authority to tell people what to do.

[ Parent ]

not always true (2.00 / 1) (#143)
by tealeaf on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:28:48 AM EST

Not unless people feel a personal connection with God. In that case, they will ignore the pope and follow what they intuit God wants them to do.

[ Parent ]
"true" xxxx (3.00 / 1) (#146)
by Quila on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:41:51 AM EST

So, only the "truly religious" or "real Catholics" will blindly follow. It still doesn't affect my point.

You could even re-do this in any society where the king was considered to be the earthly representative of god, and his words were god's words. The concept remains that bringing in a god only raises the authority level a step.

[ Parent ]

no traction (none / 0) (#162)
by tealeaf on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:13:44 AM EST

I don't think you grasped what I was trying to say. You didn't refute or answer my post.

[ Parent ]
sorry (none / 0) (#170)
by Quila on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:38:38 AM EST

Read it wrong. I picked Catholic in specific because that religion has an authority figure that is supposed to be the direct representative of god on earth, and infallible. This is one of the basic tenets of Catholicism.

Therefore, if you are truly Catholic -- by the book believing the Pope to be infallible -- you will follow his orders as coming from god. If you trust your own relationship -- your own fallible interpretations -- over his, then you are among the large number of Catholics who don't really believe everything they're told.

It still doesn't change my argument that bringing a deity into this may simply be moving the authority figure up one step.

[ Parent ]

I think my post was misleading (none / 0) (#187)
by tealeaf on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:39:20 AM EST

I was replying to this: "But there will always be someone representing that higher authority to tell people what to do."

I said that it's not true that there "will always be" an intermediary between a person and God.  I'm not even making any statement here pro or con religion or God!  I'm just saying, many religions, faiths, traditions, etc., value and prefer personal connection with God as opposed to any other kind of connection.

What is interesting is that there are a lot of people who are not "atheist" in a traditional sense, but more like non-theists.  They are spiritual people, but they don't believe in a governing and almighty deity.  I wonder how these people would fare in such experiments.


[ Parent ]

Differing viewpoints (4.00 / 1) (#308)
by Quila on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 05:28:27 AM EST

Granted the concept will vary greatly between religions depending on the power structure. However, even religions that are based on personal relationship only, such as Islam, often have highly influential clerics who will warp that personal interpretation to suit their own agendas. They are still accepting an authority figure, either as direct representative or as interpreter.

Those who are religious but have not been indoctrinated into a religion should show no more propensity towards blind obedience than an atheist with similar background. They have not been trained in religious obedience, and they accept no one's interpretation of the higher authority, relying on their own communication with the deity (in an atheist, this would be personal values, insights and convictions) to do what's right.

What is interesting is that there are a lot of people who are not "atheist" in a traditional sense, but more like non-theists.

Grammatically those terms are synonymous. But depending on your interpretation of "spiritual," I may fall into the latter category. But either class as you have defined them should have the same results in the study, as they still accept no ultimate authority.

[ Parent ]

Infallibility (4.00 / 1) (#196)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:09:52 PM EST

Sorry this is slightly OT, but your understanding of Papal Infallibility is in need of more than a little adjustment. First, Catholic dogma does not hold that the Pope is God's representative on earth. Second, Papal Infallibility does not compel Catholics to follow every order issued by the Pope. The Pope is held to be infallible only when speaking ex cathedra, which rarely occurs and only covers a very limited range of possible subjects.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Stand corrected (none / 0) (#307)
by Quila on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 05:12:58 AM EST

But the concept still stands even if not perfectly applicable to that particular church in all circumstances.

[ Parent ]
what is "western" about this experiment? (4.25 / 4) (#72)
by khallow on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:11:00 AM EST

Essentially, the people in the Milgram and Milgram-inspired studies were not being cruel because they wished to. They were attempting to conform to the norms of Western culture.

As we've seen from the genocides of Cambodia, China (under Mao), and Rwanda, it's clear that a lot of people attempt to "conform to the norms of Western culture" even when in very non-Western cultures. In fact, I'd be interested to know why you think this is a result of "Western" culture and not a result of "Human" (or even primate) culture.

I've heard this stuff before, but you've compiled a more significant list of these experiments than I've seen in one place before. +1 section. BTW, why are people calling these experiments unethical? Particularly, when in one experiment 80% thought there was a net personal benefit to having participated in the experiment? I found it beneficial just reading about the experiments.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

well, go over there and do it yourself then. (none / 0) (#76)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:21:09 AM EST

Exactly which part of refusing to make generalizations beyond the conditions under which the experiments were held is it that you don't like?

--em
[ Parent ]

the conclusion part (3.00 / 2) (#84)
by khallow on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:48:26 AM EST

The part I don't like is the jumping to conclusions part. I.e., we get a bunch of people from "Western" societies, observe them exhibiting certain "bad" behaviors, and then conclude that the behaviors are an attempt to "conform to the norms of Western culture". To elaborate, individuality, freedom of expression, and rational thought are often considered "norms" of Western culture. Clearly, people in the experiments weren't as a whole trying to conform to any of these particular norms. Wouldn't it have been better (and more accurate) to say something along the lines that the subjects of some Western backgrounds appeared to be attempting to conform to the perceived demands of an authority figure?

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

you may be right (none / 0) (#89)
by adiffer on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:26:17 AM EST

It is possible to interpret the results the way you suggest, but the one offered is narrower and more likely to be correct with the evidence available.  To find out if your interpretation works, one would have to re-run the experiment with non-westerners as others have suggested.  Until new experiments are run, both interpretations are effectively indistinguishable.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]
Anti-extrapolation? (none / 0) (#115)
by BCoates on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:35:49 AM EST

Because there is a lack of evidence in certain cases, it's equally valid (and more likely to be correct) to assume an exception as to assume similarity?

These experiments haven't been run on people born after 1980, therefore, we should assume there has been a fundamental change in attitudes since then and the results would be different.

... which I suppose makes young people morally superior, but I guess we already knew that :)

--
Benjamin Coates

[ Parent ]

interpretations (none / 0) (#245)
by adiffer on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:52:23 PM EST

On a personal level, I'm inclined to believe the broader interpretation and that it even applies to young people.  (All of you whippersnappers included  8)  )

I'm enough of a scientist, though, to recognize that the evidence collected does not make a broad statement.  Narrow conclusions, therefore, stand a better chance of being correct.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

Re: interpretations (none / 0) (#299)
by khallow on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 02:56:30 AM EST

I'm enough of a scientist, though, to recognize that the evidence collected does not make a broad statement. Narrow conclusions, therefore, stand a better chance of being correct.

IMHO, we missed the point. Let's give an exaggerated experiment. Suppose I as a researcher am studying swans. Let's say, I've observed a lot of white swans in the wild. A nearby zoo gives me access to a flock of black swans (who incidentally cannot fly because their wings are clipped). Should I then conclude that black swans cannot fly because they are black? Or that they turn black when they are caged or their wings clipped? Or that caged swans are black (this might have some truth), etc? The problem is that I give no consideration to how my subjects ended up in my observations. Nor have I attempted to collect an unbiased representative sample (eg, mostly white non-clipped swans or black swans from the wild and the zoo in proportional numbers, whatever). Finally, I attempt to conclude things that I simply cannot test properly. For example, I could capture some wild white swans, and observe whether they change colors in captivity (and prove or disprove some theories).

Recall that the original "conclusion" was that people were doing these acts in order to "conform" to Western norms. This isn't a narrow conclusion especially since (as was pointed out before) the testees were restricted to Western peoples - which is a pretty huge bias for that particular conclusion. As was pointed out before, no cross-cultural experiments were run (at least in the list enumerated originally) to determine whether this behavior was a Western thing. I merely pointed out three recent historical counterexamples that indicate the conclusion is wrong.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

oh (none / 0) (#328)
by adiffer on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 05:27:26 PM EST

I think I see your point now.

I guess someone will just have to do more experimentation to resolve the possible ambiguities.  I won't offer to be a subject, though.  8)

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

Answer: Nothing (3.00 / 4) (#101)
by delmoi on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:42:07 AM EST

This expirement was performed all over the world, and the results were pretty much the same.

In other words, this artical is completly full of shit.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Meta (2.66 / 9) (#79)
by ariux on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:26:09 AM EST

The guys who designed and ran such experiments must have been pretty sick people.

This shows in Zimbardo's rather shocking, even gleeful description of how he abused his position of authority to build a basement hallway into a private prison and organize and preside over acts of torture committed against students in his care. If the point of this was to illustrate the smug, pointless cruelty of which human beings are capable, the experimenters' own mentalities suffice to establish it.

What's more, in a sick validation of the experimental results, here we all are, chattering happily away about those very results - and all the while, unthinkingly accepting that such experiments were even run. Like the "instructors" in Milgram's experiment, we're content that it was all done for Science.

Think about it for a minute.

Meta-meta (4.33 / 3) (#88)
by RandomPeon on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:24:30 AM EST

If you read Zimbardo's description of his experiment in it's entirety it becomes clear that he was sucked into the experiment too. So was his "prison consultant" - a convicted felon who did about 10 years. They both forget they were researchers and got "sucked in".

Zimbardo's own ability to be captivated by his experiment is a pretty clear example of how strong the human tendency is to cooperate with insitutional structures.

[ Parent ]
Shying from discussion of past events .... (4.66 / 3) (#95)
by mnstrgrl on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:31:12 AM EST

... doesn't undo them. It seems rather clear that most (including the author of this piece) feel these studies were inhumane, shouldn't be repeated, and really shouldn't have been undertaken in the first place. However, since they WERE undertaken, where's the harm in trying to learn something from their results?

[ Parent ]
What is your point? (5.00 / 2) (#114)
by delmoi on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:30:57 AM EST

Are you saying that because the experements were in some ways inhumane, that the results are not true? Or that we should ignore the resutls?
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Not at all... (2.50 / 2) (#226)
by ariux on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:14:51 PM EST

...only that our failure to see the experiments themselves in a moral context, because of their association with the institution of Science, really echoes Milgram's own results.

[ Parent ]

We need more experiments like these. (4.33 / 3) (#117)
by apokalypse on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:48:29 AM EST


How are these experiments unethical or inhumane?

We NEED to experiment to advance any kind of science, be it psychology, biology or physics.

Why cripple an important field by our own "moral" squeamishness?

Far worse things happen to most people in the course of their lives than taking part in a temporary psychological experiment. These experiments advance our knowledge and so provide benefit to everyone.

Sacrificing than few for the many is a routine part of everyday life. We need some people to be firemen/policemen/soldiers even though it is a dangerous job. The economic system means that someone will eventually end up doing even the most dirtiest, dangerous jobs provided they have enough of a reward (even if that reward is simply not starving).

If taking part in such experiments is so harmful then the subjects should be paid or rewarded more, in line with the value of such experiments.

Don't tell me these expermients are not valuable. Imagine if no one had ever done these experiments? What new Milgram or Stanford-like experiments are waiting to be done, but for the ethics committes?


[ Parent ]

Western Culture (4.20 / 10) (#81)
by pexatus on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:33:37 AM EST

It is this attempt at conforming to norms that produces a disturbing dualism in Westerners. They must reconcile their internal ethical sense with the ethics of Western culture, which often permit obedience to authority to supersede one's personal judgments. The complicit Germans in Nazi Germany might have considered Hitler's policies wrong, but in the Judeo-Christian context of their culture, they subjugated their opinions and obeyed.
...
It is possible that in less complex, non-Western societies, people have little or no societal conflicts with their internal norms.
Wrong. Eastern cultures emphasize obedience to authority far more than Western culture. This is something that has actually been studied heavily in the field of social psychology. See "Social Psychology" by David G. Myers. Western culture emphasizes individualism and decries conformity, whereas Eastern culture emphasizes family and community and respect for authority.

Of course, that doesn't mean you don't get conformity in Western culture, but I think that your speculation that the results of Milgram's experiments were due to Judeo-Christian culture is way off.

German Culture (none / 0) (#93)
by Korimyr the Rat on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:57:08 AM EST

It's a shame more Germans didn't remeber this Prussian proverb: "It's better to disobey an order than to be dishonored by one."

Automatic and unquestioning obedience wasn't originally a part of Western culture-- though it's seemed to increase steadily over the centuries.

--
"Specialization is for insects." Robert Heinlein
Founding Member of 'Retarded Monkeys Against the Restriction of Weapons Privileges'
[ Parent ]

Generally obedient (5.00 / 1) (#126)
by Quila on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:42:03 AM EST

The German culture, and much other European culture is generally obedient. This is the only place I've seen people wait two minutes for a green crosswalk light on a deserted street.

[ Parent ]
Crossing the street (none / 0) (#231)
by VanM on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:36:36 PM EST

Maybe that's because pedestrians don't have the right of way at all times there, or so advised a trip leader when I was there.

[ Parent ]
Actually, (none / 0) (#304)
by Quila on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 04:12:34 AM EST

If you hit a pedestrian at any time you're in trouble. You'd better be able to prove that the pedestrian was at fault and you that couldn't avoid him. They're thinking of changing the law for bicycles so that even if the bicycle rider is factually at fault, the car driver is still legally at fault.

It's a social thing, not a legal thing.

[ Parent ]

Here's a hint: (5.00 / 1) (#94)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:29:29 AM EST

is possible that in less complex, non-Western societies, people have little or no societal conflicts with their internal norms.
Wrong. Eastern cultures emphasize obedience to authority far more than Western culture.

There are more cultures on the globe than "Eastern" and "Western", and the phrase "less complex" should have been a giveaway.

[ Parent ]

Non-Western (none / 0) (#172)
by pexatus on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:41:48 AM EST

Okay, divide the world into "Western" (Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, plus a few others) and "Non-Western" (South America, Asia). I'm unfamiliar with cultures of Africa, so I won't group them anywhere, but we're still talking about 85% of the world's population in those first two groups. The studies I saw found people from South America or Asia more likely to place a priority on community, and people from Europe, North America, etc. more likely to place a priority on individualism.

Likewise, in response to the original quote, you cannot divide the cultures of the world into "Western" and "not complex".

[ Parent ]

My friend (5.00 / 1) (#302)
by StrontiumDog on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 03:53:47 AM EST

by grouping South America and Asia (with countries as diverse as Argentina, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, China, and Singapore) into some amorphous "culture" called the "non-Western" culture, and assigning common traits to them, you are destroying any legitimacy you might have considered giving yourself in this discussion.

[ Parent ]
Religion likely played a role (none / 0) (#145)
by FlipFlop on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:41:12 AM EST

I think that your speculation that the results of Milgram's experiments were due to Judeo-Christian culture is way off.

From the article:

Blass (1991) describes a 1972 dissertation outlining the effects religious belief (or lack thereof) can have on obedience. Highly religious people were less likely to question authority and were also more obedient (Blass, 1991, pp. 404-5).

This would suggest that religion was a factor that would lead to greater obedience in the Milgrim studies. It might not be the only factor, or even the most important factor, but I don't see how you can discount that it played at least some small role in the results.

AdTI - The think tank that didn't
[ Parent ]

Fine (5.00 / 2) (#178)
by pexatus on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:51:17 AM EST

But what does that have to do with Western vs. Non-western culture? Non-western cultures have religions, too. Skim the article just to see how many times la princesa uses Western cultural norms to account for the results of these studies. Of course cultural norms are responsible, but the quite obvious implication she is making is that Non-Western cultural norms would make people less likely to obey, and I think that the opposite is true.

I should have said, "I think that your speculation that the results of Milgram's experiments were due to picking members of Judeo-Christian culture instead of members of another culture is way off."

[ Parent ]

I have to agree with this... (1.00 / 1) (#199)
by Stanley on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:13:23 PM EST

Internal ethics dictate that the self is the most important to save.

When considering the Kamakazi pilots of WWII, I would say that the East has a far better grasp of doing something "for the state" than the West.


============
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" -- Douglas Adams
[ Parent ]
exposure to other social norms (4.33 / 3) (#90)
by adiffer on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:36:46 AM EST

Let us hope then that those of us exposed to other norms via communication environments like this have a few more 'rebellious' models we can adopt when faced with this kind of moral conflict.

There are days I think that communities like this one band together for the express purpose of creating social norms so the individual citizens may avoid potential conflicts.  It is pretty obvious (just read a few diaries) that not everyone is here because they like being here.  Emigration is usually quite a hardship for those involved, so there must be a damn good reason for why they would do it.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.

I'm not of this opinion (4.70 / 10) (#92)
by psychologist on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:43:44 AM EST

Several prominent psychologists do indeed support this thesis that blames the innate human brutality on cultural perception, so I cannot laugh off this essay.

I am of the other school of thought. I believe that human brutality and cruelty is an inherent part of our physical make-up, and that our culture, which has developed due to the pressure from living in a society in fact reduces our cruelty.

We don't go around killing each other when we live together. We don't torture and enjoy killing either when we live our normal lives either. This behaviour only comes into play when we are taken into a different and unknown physical context, and are subjected to pressure.

It is my strong conviction that we are conforming in reverting to brutality, but not to culture; we are conforming to our natural human being. The human being is cruel, and that is why he is so succesful. Whereas monkeys will refuse to kill their type to further their cause, the human being will do it and enjoy it.

Wow (4.50 / 4) (#140)
by eyeflare on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:16:08 AM EST

I usually find psychologist's views to be worth about as much as burning horse dung. But I'm actually wholly agreeing here.
"There is no way to peace; peace is the way." -A. J. Muste. Go: www.eyeflare.com
[ Parent ]
More by psychologist (5.00 / 2) (#173)
by Irobot on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:43:57 AM EST

For a better idea of what he's saying, see his Brutality story.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

If you aren't of that opinion... (4.50 / 4) (#227)
by Nyarly on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:27:05 PM EST

Could you address the dissertation cited in the article about religious belief in Milgram-style experiments? It would seem to follow that if culture curbs our natural brutality then membership in a culture devoted to peace (since I'm assuming that an experiment with highly religious Westerners will be mostly Christians and Jews) would grant a stronger resistance to an authority urging them to cruelty.

Honestly, it seems that both views you describe are overly simplistic. Some societies build their Hobbsian restraint on a basis of authority. Members of such cultures will revert to nasty brutality at the instigation of a figure of authority. On the other hand, I'm not convinced that there are many large societies that are based on any other ideal.

"The believer is happy. The doubter is wise" --Hungarian Proverb
[ Parent ]

Prison (4.16 / 6) (#96)
by cgenman on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:34:01 AM EST

Good, if dated, overview of several basic sociologically interesting studies.  

However, I would like to point out that the Stanford Prison Experiment varied from Milgram's experiments in that the participants in the Stanford PE had become the authority rather than were differing to it.  Power corrupts.

In that fashion, Milgram was showing that people will do horrible things when deferring to the system, and the Stanford Prison Experiment showed people would do horrible things when they were allowed to set the rules for the system.

This is why we have checks and balances.  So that no branch of the government is a total slave to the others, and as such cannot act without considering the consequences of their actions, and likewise no branch has a free hand in setting the rules for the others, for the same reason.  

- This Sig is a mnemonic device designed to allow you to recognize this author in the future. This is only a device.

Stanford Prison Experiment Covered Both (3.40 / 5) (#129)
by FlipFlop on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:24:11 AM EST

In the Stanford Prison Experiment, half the of subjects were prisoners. At one point in the study, the guards enlisted the prisoners to help punish a disobedient inmate. So the prisoners all stood in a line and chanted, "Prisoner [some number I forgot] did a bad thing." I don't remember which incident provoked the chanting (I think it was because a prisoner blockaded the door to his cell, but it might have been the prisoner who refused to eat his breakfast after it fell on the floor). So at any rate, the prisoners did defer to authority, and those who didn't suffered the consequences.

Getting to the topic of this article, one rule of ethics is that subjects are allowed to leave an experiment at any time without punishment. The fact that prisoners were prohibited from leaving, and even punished for refusing to comply is certainly unethical in my book.

AdTI - The think tank that didn't
[ Parent ]

Ends Justify Means? (4.80 / 10) (#97)
by superdiva on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:35:24 AM EST

I'm sure a number of people remember Jane Elliot's experiment on racial attitudes where she separated the blue-eyed children from the brown-eyed in her fourth-grade classroom. Elliot has been doing the same experiment with adults in her diversity training for corporations and internationally. California Newsreel has a video on the corporate diversity experiment, Blue-Eyed.. Eye of the Storm and Class Divided are films that document her classroom experiments.

Jane Elliot mentioned how appalled people were that she could conduct such an experiment on young children. Elliot always reminded her detractors that the discomfort the children endured in her classroom for a week was part of everyday life for minorities, women, and gays.

Unethical experiments? When we revisit studies like Milgram's and Zimbardo's there's a desire to find out why certain tragedies in real life like that of Kitty Genovese Kitty Genovese occur and a willingness to push the envelope if, by chance, we can become better human beings.
_____________________________________________
Lair. (3.54 / 11) (#98)
by delmoi on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:38:55 AM EST

IIRC. These tests were performed all over the world, not just in "the west".

Your article takes a phenomenon detected in western culture and uses it to condemn western culture, but you fail to mention the results of the experimentation in non-western cultures, even though they were done.

In order for your theory to be true, you would need to see much lower rates in the non-western world, not just 'high' rates in the western world. How can you compare something to nothing!?

In fact, IIRC rates were equivalent all over the world. You are basically lying through omission.

This article is total garbage, and should be deleted.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
how ironic.. (none / 0) (#99)
by delmoi on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:40:01 AM EST

It seems my initial vote (+1 fp, without thinking first) pushed this over the limit, and posted it. oh well, saved me the 'editorial/topical' question...
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
YDRC (none / 0) (#106)
by streetlawyer on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:08:31 AM EST

means "you don't recall correctly". HTH.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Bah, 450V ain't diddly (2.14 / 7) (#100)
by imrdkl on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:41:39 AM EST

old style automobile ignition coils pumped out thousands of volts, and likely had an equivalent effect on the unlucky (or thrill-seeking) mechanic. Until you start to talk about life-threatening current, the results of this experiment represent little more than childs play.

"Westerners", as you call them, Americans in fact, are less likely to kill each other, but more likely to have fun than other cultures. Who didn't already know that? This straw man won't burn. At least not at 450v.

If you want to talk about cultural bias towards, then perhaps examine devices which truly are used for torture and extermination, like machetes, or ovens.

Heart condition... (none / 0) (#102)
by delmoi on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:43:25 AM EST

Well, the subjects were told that the 'learners' had heart conditions.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Again I say BAH (3.33 / 3) (#108)
by imrdkl on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:12:27 AM EST

It's little more than a role-playing exercise with some additional parameters.

[ Parent ]
ill-informed (3.66 / 3) (#105)
by streetlawyer on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:07:48 AM EST

Actually, the subjects in the Milgrom experiment were provided with audible feedback from the "learner" indicating that he was in extreme pain and fearing for his life.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
One mans learner (3.00 / 2) (#112)
by imrdkl on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:19:07 AM EST

is another mans confederate.

[ Parent ]
That was the most shocking part. (3.50 / 2) (#156)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:01:49 AM EST

That the people could hear (or sometimes, see) the pain and discomfort of the "learner" and still chose obedience.

Of course, that people are willing to inflict pain in order to be accepted really shouldn't suprise anyone who survived being a teenager.


--
To understand American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservative
[ Parent ]

Not only that (none / 0) (#190)
by Dephex Twin on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:48:48 AM EST

But IIRC the higher-up voltages had labels like a skull & crossbones and other things that indicated danger and harm.


Alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems. -- Homer Simpson
[ Parent ]
Close (none / 0) (#215)
by nusuth on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:09:35 PM EST

"...Each switch was labeled with a voltage rating,... from 15 to 400 volts, and groups of adjacent switches were labeled descriptively, ranging from 'Slight Shock'to 'Danger: Severe Shock.'..."

[ Parent ]
bollocks (1.66 / 3) (#163)
by lordpixel on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:14:22 AM EST

Domestic US supply is around 110V. This can kill people.

Domestic UK supply is around 220V. This is more likely to kill people (but the equipment is better shielded, and 220V is more efficient)

450V is in the subway track region. Go piss on the 3rd rail sometime and see what happens to you[*]

[*] actually, no, do NOT do that.


I am the cat who walks through walls, all places and all times are alike to me.
[ Parent ]

Good lord people, are you all ignorant? (5.00 / 3) (#214)
by Kintanon on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:09:09 PM EST

Someone go call an electriction and ask them what kills you about electricity. They'll tell you it ain't the volts, it's the Amps. You can run 5000 volts through you, and it ift's going at 200milliamps it's not going to kill you. It will make you twitch and jerk about, but it won't kill you. If you get high enough on the voltage scale though it will light your ass on fire... And prolonged exposure means you can't breath because your muscles are all seized up, so that will kill you. But the electricity itself isn't that bad.
But it only takes an Amp or 2 to stop our heart...

Electricity isn't harmless, but it's not as dangerous as people make it out to be.

Kintanon

[ Parent ]

Don't forget (none / 0) (#317)
by raygundan on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 12:38:36 PM EST

That you routinely survive 10,000volt shocks every time you get a static spark from a doorknob or a car door. It's the current that gets you.

http://www.amasci.com/emotor/stmiscon.html#nine

[ Parent ]
you must have had 450volts come through you... (5.00 / 2) (#273)
by strlen on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:44:15 PM EST

to write that comment. anything above 40 volts can be deadly. also, the amps (the current) highly matter. two 9 volt battereis from rat shack won't do anything to me, but 12 volts (and high amps) from a car battery can be very painful. you dont much amps to create a spark to ignite a highly compressed fuel mixture, and in order to create that sort of voltage (thousands of volts) you'd need to use a transformer which highly reduces the voltage anyway (when you increase the volts). by the way, 110 (or 220 if you're not a USian) volts are very deadly, coming from a wall socket too. it is possible to get killed by wall current, at least the 220 volts in many foreign countrys. ive known cases of people being killed by 220 myself.

--
[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]
Societal Norms (2.50 / 4) (#110)
by mdabaningay on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:17:24 AM EST

The article talks at some length about the conflict between societal norms and a persons own ethics. This leads me to the question 'Where do societal norms come from if not from the people within a society?'

I'd speculate as an earlier poster did that being under 'experimental' conditions in fact skews the participants views of societal norms, but I feel that is an inadequate response.

I'd be very interested to hear a response from any experts in social science, since I'm not one.

Wow. (2.68 / 16) (#113)
by paine in the ass on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:24:58 AM EST

Honestly, I'm speechless. When I voted on this thing it was at -3 and falling, and somehow it made the front page only a couple hours later.

The fact that such a badly-written, poorly-reasoned, stinking piece of unsupportable horseshit made FP really makes me wonder about the people who are voting on stories here.


I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.

henh? (3.25 / 4) (#125)
by Fantastic Lad on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:37:13 AM EST

The fact that such a badly-written, poorly-reasoned, stinking piece of unsupportable horseshit made FP really makes me wonder about the people who are voting on stories here.

Unsupportable? Badly-written? Poorly-reasoned? Where does all that come from?

I've read a great deal about these experiments several times in several different sources over the last twenty years. I have no reason to believe that they didn't happen. When I was a kid, I actually saw a half hour documentary on the prison experiement with interviews of many participants. It disturbed the hell out of me when I was young!

The author of this story gave a multitude of references, and did little more than report on what other writers and researchers had to say. I didn't notice any wild assumptions. What part of this story offended you so much? --If it was the subject matter, then you would probably be best aiming your ire not at the author, but at society.

-Fantastic Lad

[ Parent ]

The author of this story (3.00 / 5) (#234)
by paine in the ass on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:58:11 PM EST

Used these experiments to say all sorts of things about "Western cultural norms" and how apparently things like religious belief and complexity in a society lead to people doing cruel things to each other.

First of all, there is no such thing as a "Western cultural norm". None. Zip. Zero. It's a made-up idea, pulled out of thin air. So-called "Western" culture is a mish-mash of varied traditions, no two exactly alike.

Second, even if we grant that there might be some common threads of "Western" culture, we ought to find that the notion of individuality is one of the big ones; going all the way back to the Greeks, the notion of the individual is prevalent in Western traditions, whereas in other societies, Confucian China for example, one finds duty and deference, deference and duty, and then for a break, some duty and some deference.

Second, I don't see what religion has to do with anything, yet our dear author seems to suggest some tantalizing connection, where religious types are more likely to zap their fellow man with electricity. Unfortunately, atheists commit atrocities just like the rest of us; out with that point.

Third, she suggests that the level of complexity of a society has something to do with this. Ignoring for a moment the absurdity of the idea that we can measure a society's complexity on any kind of linear scale, do you really think life in, say, and Amazonian rain-forest tribe is any more ethically simple? I don't, and I do ethics for a living. People in all societies face conflicts between various types of duties, and between various "mores" or "norms" to use a couple of my most-hated words. It's not unique to "technological" or "complex" societies.

Finally, references do not equal good reasoning or good writing, and she did not simply report what other authors had to say. By the way, have you read that book by Carl Sagan that she mentioned? I have.

And finally, to throw in a little ad hominem just because I have to, this is by la princesa and streetlawyer is vigorously defending it with all his might. To me, that indicates one thing:

YHBT. YHL. HAND.


I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.
[ Parent ]

Yup. (none / 0) (#278)
by Fantastic Lad on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:35:43 PM EST

What can I say? You got me.

I went back and re-read the article more carefully and saw that there was indeed a bit of reaching going on. Must have missed it while skimming and stirring my not-as-of-that-moment-ingested coffee at the same time. Lame excuse, but I'm sticking to it.

Nonetheless, in looking over a couple of the points, there is one which I think is defense-worthy, though not for any reasons mentioned in the the article.

People from small un-technologically advanced tribes I think would be likely to react differently when exposed to the same experiments as compared to people from advanced first world nations for one significant reason. Assuming that the same tribe is used as the source for all participants in the experiment, (and I don't believe this was the case in the actual experiment), it would stand to reason that the people involved would probably know each other already and be inclined to react differently because of this when asked to push the shock button.

I tend to think that small societies are more able to form healthy and strong social dynamics than the sort of mass groupings we see in the first world.

As for religious belief structures affecting one's ability to be swayed to do something morally reprehensible to another person. . . It did seem as though the author was able to point to stats from one of the experiments which indicated a curve which showed a difference between religious and non-religious participants. --Though, I would very much like to see the data myself before allowing such a whopper of a conclusion to cross into my personal belief structure!

-Quite simply, as you believe, I don't see a great deal of difference between the general religious and non-religious mind-set regarding how much deferal to authority is likely to happen. For the most part, the golden cows seem simply to come in different shapes and sizes based on what belief system one happens to follow. --I know quite a number of 'non-religious' folk who like Barques root beer, because it 'Has Bite', who regularly, 'Just Do It', and who believe everything the Learning Channel has to say without question because it's, you know, 'Science' with a capital S.

So, nah. I just thought you were doubting that such experiments ever took place. Like I said. Lack of coffee. My apologies.

-Fantastic Lad

[ Parent ]

Cruelty in small groups (none / 0) (#287)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:26:12 PM EST

People from small un-technologically advanced tribes I think would be likely to react differently when exposed to the same experiments as compared to people from advanced first world nations for one significant reason. Assuming that the same tribe is used as the source for all participants in the experiment, (and I don't believe this was the case in the actual experiment), it would stand to reason that the people involved would probably know each other already and be inclined to react differently because of this when asked to push the shock button.

Like when members of a small tribe -- perhaps even members of her own immediate family -- hold a young girl down and forcibly remove her clitoris without the aid of anesthesia? Make no mistake, Rousseau's noble savage has never been located anywhere outside of an overactive imagination.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Causing pain (none / 0) (#298)
by StrontiumDog on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 02:49:32 AM EST

is not necessarily cruelty, else every surgeon would be cruel. Causing needless pain is. Whether circumcision is necessary is up to you, but I would choose another example to illustrate "cruelty".

[ Parent ]
Tribes. . . (none / 0) (#319)
by Fantastic Lad on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 01:06:39 PM EST

Yeah, female circumcision is a pretty miserable thing, but it's an apples & oranges kind of comparison. Particularly when it's not done across the board. Small social bands differ in their practices; some are entirely humane and genial, though American media likes to focus on the nastier qualities of some groups and then paint in broad strokes. I wonder why. . .

In any case, they do pretty horrible things to boys coming of age as well in certain jungle tribes; carving teath into points, creating body scars in a war-paint sort of manner. Crazy shit from our perspective, but all for the same stupid reasons we do similar things here. Highschool football, for goodness sake! Hormones are pandemic. Though while boys get an easier time of it here, we really put our females through the psychological grinder; make the shaving of body hair non-optional, make them wear heals, and generally force them into a state of perpetual anxiety about their body shape, etc, all for reasons of sex and issues of low sexual confidence. (Why exactly do so many men want their women to be child-like?)

Small bands of people and large bands of people are going to have to deal with the same issues relating to sex and hormones. However, if some guy in a lab-coat tells me to zap a person for 'Science', I know for a fact that I would be less likely to do so to my hunting partner, or my uncle's best friend, or the chief's mother, than I would to one of the half billion American total strangers I live amongst.

Of course, I like to believe that I would laugh in the Lab Coat guy's face regardless of the circumstances, but that's partly because I have read about such experiments post-execution and find the concept of harming others simply because I have been told to, entirely repulsive. One has to stay in a state of constant vigilance, self-awareness and spiritual focus/strength to be ready for the real thing should it come along in another form we are not expecting.

--Like getting a job as a telemarketer, for instance, and zapping strangers with a telephone ring and an unwanted & offensive sales pitch because we 'Are Told To'. I am pleased to say that when I was in my early twenties and had such a job, I quit after the first day when I realized the nature of the dynamic being played out. People are being conditioned all the time in preparation for what. . ?

-Fantastic Lad

[ Parent ]

Could have been good (2.25 / 4) (#118)
by chbm on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:49:49 AM EST

Neglecting the english version of the Stanford experience  voids your conclusions.
Even though, your writeup would more interesting if you factored in the diferences between roman church, protestantism and judaism. Rolling it up into a great ball makes it murky.

-- if you don't agree reply don't moderate --
Western vs Eastern society: obligatory quote (4.00 / 6) (#119)
by docvin on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 06:25:02 AM EST

'OCCIDENT: The part of the world lying west (or east) of the Orient. It is largely inhabited by Christians, a powerful subtribe of the Hypocrites, whose principal industries are murder and cheating, which they are pleased to call "war" and "commerce." These, also, are the principal industries of the Orient.'

- The Devil's Dictionary


What a perfect example of "Western" educ (3.46 / 13) (#120)
by Skywise on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 06:39:09 AM EST

Tons of information and not one wit of how to use it.  Very "W" of you.

There is not one shred of evidence that any of these studies denote:  A> Authoritarian systems as vectors towards dehumanization, or B> Religious systems weaken individual will.

If either were true, there would be no rebellion in any of these systems.  And yet there are.  Luther rebels against the Church, Jesus rebels against the Jews, Ghandi rebels against both Britian and his own religious sect.

On the flip side, I'm suprised how many people are "shocked!" at such an atrocity that "exposes the truth" of what humans are really like!  And we need further studies of this phenomenon...

Please.  Israel, meet Palestine.  US, meet Afghanistan...er  Iraq...  Check any paper within the last 5 days for a father shooting up his family in the US.   Rapes?  Murders?  Shocked that a ultra-religious mother drowned her kids?  How about a devout atheist killing Mrs. O'Hare for her gold?

All governments throughout the world train soldiers to do one thing.  Kill the "enemy".  Who's the "enemy"?  Whomever the governments tell you.  That is not a "western civ" thang, it is not a "religious" thang, it is a "survivalist" thang.  In southern Asia they drug kids with cocaine to turn them into perfect killing machines, and start by having them shoot their own parents, or be killed themselves.  Guess who dies?

The only thing really shocking about this article is that it lambasts with an incredibly broad brush the ONLY human construct that tries to reverse the trend.  Religion.  I'm not talking about "hit the floor, be slain in the spirit, take one service a week and call me in the morning" religion.  I'm talking about true Religion.   The kind that was practiced only dozens of years ago in an effort to further humanity, and try to establish peace on Earth and goodwill towards men.

However, we've put away such "toys" because they're silly, not PC, and religion was really a secret society designed to spread hatred and war...  Far more important are the recent shocking studies that "prove" man's inhumanity to man and whatever are we going to do as we can only wring our hands so much...

Wanna see some inhumanity?  Take a look at the number of ultra-low ratings floating around on these replies...

Possible misinterpretation (none / 0) (#124)
by Quila on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:33:05 AM EST

There is not one shred of evidence that any of these studies denote: ... B> Religious systems weaken individual will.

I don't think they meant that just religion suppresses the individual will. I believe it is more a factor of indoctrination in authority, and almost all religious people have undergone that vs. some amount of the non-religious. Part of most Western religion includes driving into the children the concept that that there is a higher authority, that they are to obey it, and that it is not up to them to question because they don't know the higher plans, which are beyond their comprehension.

This same indoctrination happened with secular societies too: if they'd included the Hitler Youth in these studies for example. Although with the Hitler Youth, they'd have gotten a double whammy of religious and secular indoctrination in obedience of authority figures.

If either were true, there would be no rebellion in any of these systems.

Read the article; not none, just far fewer, and you didn't give many examples. I'm sure there were more, but the Church got rid of them quickly. Heretic! Blasphemer! *whoosh* in the flames. It's easy to execute at will when you have the ultimate power backing you and a populace trained in obedience (e.g., "God" in this case, "State" in Stalin's case).



[ Parent ]

Did you even read the article? (4.00 / 4) (#225)
by NoBeardPete on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:54:32 PM EST

You're really misunderstanding the articule here. It almost looks deliberate to me, or perhaps like a troll, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it's not.

There is, apparently, evidence that religious subjects were more likely to continue the experiment to its end, and less likely to rebel. The author of the article says that Milgram found this in his data. Now, it's possible that either the author or Milgram is lying. However, you don't seem to be suggesting that they are lying - you are claiming there is no evidence. Maybe you missed it in the article. Or do you think that, although religious folks were statistically less likely to rebel, this isn't because of the influence of religion on them? I suppose it's possible that religious folks are self-selectedly less rebellious in the first place, but that actually being religious has no effect.

Next, you suggest people are foolish for thinking that these experiments are significant, pointing out lots of examples of cruelty and submission to authority in the real world. I think you are missing out on the significance here - these experiments show how the smallest suggestion of authority can give rise to some of the most extreme cruelty. In the Milgram experiment, subjects go ahead and take actions they fully believe to be killing someone just because some scientist that they have never met before tells them to do it, and it happens within the framework of a scientific study. These subjects did not go through bootcamp. They were not indoctrinated or brainwashed. They were not obeying the orders of authority figures that they had been long accustomed to obeying. They were not given drugs. They believed they were killing someone against whom they had no grudge, no conflict, no reason to dislike.

Your examples of better evidence for the human capacity for brutality all involve some of these factors. Israel vs. Palestine? That involves nationalistic pride, religious fervour, belief in an all powerful god who wants one to kill the enemy, and will reward people for doing so, a cycle of violence and counter violence going back for generations, and a variety of other factors. Of course people are killing each other. Should we conclude, from this, that 90% of the joes off of the street will kill another man against whom they have no beef simply because a "scientist" tells them to? That's what you suggest, but it's a ludicrous suggestion.

Rapes, murders, and several crimes that you mention would similarly not lead one to the conclusions of the Milgram experiment. I think most people hear about these crimes and think that there are a few sick fucks out there. They do not read about a murder in the paper and think to themselves, "Dear god, 90% of the people walking down the street would kill me if they were told to by an 'authority figure' with only the flimsiest of authority!". However, people may well think that to themselves when they read about the Milgram experiment.

Next, you return to the issue of religion. Most religions, it would seem, strive to make people better and more compassionate. Most religious people (and probably many non religious types) would guess that religious folks would be more likely to rebel in the Milgram experiment, and to refuse to take actions they believed would kill someone else. Suprisingly, the data seems to indicate the exact opposite - that the religious subjects were more likely to take actions they believed to kill someone. This is a matter of looking at the data and seeing a trend.

Unless you have reason to believe the data has been falsified, or that the subjects in this experiment, as a statistical fluke, do not represent the population as a whole, it seems that most religious folks are more likely to submit to authority, even if it means doing something their religion likely tells them is wrong. Instead of becoming upset that people are pointing out flaws in religion, perhaps you could be grateful for being shown a flaw in religion as currently practiced. Instead of complaining that religion is intended to make people more moral, you could figure out how to make it actually do so better than it does now.

But maybe you really are misunderstanding all of this deliberately. Or maybe you really are a troll.


Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

Confused. (3.50 / 2) (#247)
by Skywise on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:01:58 PM EST

To paraphrase:  "You don't believe the way I do... you must be a troll."

You've obviously read the Milgram experiment.  But you obviously don't comprehend it's meaning, because that above statement is EXACTLY the causality of what allows people to do inhumane things to other people.

I never said that Milgram was lying.  I never even questioned his results.  I *do* argue that his analysis of "religious people" being more ready to follow authority to the detriment of basal human values is incorrect.

Religion in its true sense (A belief in the spiritual) is not a will sapper.  Nor is it a methodology to enforce super-structural authoritarian systems into everyday life.  THAT sort of control, however, is present in every fiber and core of our physiological make-up.  There is not one social system that isn't affected by this.

The flaw in Milgram's study is thus:  Religion is an environmental affect.  If Religion were to make these people this way, then ONLY religious people would act that way.  If the experiment had included some action along the lines of "God will punish you if you don't punish this guy", then you would have a case... But that was not what this experiment studied.  That more religious people exhibited this behavior (which religion?  Which sect?  Christian?  Buddhist?  Zionist?   Cthuluism?) is obviously a statistical anomaly that many atheists and "free-thinkers" would like to believe is true, because it fits their world view that Religion is an opiate for the (simple-minded) masses.

Now there may be some proof that followers are more likely to be religious.  To which I say, then they would be also followers of whatever dominant social structure is in force at the time... Be that Christianity, Islam, or Atheism.  (Check out the number of Freemasons at one time during the mid 1800's before and after is was politically incorrect to be a Freemason... And also remember that the Catholic church would excommunicate you if you were found to be a Freemason)

The truth of Milgram's study is that when you separate US from THEM, then THEY are much easier to hurt and kill.  And the line from US to THEM is a very, very small one.

[ Parent ]

I'm not convinced (4.00 / 1) (#257)
by NoBeardPete on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:27:26 PM EST

I wasn't trying to say "You disagree with me, so you're a troll," but "You've missed the point of your discussion so badly that you must be a troll."

As far as Milgram's analysis of religious people, I don't see how there's a whole lot of latitude. I suspect he got a self reported measurement of religiousness from the subjects. The ones that were religious were apparently, in his sample, less likely to rebel. Before you go claiming it's a statistical fluke, why don't you at least find out what kind of confidence levels he figured he had?

Now, I'm really having trouble understanding you here. Let me see if I understand what you are saying - "If religious people were less likely to rebel, then only religious people would fail to rebel." Is that what you're saying? This seems so wrongheaded I have trouble believing you aren't doing it deliberately. If you don't want to be branded a troll, this is the kind of thing you need to avoid.

Now, it seems like, to some extent, we may be having a semantic difference here. When you say things like "Religion on its true sense" I get the feeling you have some special definition of religion in mind that gives different results than just asking people, "How religious are you?"

Instead of getting angry that someone has the audacity to point out that people who self-identify themselves as religious are less likely to rebel and do the right thing in certain situations, I think you might be better of figuring out why that is so, and what weaknesses of currently practiced organized religions cause this. Maybe then you can figure out how to bring actual religious organizations with actual members more in line with your platonic ideal of Religion which, apparently, includes perfection of man in its definition. The world will need a whole lot of luck to pull this transformation off, even if people were willing to face up to the facts. If everyone just denies them and gets angry at the people who bring them up, I can confidently say things are not going to change for the better and time soon.


Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

Geez, it's like arguing with a Christian... (none / 0) (#262)
by Skywise on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 06:16:37 PM EST

Even if Milgram had tested all card carrying Catholics none of his studies would have proven that religion = people more likely to succumb to authoritarian lines.  It has nothing to do with "confidence levels" or anything else.  He's taking a casual relationship in his study and implying a causal one and there's no proof of that.  It's like taking 5 Candadians, 5 Russians, and 10 Americans and discovering that 3 of the Americans pushed the pain button longer than the average of the other 17 people, therefore Americans like to inflict pain more!

Religion is the study/following of a spiritual path generally associated with a higher order in the universe.  (This is what I'm referring to as "true" religion).

More commonly, however, it's been used to refer to the temporal mechanics and sets of laws about how to get into heaven and the betterment of man... So that it's almost synomynous as saying "Catholic Church".

The Catholic Church is a religion.  But religion is not the Catholic Church.

Religion, beyond its common meaning, ultimately, is the divorcing of man from the laws of this world.  Generally, that means getting more in tune with God/Gaia/Universe.  That means divorcing man from his own physical (sinful) nature and evolving to the more spiritual (rational or higher emotional) one.  Ergo, that means denying yourself.  Ergo, it means you're already in a state of rebellion and conflict.

That is what I mean by the "true" nature of Religion.

Now, the name of Religion has been hijacked to further people's own nefarious purposes and power struggles (Scientology, Jim Bakker, Usama Bin Laden), but that is not Religion... Any more than Republicans or Democrats had to do with the founding of the United States of America!

Am I angry?  You bet.  Just as would any atheist would be when he was told he was unamerican because he won't say the full Pledge of Allegiance or God Bless America.

But then, I'm just a troll who can't read...


[ Parent ]

Better, but... (none / 0) (#265)
by NoBeardPete on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:01:50 PM EST

Look, I don't think anyone here had been claiming that religion _causes_ people to be less likely to rebel in the Milgram experiment. People have, however, noted that there is a correlation. Several people have further speculated on what the link is - do people who are less likely to rebel against stuff in general tend to become more religious? perhaps there's some other trait, like brushing your teeth right side to left, that causes both religiousness and a decreased likelyhood to rebel in the Milgram experiment.

As far as your definition of religion goes, I suppose it's all well and good. However, I would advise you to 1) not go around telling people who consider themselves religious that they are in fact, according to the _true_ definition of religion, not, and 2) to use commonly accepted definitions of words _when publishing the results of a scientific experiment_, and not some idealized sense of how the world ought to be. Ignoring my advice on 1 will only get you into trouble, and on 2 will result in either confusion, or people deciding you are a bad scientist.

As far as you being angry, you've drawn an extremely faulty analogy. No one has said that any particular religious person is a bad person, or morally inferior to an irreligous person. They have commented that, looking at some data, it seems that religious people are less likely to rebel against authority, even when said authority tells them to do something they don't think they should do. This is, perhaps, as if someone commented that atheists score, on average, lower on some measurement of patriotism. I'm sure most atheists would accept this as plausible, particularly if it was backed up by scientific, peer reviewed studies, published in reputable scientific journals, and accepted as significant by all those in the pertinent field. Granted, there'll be a few loons that take offence, but I suppose this is a risk with any observation one makes.


Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

two things (4.33 / 6) (#127)
by fhotg on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:48:05 AM EST

Your linking of religious belief to obedience is extremely weak. (That unnamed disserattion from 1972 as quoted by someone else).
When Milgram's study was duplicated in West Germany, where the population is not as religious ,the rates of obedience were just over fifty percent.
Would it be possible that the Germans actually learned something more about the drawbacks of obedience to authority than for example the Americans ?

You also very much stress the "Judeo-Christian" - western religious setting. Well, you'd better talk about the "Judeo-Christian-Muslim" condition and call it "monotheist eastern religions".
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

Still wouldn't explain (4.00 / 4) (#137)
by eyeflare on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:09:14 AM EST

the extreme brutal sadism performed by the Japanese during WWII and other wars, the horrendous domestic persecutions in China, the Red Khmers, Chilean massacres during the military dictatorship etc.

This is not a cultural problem, it's a human problem. It is just that with a complex, powerful society the authority-sanctioned brutalism/fascism has greater numerical effects than it would in a 200-person tribe in the jungle.
"There is no way to peace; peace is the way." -A. J. Muste. Go: www.eyeflare.com
[ Parent ]

I don't think it is not cultural (3.00 / 1) (#201)
by nusuth on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:25:58 PM EST

Eastern (as in asian) cultures have more respect for authority and customs. I wouldn't expect results to be any better had they been performed at eastern societies. But scientists are more valued in western culture, so to achive the similar authority effect a different authority figure might be required.

OTOH Western and Eastern cultures do not really cover the world east and west. I don't think you can duplicate the results in a culture that values human life and happiness more than obedience to authority.

[ Parent ]

Agreed. (4.00 / 2) (#152)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:59:02 AM EST

I would expect results in Germany to be low no matter what - they have been lectured for 50 years on how blind obedience to immoral orders is wrong.


--
To understand American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservative
[ Parent ]

Have they, though? (none / 0) (#272)
by greenrd on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:39:51 PM EST

I was under the impression that the Holocaust was a taboo topic in education until relatively recently in Germany.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

absolutely (none / 0) (#365)
by fhotg on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:51:44 AM EST

big topic in school. For example many kids get to go visit Auschwitz concentration camp, an emotionally pretty challenging experience. No taboo here. Funny that you ask, I got similar assumtions from quite some Canadians (i.e "Do they really admit the holocaust ?"). Actually it's illegal to publicly deny the holocaust.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
Western (4.14 / 7) (#130)
by Koo on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:25:33 AM EST

western western.
Why "western"?
Do you think eastern societies are any better?

In the Western World.. (3.50 / 4) (#134)
by kitten on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:52:25 AM EST

..it's very trendy to criticize "Western" culture (a term I have never seen defined to any satisfaction) and glorify "Eastern" society (same stipulation) as being some sort of Eden full of quiet, enlightened people named Grasshopper living in monastaries and learning kung-fu to acheive some sort of Zen-like state of worldly awareness and social harmony.

I am immediately suspicious of any claim or article which espouses the division between West and East.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
And on k5 (4.50 / 2) (#136)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:01:51 AM EST

it's an extremely common phenomenon to construct strawmen and attack them furiously. Strawmen such as claiming that the article "glorifies Eastern culture" or "espouses the division between West and East", or in fact, explicitly references any particular non-Western culture.

Not, of course, that you are necessarily guilty of that.

[ Parent ]

It does seem to draw odd conclusions (4.00 / 1) (#139)
by RyoCokey on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:15:34 AM EST

From what I can tell, the researchers conducted the experiments all over the world, with fairly similiar results, although he mentioned that Germany had lower obedience rates. However, the author seems to link this entirely with Western culture and religion, without any definite proof. Seems like another person who can't tell correlation from causation.



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
[ Parent ]
The article explicitly states (5.00 / 1) (#147)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:43:29 AM EST

that the experiments had been performed in other Western countries. The results of the experiment can either be ascribed to intrinsic human nature, or extrinsic human culture, in this case the culture of the participants. Western culture. Given the context of the experiment (i.e. humans are not barbaric animals most of the time, only under specific circumstances such as presented by the experiments), the conclusions drawn favour the latter. The same behaviour could quite plausibly be generated within other cultures, but experimental evidence for or against that hypothesis is currently simply not available.

I fail to see why people percieve this as an attack on Western culture, and why they feel so compelled to defend it.

[ Parent ]

Because that's the way the author takes it (none / 0) (#186)
by RyoCokey on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:31:57 AM EST

The surveys were not meant to gauge "Western" culture. They just happen to have take place in such countries, with no control group to test "other" cultures. The whole conclusion and issue is entirely the author's. He draws a conclusion that has no causual link with the study itself. Hence my earlier post.

Had I the chance to review this one in the queue, it would have gotten a -1.



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
[ Parent ]
I beg your pardon (5.00 / 1) (#194)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:03:16 PM EST

I fail to see how the author should draw conclusions about any non-Western culture when the studies mentioned did not include them, which was the beef of your original post.

The surveys were not meant to gauge "Western" culture. They just happen to have take place in such countries, with no control group to test "other" cultures.

Be that as it may (and I disagree with your dictum that the surveys were not meant to guage western culture; au contraire) the conclusion reached by the author says nothing about other cultures, nor carries out any comparison with other cultures, and that is only logical considering the experiments were neither carried out in non-Western cultures, nor attempted comparisons with them.

He draws a conclusion that has no causual link with the study itself

Sorry. The link posed between judaeo-christianity and obeisance to authority are derived in part from Blass's critique of Milgram's experiment. See the third and fourth paragraph in the body of the story. Apparently there are researchers who have studied the experiments and would disagree with you. That does not make them right, or you wrong, but this article is sounder than you give it credit for.

[ Parent ]

No strawman. (2.00 / 1) (#142)
by kitten on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:21:39 AM EST

Strawmen such as claiming that the article "glorifies Eastern culture" or "espouses the division between West and East",

I wasn't referencing the article necessarily - merely answering the guy's question, which was "Why do you insist on talking about 'Western' like that?"

He had a point - Eastern societies are no better.

As I said, I'm just automatically suspicious anytime I hear "Western" vs "Eastern", which is, three times out of four, spewed forth from self-styled Enlightened Ones who think they inhabit some higher plane of harmonious existance caused by too many acid trips.

But in the case of this particular article, I think it was just psuedointellectual wanking, a way of cloaking the fact that the author wasn't really making any kind of point, by shrouding the entire diatribe in this sort of faux philisophical claptrap.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
The reason why (5.00 / 2) (#148)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:49:13 AM EST

the article went on in detail about Western society is because the experiments described were conducted in judaeo-christian western countries. If they had been conducted among the Wallawalla tribes of Upper Timbuktoo it would have made no difference, except for references to "Wallawalla" where "Western" now stands.

Nowhere in the article do I see any reference to any form of comparative (key word, here, key word) value judgement of Western culture versus Eastern (or indeed, any other) culture.

[ Parent ]

Not for certain. (4.00 / 1) (#150)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:57:23 AM EST

Since the experiment was conducted in a western culture, the results are only valid for that culture. No one has shown that they are consistent for other societies. There's no evidence that the results wouldn't be consistent, but you can't assert that they are.


--
To understand American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservative
[ Parent ]

I don't assert the results would be the same (none / 0) (#155)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:00:25 AM EST

I assert that if they were, the report would be the same. Bar a few common nouns.

[ Parent ]
Okay. [NT] (none / 0) (#159)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:08:23 AM EST


--
To understand American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservative
[ Parent ]

A film on the subject (4.80 / 5) (#131)
by drquick on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:28:42 AM EST

I recently saw the film 'Das Experiment' in a movie theater. It is a dramatisation of a real life event in a Bunderwehr psychological research facility. The research institute tries to repeat the the Stanford prison experiment. The whole experiment goes wildly wrong including two (I think, or was it three) deaths. The "guards" in the experiment decide that they are also supposed to subdue the experiment leaders. Among the things they do is rape a female researcher and shoot the research manager with an air gun - to his death.

It is a very exiting film (to me anyhow) with turns and twists that drag you into the film. All that even if it technically isn't the best "Hollywood" level of film. You are motivated to understand the charachters in the film because you are lead to think all of that really happened, Well, it didn't really, not all of it).

Here is one more link.

anticdotal evidence is bad. (3.00 / 7) (#132)
by Shren on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:47:05 AM EST

Anticdotal evidence is bad, even if yout anticdotes involve scientific experiments. You get the silver medal for leaping to conclusions and the gold medal for slipping crap onto the front page.

Ummmm. Dude? (3.50 / 2) (#149)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:54:44 AM EST

By definition, scientific experiments are not "anecdotal".


--
To understand American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservative
[ Parent ]

yes... (4.00 / 3) (#157)
by Shren on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:02:45 AM EST

But an argument is anticdotal even if the anticdotes are experiments. A scientific study proves what the study studies and only that. The writer of this story introduces three studies as anticdotes then pretends that they reach her conclusion. She mentions science but doesn't use it or follow it.

To summarize the whole article:

In study A, people from culture B obeyed authority.

In study C, people from culture B obeyed authority.

In study D, people from culture E did not obey authority.

I conclude FOR GREAT JUSTICE that people from culture B are subservient suckers and the primitives from culture E are actually more advanced! ZIG!

She mentions random studies then uses the studies as anticdotal evidence to jump to a conclusion. It's crap.

[ Parent ]

To summarise (none / 0) (#161)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:09:43 AM EST

you either did not read the article, or if you did, you lack reading comprehension skills.

I'm not trying to be facetious or insulting. I'm just being factual: your reply is total horseshit.

[ Parent ]

I've read it twice more... (none / 0) (#175)
by Shren on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:45:35 AM EST

I don't see anything I missed.

[ Parent ]

Then I'm sure you won't mind (5.00 / 1) (#183)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:14:04 AM EST

pointing out where the article says

In study A, people from culture B obeyed authority.

In study C, people from culture B obeyed authority.

In study D, people from culture E did not obey authority.

I conclude FOR GREAT JUSTICE that people from culture B are subservient suckers and the primitives from culture E are actually more advanced!

since only one culture was studied (Western), and nowhere was a comparison made between Western or any other culture, nor did the author state at any point, that particular cultures were subservient, primitive, or advanced.

But hey, you read it thrice.

[ Parent ]

Demi Horseshit, maybe (none / 0) (#177)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:48:05 AM EST

She mentions random studies then uses the studies as anticdotal evidence to jump to a conclusion. It's crap.

Brusque as the rest of the analysis may be, this final line is hard to refute. The conclusions drawn from the very limited pool of experimental resources are not well supported by the facts. Any number of equally credible alternative theories could be put forward that are as well or better supported.

When somebody does some personal a-figurin' on an issue based on thin input, it renders even the most scientifically conducted study to the level of an anecdote. This article is fairly well written as far as style goes, but it has more logical flaws than a Star Wars movie.


This is an excellent example of a fairly dull but decently spelled signature.

[ Parent ]
What conclusion (none / 0) (#185)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:17:20 AM EST

did the author draw, then?

I ask specifically because I see a glaring discrepancy between what the author actually did write, and what posters are accusing her of writing.

Just what conclusion do you disagree with, and why is it crap?

[ Parent ]

proof (none / 0) (#344)
by tgibbs on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 01:41:10 AM EST

Brusque as the rest of the analysis may be, this final line is hard to refute. The conclusions drawn from the very limited pool of experimental resources are not well supported by the facts. Any number of equally credible alternative theories could be put forward that are as well or better supported.
What is more, this is always the case in science. Any given experiment is very limited compared to the infinite number of experiments that might be done. And there are always many alternative hypotheses that can be put forward that are consistent with the existing data. This is the reason that no experiment or experiments can ever prove a theory. In science, theories are never proved, only disproved.

[ Parent ]
No. (none / 0) (#305)
by delmoi on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 04:47:09 AM EST

It's more like

In study 1, culture B submits
In study 2, culture B submits
...
In study 23, culture B submits
In study 24, culture C submits
In study 25, culture C submits
...
In study 55, culture F submits


Therefore, culture B is worse then all the others.

Oh wait, she left out all the results of all the other cultures...
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
science (4.00 / 1) (#343)
by tgibbs on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 01:35:36 AM EST

But an argument is anticdotal even if the anticdotes are experiments. A scientific study proves what the study studies and only that. The writer of this story introduces three studies as anticdotes then pretends that they reach her conclusion. She mentions science but doesn't use it or follow it.
Congratulations. You are on the verge of discovering a fundamental scientific principle. A scientific experiment (and yes, the experiment was scientific) can never prove a general assertion, because it is always conceivable that the experiment would give contradictory results if done again, or under slightly different conditions. Therefore, an experiment can only disprove a hypothesis. For example, before this study, most people would have felt comfortable in hypothesizing that very few American college students would be willing to harm another person merely because some guy in a white coat told them to do so. The experiment disproves this hypothesis. It does not, however, disprove the hypothesis that there might be some group of people, somewhere, who would not do this.

[ Parent ]
Milgram Experiment (slightly OT) (3.40 / 5) (#135)
by anon0865 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:57:04 AM EST

The famous Milgram experiments were conducted in a building named Linsly-Chittenden Hall, which has since been renovated as the heart of the English Department at my college.

I am told that the actual room where the "learners" were held has been converted into a secretary's office. After all these years, though, it still gives me the willies whenever I go to my English classes- heart of darkness indeed!

Bollllllllllllllllllocks (3.09 / 11) (#138)
by turmeric on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:13:20 AM EST

"Though many psychologists have argued that Milgram's obedience experiments and the Stanford prison experiment were unethical and cruel, they served a purpose that justified the temporary cruelty endured by the participants. "

only an obedient subservient westerner who had given up all their own personal ethics would adopt this 'it was justified' philosophy.

the shrinks were themselves being overly obedient, attempting to 'get ahead' in their pathetic academic battleground of politics and ego by having some 'famous' experiment. likely if they had not been academics challenged with 'publish or perish' they would never have undertaken to perform these unethical experiments. some 'justification'. "i needed to get ahead in my field". bollocks.

second of all, to call non-western societies 'less complex' is incorrect. you say there is a 'trade off' between cruelty and social/technical advancement. first of all, your definition of 'social advancement' is all cock-eyed. 'socially advanced' is a very subjective term. jesus would say that a society can be judged by how it treats the least within it. by that standard, certain native american cultures could be considered more 'advanced' than modern new york city, because they did not have homeless people starving to death in their alleyways while rich people were watching expensive broadway plays about how horrible it is to be poor. but what standard do you use for 'socially advanced'?

Perhaps you think democracy is 'socially advanced'... that doesnt work either because many indigenous cultures practiced more democratic forms of government than western society (which has its most supposedly socially advanced country somehow unable to run an election properly even in the year 2000). or perhaps you think democracy is some 'less complex' form of gobvernment than fascism... perhaps fascist or communist dictatorships are more 'socially advanced'. it kind of depends on what you mean by 'advanced'.

on the other hand, many native american, and indigenous (or as you would say , "less complex", a wonderful new term that the conservatives can use in place of 'savages', 'barbarians' and 'heathens') cultures did things like infanticide or torture-to-death of enemy prisoners. so, since they are cruel, does that make them 'socially advanced' by your standards? exactly how do you correlate social advancement and cruelty under obedience? a bunch of monkeys in a carl sagan book is not much to go on.

second off you claim that "western society" is more 'technologically advanced' because it practices cruelty under obedience and conformity. thats bollocks considering that a large number of technical inventions comes from someone with non-usual upbringing, or even someone who is a nutball wacko outcast of society, from einstein (kicked out of your precious nazi germany) to tesla to faraday to the guy who invented PCR DNA methods, to alan Turing, who was injected with estrogen hormones by the UK government for fooling around with gay norwegian boys. none of this technological advancement was helped by obedience and cruelty, rather it came in SPITE of it. furthermore, quite a bit of the technological ideas of modern culture were stolen from indigenous culture. especially in agriculture and medicine, plant species that have been carefully bred over thousands of years by indigenous people are appropriated without monetary compensation by western intellectuals and corporations who then go on to sue the indigenous people for patent infringement. the plants are used in medicine and food. ok maybe that is not your idea of technology, you mean technology like a jumbo jet, but the jumbo jets dont get off the ground without the workers being fed and healthy.

quite a large bit of western technology is built in third and second world countries, so i must ask which is more complex and technologically advanced, a society where people build and produce motherboards and video cards, or a society where people sit around playing 'quake III' on those products.

Wow . . . (none / 0) (#188)
by McDick on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:39:25 AM EST

Interesting sig. . .does that fit what you are arguing here?  ;)

McD
"People who are against human cloning must be bitter that they are not good enough to be cloned." McD

McDick Technologist
[ Parent ]

ethical standards (5.00 / 1) (#342)
by tgibbs on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 01:28:01 AM EST

the shrinks were themselves being overly obedient, attempting to 'get ahead' in their pathetic academic battleground of politics and ego by having some 'famous' experiment. likely if they had not been academics challenged with 'publish or perish' they would never have undertaken to perform these unethical experiments. some 'justification'. "i needed to get ahead in my field". bollocks.
The experiments were very much in accord with the ethical standards of the day. Nobody was actually harmed, or even really hurt, and the experimenters took care to "debrief" all participants afterwards, and explain that they had done no actual harm to anybody. While some subjects were clearly distressed to discover that their own readiness to follow unethical orders, it is unclear that they were harmed by this. Indeed, it may well be that such an experience was be beneficial, providing a valuable lesson in the dangers of blindly following orders.

What is considered unethical by modern standards was the lack of informed consent by the subjects. By modern standards, the subjects would not be considered to have consented to the study, since they were not informed of its true nature. Thus, such an experiment would not be ethical today, even if it were known for certain to be completely harmless.

[ Parent ]

Fascinating. (4.66 / 6) (#151)
by Khedak on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:57:39 AM EST

I won't go as far as to say "Horseshit" like others who are responding to this article. Most of those people are crying foul over lack of data or misinterpretation or some other semantic error, while not offering an alternative explanation. It seems to me the results of these experiments are valid and undeniably important.

That said, I agree with the nay-sayers in that I don't think this behaviour pattern is a product of "Western" culture or religion. The fact that West Germany had lower punishment rates in the first experiment doesn't support that notion, since the fact that West Germany is "less religious" is an ad hoc observation that probably has nothing to do with the results. For all you know, it could have been a slight difference in procedure. Additionally, West Germany is about as "Western" as any other Western country.

It seems these experiments do lend insight into the psychology of authority, and that is interesting and important. Although as noted earlier it's difficult (if not meaningless) to draw comparisons between human behaviour and animal behaviour, it seems in this case at least we have a link between authority and violence. The authority figures think the violence/pain is justified in proportion to 1) how disconnected they are from the people having pain inflicted on them, and 2) how directly they consider themselves connected with authority. I wouldn't chalk this up to Western cultural bias, it might simply be a natural tendency in all human beings that we should be aware of. After all, I would hardly call Eastern or other cultural authorities less cruel than Western ones (Aztec human sacrifice, Chinese prisons, etc.). We all know that human beings have a capacity for violence and cruelty, and it's only logical that that capacity is expressed more often when people are put in a situation where they have power over someone else. Seems pretty straightforward to me. Doesn't mean our national leaders are cruel and violent bastards, or that all authority is wrong, but it's certainly something to be aware of.

West Germany (none / 0) (#176)
by IHCOYC on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:47:39 AM EST

The fact that West Germany had lower punishment rates in the first experiment doesn't support that notion, since the fact that West Germany is "less religious" is an ad hoc observation that probably has nothing to do with the results.
I should hope that at least some West Germans have learned something about the consequences of obedience to authority from that little ruckus they had back in the 1940s.

I agree that the business about the relationship between religion and obedience seems stereotypical and does not follow from the data. Perhaps the experiment should be repeated using a group of conscientious objectors as test subjects.

Pallida mors æquo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas regumque turris. --- Horace
[ Parent ]

Am I right? (none / 0) (#238)
by laotic on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:12:36 PM EST

Moreover, when the experiments were repeated in Princeton, Munich, Rome, South Africa, and Australia, the level of obedience was invariably somewhat higher than found in the investigation reported in this article. Thus one scientist in Munich found 85 percent of his subjects obedient. The above comment is from a resource quoted in the article. I may be wrong or the resource has changed, but that seems to point to the fact that W Germany scored even worse, not better, as la princessa claims, than the U.S. The study seems to suggest the rest of the world did likewise.

[ Parent ]
One problem with the experiments (3.80 / 5) (#160)
by pyramid termite on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:08:29 AM EST

Were they a genuine cross-section of people? The Stanford experiment especially suffers from this - 24 college students, all men are not a good representation of the human race. What would have happened if 24 women had participated? Or 24 60 year olds?

I wonder if the Milgram experiment suffers from this flaw also; more importantly, what would the results be now, in an age where authority is rebelled against much more?

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
Huh? (5.00 / 4) (#167)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:26:28 AM EST

what would the results be now, in an age where authority is rebelled against much more?

You're kidding, right?

You are being gently ironic, no doubt knowing fully that the word "rebellion" which used to have connotations of social upheaval, race riots, violent protests against 'Nam, Watts, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks ... has now been replaced with the image of Britney Spears getting a belly piercing as the ultimate in rebellion.

(In 1968 athlete Tommie Smith raised a black-gloved fist and bowed his head in protest as the American Anthem was played when he stood on the victor's podium at the Mexico Olympics. He never ran for the US again. Thirty years later, sport's biggest "rebel"'s main claim to notoriety is that he once fucked Madonna and is occasionally seen in drag.)

[ Parent ]

The revolution will not be televised (4.25 / 8) (#191)
by pyramid termite on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:54:52 AM EST

You are being gently ironic, no doubt knowing fully that the word "rebellion" which used to have connotations of social upheaval, race riots, violent protests against 'Nam, Watts, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks ... has now been replaced with the image of Britney Spears getting a belly piercing as the ultimate in rebellion.

Do you really think that what you watch on TV is what's going on? Rebellion is not necessarily throwing a brick through a window in front of a camera. Britney, of course, is not rebellion, it's rebellion packaged as entertainment. Which begs the question - why is rebellion now a commodity that can be marketed? If there was no rebellion, why would people attempt to channel it into money making ventures and succeed?

You're speaking about symbols - things that are easily digested and transmitted, things that symbolise binary confrontation, us against them, good against bad, right against wrong. Beyond these symbols and this simplistic logic, there's a whole world of rebellion and subversion, much of which is unrecognized except by those participating in it. Just because you can't see it on the CBS Evening News or MTV doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Case in point - the two studies mentioned in the article. In spite of their possible flaws, they say something about people and society that is not part of the picture as seen by our mass media. They have not received the attention they deserve. They raise serious questions about who we are and what kind of world we have made for ourselves. And to mention them, to explain them, to show people what happened in them and what the implications are is an act of rebellion that is much more dangerous than burning down a store or marching down the street with picket signs to show The Man. The latter fights The Man at his own game - power, control, who will be The Man and who he shall represent. The former asks whether there should be The Man at all and whether it would be best if the game was simply not played.

And it's highly unlikely MTV or CBS is going to present those ideas as often as it's going to present riots and Britney being a bad girl.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Rebellion (4.00 / 3) (#198)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:12:39 PM EST

Which begs the question - why is rebellion now a commodity that can be marketed?

Rebellion is, and never has been, a commodity which can be marketed. The label "rebellion" however, is slapped on a variety of products to make them more marketable.

Rebellion is gone; George Bush's popularity ratings (highest in history) confirm this. It has been replaced by the marketing symbol: same syllables, different referent.

That's what I'm talking about.

Just because you can't see it on the CBS Evening News or MTV doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

I see it nowhere else. If rebellion has gone underground, it is the quietest, most submissive, conformist, non-confrontational form of rebellion I have ever seen. And no, I do not expect such "rebels" to behave spectacularly differently in the Milgram experiments.

[ Parent ]

One of the biggest lessons in life... (3.66 / 3) (#218)
by ragabr on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:15:36 PM EST

is that true rebellion has very few outward signs. This is because it's based in a mindset, generally either the "authority isn't right in this case" which fits the Vietnam, Civil Rights, WTO groups; or "no one owns me but myself."

They share similarities in the beginning, but the first generally flounders out when the issue is resolved. It also has the larger interest in visibility.

Actually I wouldn't even call that rebellion, it's revolution. Revolutions fail because they try to change everyone's mind. Rebellion has a better chance because all it depends on is you, and not even your outward trappings.

-------
And my tongue would be made of chocolate. Mmmmm. Chocolate.
-rusty
[ Parent ]
Where I come from (none / 0) (#303)
by StrontiumDog on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 04:01:34 AM EST

true rebellion has very few outward signs ... no one owns me but myself

we don't call that "rebellion", we call that "sulking". If I order you to push a herd of captured Democrats into a gas chamber and you show "very few outward signs" of resistance (aside from muttering "no one owns me but myself"), then pardon me for my slight hesitation before saluting you as a revolutionary or rebel.

[ Parent ]

Well... (5.00 / 2) (#306)
by ragabr on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 04:58:30 AM EST

we don't exactly have that going on do we? The point was about outward trappings of "rebellion", for example the punk scene. The discussion was about the further visual monotonation of culture in general and American in particular.

-------
And my tongue would be made of chocolate. Mmmmm. Chocolate.
-rusty
[ Parent ]
Could have fooled me. (5.00 / 1) (#309)
by StrontiumDog on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 05:44:17 AM EST

we don't exactly have that going on do we?

I would have thought that enough has happened to arouse the ire of US citizens, domestically and internationally, over the last 20 years. But apparently open dissent in the US, like libertarians, exists only on the Internet.

The discussion was about the further visual monotonation of culture in general and American in particular.

No, my beef was with pyramid termite's assertation that the Milgram experiments today would have different results, because the population as a whole is "more rebellious". I maintain that the so-called rebelliousness is a media feel-good sham, and that modern Americans are more inclined to give authority carte-blanche than ever.

[ Parent ]

Well... (3.50 / 2) (#320)
by ragabr on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 01:24:24 PM EST

What would you consider open dissent? The Green Party had huge gatherings during the 2000 election, I attended two of them. They were full of activists fighting for all sorts of causes (even if I disagreed with 90% of them).

Then there's Food Not Bombs, a program that has supposedly doubled in size in the past two years (according to the last talk they sponsored and I attended).

Then there are the 4-20 festivals held in several states to protest the war against marijuana. At the two I attended, the Libertarian party had a strong showing, even though most of them were not smoking.

I understand your point now, but still think that what you're looking at is just outer trappings. There are many rebellious groups out there, the neo-paganism movement, Free and Open Source software projects, the Free Kevin protests and sticker campaign, to name a few. There are also the battles for full sexual rights, the right to euthanasia, and against the drug war, which all fall into the category of taking back ourselves from the government. The problem is not that there are more Americans satisfied with the status quo, but that they're disjointed and haven't come to the conclusion they're fighting the same fight.

-------
And my tongue would be made of chocolate. Mmmmm. Chocolate.
-rusty
[ Parent ]
Gil Scott-Heron (O/T) (5.00 / 4) (#205)
by Irobot on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:39:11 PM EST

I'm always torn about how to feel regarding a reference to Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised". On the one hand, he used the anti-establishment statement in a Nike ad ferchrissake - holy Corporate sell-outs, Batman! On the other hand, I'm reminded of an interview I saw with a punk artist (don't remember who it was), who made the comment (I'm paraphrasing), "What could be more punk than that? We make our music and then take advantage of the corporate machine to promote it."

Either way, I can't help but chuckle whenever I hear someone use the quote.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Yeah, usually I wouldn't either ... (none / 0) (#220)
by pyramid termite on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:18:25 PM EST

... but it was so appropriate ...

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
but it will have a web page. (5.00 / 3) (#233)
by mingofmongo on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:45:00 PM EST


"What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the fucking plague."
--The Onion
[ Parent ]

good enough (5.00 / 1) (#206)
by majik on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:41:54 PM EST

Were they a genuine cross-section of people?

i think they would qualify as a reasonable cross section of prisoners and prison guards though.
Funky fried chickens - they're what's for dinner
[ Parent ]

That's a fair point (none / 0) (#221)
by pyramid termite on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:19:44 PM EST

One could even expand it by saying that they would be a reasonable cross section of those most likely to be in an army. Still, I have to wonder what the results would have been with different people.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
IIRC Milgram Study is Very Repeatable (4.83 / 6) (#224)
by mlepage on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:31:56 PM EST

Apparently they tried men, women, older, younger, richer, poorer, etc. After they still got the same results, they tried moving the study from the university into a seedy rented room in a dingy part of town, to make it seem less "authoritative." They still got the same results. Sad in a way. We're all Nazis (or would be under the right circumstances).

[ Parent ]
Good article! (4.16 / 6) (#166)
by mveloso on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:21:46 AM EST

If anything, it's been interesting reading the comments. The study seems to have done its work, which is stimulate discussion and some thought amongst the general public :)

What does it mean, really? It means that people tend to obey. Yeah, it doesn't sound all that exciting, but it is. It means that in situations where people have an opt-in, they tend to follow the rules of the system, no matter if the rules of the system are objectionable.

This has obvious implications when you start judging human behavior, and when you're creating a rule system. "People tend to obey if there is no dissent." The armed forces has known this for a long time, which is why the command staff tends to portray a unified front.

While this may not apply to you personally, it may help you understand why, for example, the otherwise nice person you know outside of work turns into a power freak in their job...or how pleasant, ordinary people go off and blow themselves up.

Germany isn't Western? (4.00 / 1) (#171)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:39:38 AM EST

...Milgram-inspired studies were not being cruel because they wished to. They were attempting to conform to the norms of Western culture...

I'm a little confused: isn't Germany part of Western civilisation? If so, are you arguing that their atheism forces them to conform by resisting authority...?

Since that seems on the surface to make little or no sense, I'm left to wonder whether you somehow meant to suggest that Germany isn't a Western culture (by saying that the Americans' behaviour was typically Western with regard to the desire to conform due to their craven religious instincts, while the Germans' behaviour contrasted sharply due to less religiosity in the general populace)...

Since that doesn't make sense either, I have to ask: what did you really mean?

Also, are you sure that non-Western cultures react differently? Your article does not supply any meat for comparison (beyond Germany). The conclusions reached seem to be a bit far-fetched without a corollary of evidence from control groups (like free persons from Korea, or war veterans from Iran).


This is an excellent example of a fairly dull but decently spelled signature.

Special factors in Germany (5.00 / 1) (#355)
by jbuck on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 06:55:06 PM EST

I've worked intensively with a group of German engineers for the last eight years and have made more than 15 trips to Germany (and likewise most of these guys repeatedly come to visit us in California). Can't say that makes me an expert, but I've learned enough about how at least folks from the north Rhineland area see things (can't say much about Bavaria other than that the people are totally different).

For modern Germans (other than the skinhead fringe) there is a very special factor going on: almost all Germans, consciously or unconsciously, have the memory of the Nazis hanging over their heads, so as a consequence most Germans strongly reject anything reminiscent of Naziism even in mild form. They aren't going to avoid shocking the subjects because they are atheists (many are, but many aren't: I know Germans who are active in the church as well as atheists as well as the majority who just don't care much one way or the other), but because they are always thinking about the German original sin.

Most Germans will avoid anything that suggests pride in being German (even if they do feel some pride) because it strikes them as Nazi-like. For some, being proud of being European (as opposed to American) is a substitute. Same for American-style flagwaving and pledges of allegiance: a lot of American patriotic stuff looks Nazi-like to a German perspective, not that the American right is anywhere close to the Nazis but modern Germans don't want to go anywhere near any of it.

[ Parent ]

This is why I wrote "Break the Law" (5.00 / 5) (#180)
by Farq Q. Fenderson on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:55:31 AM EST

I was seriously troubled by this phenomenon years ago when I realized how idiotic people were getting. It wasn't what they would do, it's what they wouldn't - they wouldn't break the law.

This wasn't just people being scared of the reporcussions, they just couldn't bring themselves to do it - it seemed inherently 'wrong' to them.

Thankfully I know many individuals who just don't care about the norms. It's quite a show, most days. My point is that living in a complex society does not mean subscription to social norms. It may for the masses, but not for all of the individuals. For me, it was a matter of feeling stupid one day while about to say, "you can't do that!" ... Yes, yes you can. Everything else follows.

Sure, it was one of the most depraved things I'd ever seen, I could still think of no good reason not to do it.

You won't find my er, rant anywhere (well, I know of a few places.) It used to be in suprisingly good distribution (even in the recommended reading list for a certain 2600 chapter.) I'm not sure what happened, it seemed to disappear from everywhere all at once.

farq will not be coming back

Hah (3.00 / 2) (#242)
by NDPTAL85 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:41:05 PM EST

No one wants to be a dirty lawbreaker. Conforming is GOOD.

[ Parent ]
I would be sincerely (none / 0) (#271)
by Anonymous 7324 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:37:24 PM EST

interested in seeing a copy of this -- anywhere I can find it? Googling for such a broad phrase gets me uh, not far. :)

[ Parent ]
Hmm... (none / 0) (#294)
by Farq Q. Fenderson on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 12:47:00 AM EST

I'm not sure where the current archive is. I do have a copy of it myself, but it's not currently published on my personal webspace.

Send me an email, and I'll attach it to a reply: steve@wirelessisland.net

farq will not be coming back
[ Parent ]

Who was immoral? (4.66 / 12) (#182)
by Phantros on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:06:21 AM EST

The assertion that the Milgram experiment is immoral or unethical really bothers me. It was not the experimenters who were immoral, but the people who did actions contrary to their own feeling of what was right in that situation.

In the experiment, the actors who were pretending to be shocked yelled out in pain, begged the person to stop, beat on the partition separating them from the shocker, etc. There were no repurcussions for refusing to go on with the shockings, except for having to stand up to an anonymous authority figure that they'd never see again.

What Milgram did was ask a question: Are you willing to subvert your morals to those of someone that you view as an authority? Milgram did not force any of them to make a choice that they would later regret; the answer they gave was their own.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the outrage surrounding the Milgram experiment is our modern (American) legal system. People don't want to take responsibility for their own actions. If you sell me a cup of hot coffee and I spill it and burn myself, should I be able to sue you because you provided the chance for me to damage myself, or should I accept that I made a mistake and endeavor not to repeat it?

4Literature - 2,000 books online and Scoop to discuss them with

Not the McCoffee again!? (2.25 / 4) (#248)
by sllort on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:11:30 PM EST

If you sell me a cup of hot coffee and I spill it and burn myself, should I be able to sue you because you provided the chance for me to damage myself, or should I accept that I made a mistake and endeavor not to repeat it?

Damn. What is with you (white) people? An 81 year old black woman drives up to a McDonalds, orders a coffee, brings it in a car and spills it. It burns through her clothes and gives her third degree burns in her crotch and thighs because it's two hundred degrees Farenheit - and you think the sister made a poor decision? You could of course read the facts and educate your damn cracker asses but I think you'd rather see the rest of America's 80 year old black women toasted into burn wards.

Damn!
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
*sigh* Why do you have to troll with the facts (5.00 / 3) (#256)
by Perianwyr on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:22:56 PM EST

Yes, the lawsuit was justified. Those who call the "McCoffee" suit frivolous ignore the facts you mention. However, allegations of racism just make an otherwise rational point into pure garbage. I'd appreciate it if you didn't go polluting otherwise rational information with garbage.

[ Parent ]
That was a black woman? (4.50 / 2) (#391)
by A Trickster Imp on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 09:17:10 AM EST

I didn't know it was a black woman who had spilled the coffee.  Because I'm white, I suppose I should alter my opinion on the case.  Whether it's in the racist direction or the reverse racist direction is up to the reader to decide.

[ Parent ]
I think you missed the point (3.66 / 3) (#324)
by Phantros on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 02:46:01 PM EST

You missed the point with your trolling.

I was saying that people should take responsibility for their actions rather than looking for others to blame, not that I want to burn people. Also, I never specifically mentioned McDonalds - it was a broad example (I almost used the "if you put a ladder in the mud and sue when it slips" one.)

4Literature - 2,000 books online and Scoop to discuss them with
[ Parent ]

Hey... (5.00 / 3) (#311)
by broody on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 06:59:24 AM EST

If you sell me a cup of hot coffee and I spill it and burn myself, should I be able to sue you because you provided the chance for me to damage myself, or should I accept that I made a mistake and endeavor not to repeat it?

If my coffee causes third degree burns on your groin, thighs, and buttocks requiring skin grafts and a seven day hospital stay, it's just tough titty for you fishface! Yeah that's fair.


~~ Whatever it takes
[ Parent ]
WTF? (3.28 / 7) (#184)
by dipierro on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:14:56 AM EST

Nazi Germany is "the price one pays for living in a technologically advanced, complex society?" "In a complex society, one must occasionally do cruel things because it is a social norm?"

Is this troll supposed to be an example of violating the social norm?


In capitalism, man exploits man. In socialism, it's the other way around.
From my background (3.40 / 5) (#189)
by McDick on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:42:22 AM EST

I always love reading about the psycological side of things since I am a biologist.  I just love the fact that there is finally a study to show that atheists are less cruel!  ;)

McD

McDick Technologist

Ahem... (4.00 / 1) (#249)
by baniak on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:12:32 PM EST

This experiment says nothing about cruelty per se... rather it says alot about obedience. I would have to agree that religious people tend to be more obedient. Religious people are more cruel? Well, there hasn't been an experiment to measure that. Perhaps you could formulate one.

One could say, and some have said, that these experiments are themselves quite cruel.

One could also say that these experiments are simply... experiments (very interesting and frightening ones at that.) What counts in sociological experiments is how they play out in real life. We have no way of knowing how this affects real life situations.

I do have some real life situations that you might want to consider before you write off 80% of humanity as being predisposed to cruelty (or wanton obedience for that matter):

  • Mahatma Gandhi: religious, not obedient, not cruel. (can't necessarily be said of his countryment today, but hey...)
  • Rev. Martin Luther King: religious, not obedient, and not cruel.
  • The village of Le Chambon ca. 1942: On one hand they were obedient to their religious duty, and had a "mindless herd" mentality as a village. On the other hand they proved they weren't necessarily obedient to the Nazi regime that ordered them to turn over the 5,000 Jews they sheltered in their homes over the course of the war. Also, I think that risking one's life for another is not terribly cruel. (That's just my opinion though.) Note: Albert Camus (who you may recall was an atheist) chronicled the village in <u>The Plague</u> and I believe he had respect for them.

I could go on and on. But I think you get the picture. I appreciate that your atheism gives you a mindset that may not be as obedient as a religious mindset... but I find your stereotyping of the religious to be... frankly... cruel. (Not to mention unscientific.)



[ Parent ]
Shocks. . .obediance. . .cruel (3.50 / 2) (#255)
by McDick on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:11:34 PM EST

I don't mean to be picky but the article does mention that religous people tend to be more obedient with regards to this experiment.  If we are refering to the same experiment (send a shock of up to 450 volts for wrong answer) then I would say that those who obey are being cruel.  Those who disobey are being kind by preventing harm to another human.  By strict definition, to be 'cruel' is 'causing or conducive to injury, grief, or pain'.  Hence if you inflict pain, you are being cruel.  You may be cruel to be kind, but as most pyschologists will agree, the best way to teach is "positive atypical reinforcement".  Hence all the "teachers" who shocked the "students" were being cruel.

Much of what you have stated is true.  Those people were truly "not cruel".  Given how many religous leaders and followers though that have chosen otherwise, I don't think it a very valid argument.  To counter each I could bring up ten equally famous (or infamous) religous figureheads at that exact same time who have killed hundreds or thousands in the name of a invisible being.  Your village reference is the perfect example; though one village did not comply, several nations did.

"And ever it was intended so,  
That a man for God should strike a blow," Robert Frost

McD

McDick Technologist
[ Parent ]

Don't mean to picky, either... (none / 0) (#268)
by baniak on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:53:10 PM EST

but as I stated, the experiment was not set up to measure cruelty, simply obedience. Yes, shocking another human being is cruel... but that was not the point of the experiment. If it were, there would be some sort of measure enacted in the experiment to gauge cruelty... which of course can't be measured, because it is an objective measurement. The same with religiosity. Participants may claim to be religious, but there is no measure of a) what religion they profess. b) how deeply devoted they are to it's teachings or c) even which teachings they follow. These sorts of things are not quantifiable.

My opinion:

I think that the binary question: "are you religious Yes/no" has no bearing on the point of cruelty, or even obedience. However, the nature of religious feeling sure as hell has a bearing on this experiment. I would suspect that you could have a breakdown of religions in this area and Quakers would probably have a low "obedience" scoring compared to other religions. I would even go so far as to wager that (in our hypothetical experiment) Quakers would have an even lower obedience score than atheists.

Power/ fear are what matter in obedience or cruelty. I imagine that if this experiment was carried out in the former Soviet Union, you might find some pretty similar results (scarily enough) to what occurred in the American versions of the experiment. In real life several actions similar to this, or worse, were carried out by atheists in the Soviet Union.

Nazi Germany was not a religious state either. If you know anything about events prior to WWII, you know that just about all religious expression was outlawed, or severely perverted for Nazi purposes. It was replaced by a mythology.

This leads me to believe that it is possible that religion functions for the participants in this experiment may in fact function the same way as the state did in the Soviet Union and in Nazi Germany - as a means of control. In fact this is how religion has functioned throughout history: as a means of control. It is the belief used as a means of control, not the belief.

To extrapolate: You probably believe in fundamental principles of biology being that you are a biologist. Biological principles were used in the past to justify negative eugenics, and a host of other questionable practices. Does this mean that biologists are fundamentally cruel? No, it just means that the beliefs of biology have been (and may continue to be) manipulated for cruel purposes.

----

I, too could name several atheists who have killed hundreds of thousands of people as well, in some cases tens of millions...

Therefore: atheists are fundamentally cruel?

I don't think so...

It is power and fear which affect obedience. Religion doesn't have a monopoly on power and fear. I hope you know that.



[ Parent ]
Starting off with. . . (4.00 / 1) (#318)
by McDick on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 12:53:17 PM EST

"can't be measured, because it is an objective measurement".  Yes, measuring cruelty is an objective measure, but measuring obedience is equally as objective.  Infact, all of psychology deals with the objective.  That is why it is concidered a pseudo-science (Political Science, psychology) and not a hard science (physics, chemistry. . .etc).  They attempt to measure things that are NOT subjective.

"but there is no measure of a) what religion they profess. b) how deeply devoted they are to it's teachings or c) even which teachings they follow." There are ways to measure all of these. Especially easy are A and C, but there does exist a test for B.  It is not popular in the public's eye for it uses the same principles used when placing a value on human life.  These measurements are all used in politcal science to show how a certain group will vote/act.

"I think that the binary question: "are you religious Yes/no" has no bearing on the point of cruelty, or even obedience. "  It MIGHT not have any bearing, but as the study showed, there is a significant connection (I would like to see the numbers to see how significant the effect it is).  The question of religion is just as important as other questions that are equally as sensative, such as race.  If there were several studies that said race X was more obedient in inflicting pain in another human, then as unpopular as those studies might be, it wouldn't take away from the fact that the effect is there.

"In real life several actions similar to this, or worse, were carried out by atheists in the Soviet Union. "  That is one of the great myths of the Soviet Union.  In reality the Russian Orthodox Church was allowed to preach (if some what quietly), and in 1941 Joseph Stallin actually used the Russian Orthodox Church to rally patriotic nationalism.  In 1957 there were 20,000 Russian Orthodox Churches preaching openly (which Khruschev later attempted to shut down).  But lets assume reality didn't happen for a second and pretend that the soviet regime was atheistic.  Most of the people killed in Stalin's purges were political dissendents.  Mostly in Stalin's attempt to clear away all of party X and Y (Bolshevik, and internal communist party).  They were not because they believed in God X.  Hence these are not religious/atheistic killings.  If you do want to count it as religous/atheistic killing then we will also have to count all regimes that have killed people and have had a religion (i.e. almost all other nations of the world, for the past 3000-4000 some odd years).  Total up their purges/killings/civil wars and claim that they are because of religion X.  However all this is straying from the original point.  The point I meant to imply by bringing all this up is that you cannot say religion is "not cruel" by siting 3 people and a villiage.  That is not good proof nor a good sample size of something that is 80% of the world's population.  

"Nazi Germany was not a religious state either. If you know anything about events prior to WWII, you know that just about all religious expression was outlawed, or severely perverted for Nazi purposes. It was replaced by a mythology. "  That is not exactly true either. They use of the word 'mythology',while not incorrect, is not correct.  Nazi Germany did have a religion.  It was of Lutheran descent called the "German Faith Movement".  It was the same as a standard Christian faith, with everything relating to the jews renamed.  The Lutheran church supported the movement and was supported by the movement, hence the "Declaration of Guilt" issued by the Lutheran church in 1945.  So there was a religion of the Nazi party, it was akin to the Lutheran prodestant church, and it was basically christianity with some of the names changed so they could demonize the Jewish people more.  Once again we are straying from the main point:  3 people, 1 village, bad sample.

"religion has functioned throughout history: as a means of control. It is the belief used as a means of control, not the belief."  The foundations behind a religion might not include "be cruel to other" it might even say "do NOT be cruel to others" but if the majority of religious people are cruel to others then we have not option then say that "religious people are cruel".  As this study shows, religious people are more obedient in harming others, hence religious people are more cruel IN THIS CASE STUDY.  Strict definition.  Even if they are only cruel because the person in charge of that religion is controling them using the religion and making them be cruel, the premise "religious people are cruel" still stands.  This is the difference between "ideal" and "reality".  The ideal situation shows all religious followers as being akin to their Godhead (Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha. . .etc), and hence NOT an obedient person who is also very kind.  The reality is that most followers are NOT akin to their Godhead.  

"Biological principles were used in the past to justify negative eugenics, and a host of other questionable practices. Does this mean that biologists are fundamentally cruel? No"  Yes, in the past biology has been used to justify a purge, but it is tought in modern biology that the heterzygous shielding effect will prevent this from ever working.  Were those Biologist cruel? YES!  If there was a study that showed that the majority of biologists were more obedient in shocking a fellow human then I would say people who are taught biology are cruel in regards to that study.  Not that ALL biologist are cruel, and ideally they should NOT be cruel, but if that is how the cards lie, so be it.

"I, too could name several atheists who have killed hundreds of thousands of people as well, in some cases tens of millions..."  I don't believe that there are too many cases of people being killed by atheists BECAUSE they believe in a God.  There will be atheist murderers and tyrants, but I don't think there are many that kill in the name of NO God.

"It is power and fear which affect obedience. Religion doesn't have a monopoly on power and fear. I hope you know that."  I never said it did, but if that is what you are claiming, then you are proving my point.  Proof as follows:
Given: Religion has power and promotes fear in people.
If showing power and instilling fear in people will make them more obedient, then religious people are more obedient.  If we are testing how obedient they will be in regards to inflicting pain on someone, they will be more likely to inflict pain on someone, hence they will be more cruel IN REGARDS to our test.  QED.  It does not make them more cruel than anyone else in everyday life.

I am not saying that relgious people are always cruel, I am not saying that religious people are mostly cruel.  I am only saying that their potential to be cruel is greater than an atheists due to their obedience.  This study was just the example, and in the study it showed religious people being more cruel.  If the study had been obedience in giving out flowers then we might see the same trend and say "Atheists are less kind".  Which would be the case if we saw giving out flowers as being kind.  Does that make sense?  I know you and I are just about on the same page, I think our diction and syntax is throwing us off.  

McD

"Religion is how we live life, science is how we describe it."

McDick Technologist
[ Parent ]

I think we're on the same page. (none / 0) (#322)
by baniak on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 01:45:05 PM EST

It was just the blanket statement that got to me.

Thanks for an interesting discussion.

[ Parent ]

LOL! (none / 0) (#323)
by McDick on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 02:31:56 PM EST

Yeah, that was a good one. . .  :)

McD

McDick Technologist
[ Parent ]

It doesn't really mean that (none / 0) (#312)
by zakalwe on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 08:57:00 AM EST

Atheists by definition are people who are not following the mainstream decision in at least one area.  The most reasonable explanation for the study is that people who are inclined to obey authority figures do not become atheist - they will go along with the authority of the religion they are born into.  The inclination to disobey authority is basicly a requirement for practising Atheism (At least for those (the majority?) who were brought up in a different faith)

[ Parent ]
What I see here (2.66 / 6) (#193)
by Fon2d2 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:58:50 AM EST

...is a case of somebody that doesn't want to grow up. Face it, this kind of duality is part of being human and something you must learn to deal with. I take it you're at some young college age, maybe even late high school, and are just learning to play the blame game. It might feel good at first: having people acknowledge the reasons why you think you are unhappy, but it won't change the fact that you are unhappy. Beware of the angry youth phenomenon, especially while joining clubs. I have seen this before. You won't be able to avoid the dilemma of dual ethics, but you will be avoiding learning to resolve your own problems. I think that's why the angry youth phenomenon stays with the young; because older people have grown out of it.

no.. (3.75 / 4) (#202)
by ph0rk on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:31:41 PM EST

It is because older people have grown complacent, silenced their inner voice, and rot away from the inside.

do you wish to perpetuate this?
[ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]
[ Parent ]

Hmmmm (none / 0) (#241)
by NDPTAL85 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:40:01 PM EST

Whats the difference between complacency and simply realizing that as you age the issues you got so upset about weren't really that important to bitch about after all?

[ Parent ]
Exactly (none / 0) (#246)
by Fon2d2 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:52:27 PM EST

Thank you

[ Parent ]
you lack the courage of your conviction sir (4.50 / 2) (#263)
by ph0rk on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 06:27:26 PM EST


granted a great many things people of any age bitch about seem less important later, but a disparity between one's inner morality and that of the society they live in is a very real issue.

are you arguing for complacency? it seems like you are.  I loathe to reference mid 20th century wartime atrocities, but where do you draw the line?

If issues like these cease to be of interest or importance to you as you age (and in this sense i use the term you specifically), then I would find that a fault in you.  Just because life seems to have slowed down and feels like it is going your way doesn't mean everything is 'great'.

Apathy is not a virtue.
[ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]
[ Parent ]

I'm almost ashamed to say (none / 0) (#243)
by Fon2d2 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:51:28 PM EST

...I joined the Campus Greens and went to a few Communist/Socialist meetings while I was in college. The Greens weren't so bad. They were just badly organized and usually had lame-ass ideas. The Reds really made me wonder. It seemed they always needed something to protest. Things I knew nothing about and had no involvement in. "I know you've never heard of him but come help us protest the imprisonment of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Then next week we'll protest the rights of the local hotel workers to go on strike." Of course both groups would always try to sucker you into things. A sign up sheet would come around and I would sign up out of a feeling of social obligation. One week later I would be wondering why I'm the only person doing whatever stupid thing it was. That's complacency.

[ Parent ]
where do you get this? (5.00 / 1) (#223)
by StephenFuqua on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:27:29 PM EST

Your comment seems out of left field to me. Someone posts a story explaining a few psychology experiments, their conclusions, some of the ethical issues with them, links the two, and draws the conclusion that the experiments & reactions to them show that complex societies may require a set of ethical norms that are often dissonant to the norms of individuals in that society. While there are points not full explored (i.e. Nazi Germany), the article is fairly thorough and, I think, makes a good case. I see no reason why you should assume this is meant as a justification for peter pan-ism.

Maybe there is a reason to see it as such. If so, please show us.



[ Parent ]
Too much coffee, dude... (4.00 / 1) (#232)
by mingofmongo on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:39:17 PM EST


"What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the fucking plague."
--The Onion
[ Parent ]

That's YOUR understading of blame... (5.00 / 1) (#252)
by BuddasEvilTwin on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:35:47 PM EST

It is pretty obvious that our poster is playing the blame game, but he's not doing it for the same reasons you did. While you did it because you were unhappy, there are a lot of people who blame for more altruistic reasons. While I won't suggest our friend's reasons are pure altruism, his dedication suggests that altruism is a big factor. From your college accounts, I doubt it was as nearly much of a factor for you as it is for our friend.

[ Parent ]
The BBCs copy of "The Experiment" (3.50 / 2) (#204)
by craigtubby on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:33:18 PM EST

The BBC recreated the experiment but also had to stop it early.

Shocking experiment recreated for TV

It showed that people in the 21st Century felt more comfortable when they were rebelling than when they were in control, he said.

"It reveals what causes resistance in a society as well as what causes authoritarianism. It shows how people can often struggle with leadership and how leadership is a very difficult thing to handle."

try to make ends meet, you're a slave to money, then you die.

* Webpage *

Really just libertarianism again (2.12 / 8) (#207)
by Thinkit on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:48:09 PM EST

Pick 3 for geek essay, "information wants to be free", "libertarianism", or "science/technology".  This geek article is really just libertarianism.  Geeks as intelligent and intelligent people don't herdthink.  And those who don't herdthink deserve to dominate those who do (in every way).  The one who will survive the War is not the one with the most followers, but the one with the most technology.  Those who wish to follow or lead should be prepared to die.

Herdthink (none / 0) (#390)
by A Trickster Imp on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 08:38:53 AM EST

> and intelligent people don't herdthink

That's true, in spite of your sarcasm over libertarians.  Many intelligenstia don't mind the massive restrictions on freedom that heavy handed socialism or even communism bring because they fancy themselves the ones in charge.  Well, of course no one feels they've lost freedom when they're the one behind the gun telling others how to live. (Even when, as mentioned, they aren't really the ones behind the gun, that job being reserved for the standard power hungry politician all too eager to pick up some dimwit social theory and run to power with it.  Does anyone doubt that if Arkansas were a Rebulican-0wn3d state that Bill & Hillary would have been republicans?)

[ Parent ]

a great article, however... (4.50 / 4) (#209)
by dwyn on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:54:45 PM EST

It would make sense to stress that, in Milgram's experiments, the "students" were confederates and were not actually harmed; they were just acting the scene out.

Also, the religious context of Nazi Germany can hardly be called Judeo-Christian...

Also... (5.00 / 2) (#219)
by nusuth on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:17:30 PM EST

There was actually only one 'student', which was trained for the job; IOW he acted well. Also the subjects received a real 'sample' shock from the same apparatus, more 'proof' that it is for real.

[ Parent ]
The east/west part was a reach, but the religious (4.66 / 3) (#237)
by mingofmongo on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:04:21 PM EST

idead stands. Every religion is based on obedience. Obedience to scripture, to priests, to lamas to popes, to ministers, to mullahs. It is all about the individual not having access to the truth without some supervision. To say that religion doesn't train a person to be obedient is ridiculous. And I would say it is even more an issue in some eastern religions where the highest goal is to loose ones 'self'.

I would bet that most of the people upset with this part are themselves religious, and responding to a percieved slight to their faith.

However, I would have to say that this is not a western phenominon at all. I would like to see these experiments tried in Japan and China. I predict a near 100% compliance with authority in these countries. There's thousands of years of practice involved.

"What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the fucking plague."
--The Onion

Devotion, not obedience. (none / 0) (#270)
by baniak on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:04:50 PM EST

Religion, for the most part, is based on devotion, not obedience. There's a big difference, although they can get confused sometimes.



[ Parent ]
dogma (5.00 / 2) (#372)
by jafac on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:58:01 PM EST

They sure do get confused at times.  All the time.  In fact, this is what schisms are often all about. When one person or group decides that the religion is about authority to their leader, rather than authority to their God - so they split off, not realizing that the followers have often simply switched leaders.
Catholic, Protestant, Non-denominational, Missoury-Synod Lutheran, ELCA Lutheran, Shiite, Sunni, Wahhabi - Ironically, people have been KILLED for these differences.  Differences in how to worship a God who commands: thou shalt not kill.

I've sat in church and listened to the preacher say that it's wrong to question authority, wrong to question God.  I don't question God.  I question every person or book who claims to speak for Him.  
And I don't believe that He minds at all - I think that a well-reasoned, and open-eyed faith is of better quality than a blind, unquestioning faith.

And I am a very rare believer.

[ Parent ]

This cuts both ways. . . (none / 0) (#282)
by IHCOYC on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:01:52 PM EST

Of course, religion teaches obedience of a sort.

But by having such things as scriptures or historically codified teachings and doctrines, religion also provides a foundation for challenging local authorities who demand too much of the believer. Religion can also provide an alternative structure of social support for those who choose to resist.

Even if there is no god and no redemption, the whole human race would continue to be made up of sinners. I am surprised neither by the results of the research, nor at this claim.
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelćis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy
[ Parent ]

What's this "Western, Judeo-Christian" p (4.50 / 6) (#239)
by wji on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:26:47 PM EST

You keep dropping in "Western" and "Judeo-Christian". But how do I know you're not just fucking around? Do you have information about this being tried in other cultures? Frankly I think you've just taken hyper-well-known experiments and cloaked them in obscurantist drivel. Sorry, but there's nothing here to convinve me otherwise.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
Two things (5.00 / 2) (#240)
by LilDebbie on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:31:14 PM EST

One: when was the Milgrim experiment repeated in West Germany? I find this surprising as afterwards most psychologists found the experiment to be too unethical to repeat.

Two: someone probably already said it, but you should mention in your article that the people weren't actually shocked in the Milgrim experiment, they were merely acted as though they were.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

Since no one is really shocked (4.00 / 2) (#277)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:25:30 PM EST

How is the experiment so unethical?

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Psychological trauma (1.00 / 1) (#321)
by LilDebbie on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 01:29:11 PM EST

for the subjects who think they're shocking fellow human beings. The point of the experiment was they still did it even though they felt bad about it. The feeling bad is the unethical part.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Well (4.33 / 3) (#330)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 07:02:01 PM EST

If something is going to make me feel so bad that I will feel psychological trauma, I fucking well try not to do it.

"A man went to the doctor and said, 'It hurts when I do this.' The doctor said 'Don't do that.'"

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

trauma (4.75 / 4) (#331)
by ucblockhead on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 07:28:53 PM EST

It is important to note that the experimenters polled the subjects as to how they felt about it after the experiment was over and the majority felt it to be a positive learning experience.

Many were shocked as to their own actions and resolved to be more wary of authority in the future...and thanked the researchers for teaching them these things about themselves.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

ethical standards (2.50 / 2) (#341)
by tgibbs on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 01:12:34 AM EST

One: when was the Milgrim experiment repeated in West Germany? I find this surprising as afterwards most psychologists found the experiment to be too unethical to repeat.
The experiments did not violate the ethical standards of the time. But the standards have changed. Current ethical standards are very strict regarding "informed consent". The requirement that consent be "informed" eliminates any experiment in which the participants are misled as to what they will be subjected to. Experiments on prisoners were once common, and now are prohibited, because prisoners are now considered to be incapable of giving free consent.

In drug studies, it was once common to give subjects placebos while telling them it was an active drug. Today, subjects must be informed in advance that they might receive a placebo. Interestingly, the "placebo effect" seems considerably smaller in modern studies than in the older literature. But a direct comparision cannot be made, because the older procedures are no longer considered ethical.

[ Parent ]

What have we learned and what remains to be seen? (4.66 / 3) (#244)
by WixerTheGriffin on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:51:46 PM EST

these studies seem to accentuate people's natural tendency to fall into the role that authority places them, regardless of what it is.  More likely than not, it is a trait distilled by evolution.  which isn't at all hard to reason; tribe with lots of dissenters lacking strength of unity vs. tribe with powerful/intelligent authority and C&C/WarCraft zombie-like troops who are madly suicide-capable (right-o, affirmative, davoo!) to do what they command; who wins?  

of course, evolution is not a moral standard (fsck you to hell social darwinists), only a function of time describing the state and progress of life.  intellectual evolution, in this study, has made it clear what the 1970's [western] society consists of when it comes to obeying the authority.  given that only 30 some years have passed, it's probably an accurate assessment of our society.  

there are plenty of theories why, but in the end the why doesn't matter as much as learning what we can from science and history.  for example: carefully watch situations where people suddenly become easily exploitable like post WWI germany and one-on-one authority/subject situations like the madly sexually repressed priest and little boy.  or, what role does religion play in exploiting people through conformity, as the article implies.  

In our own daily lives, what insight to ourselves comes from knowing we are probably sheep?  I hope to see myself resisting the pain or torture that authority may inflict when demanding compliance on something that i feel strongly adverse to, but since that sort of situation is unlikely i can only speculate.  I believe that by knowing i will probably submit, i increase my resistant-ability because i knew this before hand so i am already shoring up that part of my brain to tough it out.  if you submit to the statistics, then you are 10 times more likely to become one.  nobody here seemed to praise the cruelty of the people's actions (thank god), so it is obvious that you don't want to be that person who is fooled by the authority.  use this knowledge the next time you find yourself in a similar situation.  when i'm being pressed against my will, i hope the Milgram experiement yells out from the back of my mind, "maybe this is just a test and they won't actually rape you if you don't comply!", (j/k) "Think for yourself, question authority!", "Follow your heart and rationally consider the consequences!", and, "It is better to disobey an order than dishonor yourself by one!" (props to the person who wrote that quote earlier)  If you say, "everybody does it y not u?" then you need some independent thinking.  i recommend weed and shrooms.  

What if, instead of the Milgram experimenters telling the subjects the truth, they said that those who had gone all the way were in fact good people and had actually benefitted society because the person's memory had in fact improved due to the shock.  Or, on the flip side, telling them they had permanently fried the person's brain due to their lack of willpower to resist authority when something obviously screwed up was going on.  Follow up on the people covertly for a couple of years, and see what sort of behaviors arise as a result.  what changes in relation to  submission to authority take place?  and how does it affect the person's beliefs about improving memory?  in other words, just how much can the authority manipulate people's beliefs?  that would be unnacceptably unethical but if somebody did it there would be much to learn.  as a thought experiment, i bet my money on the majority being "significantly manipulable".  another experiement i want to see is what happens when people learn about these 2 experiements then are put into one just like it themselves without their knowing (anybody know how one could do that?).  do they become more resistant to authority or do they stay the same?  and how do different renditions of milgram's experiment affect the people (for example, telling them one of the lies)?

in hindsight, this stuff is pretty obvious from all the genocide in human history.  but this lays it clear without all the excuses of the conditions at the time, e.g. post WWI starving poor ass germany.  some people already knew implicitly the power of authority and human nature, but science has the ability to lay the smackdown with little to argue against.  the submissive trait is good and bad, a simple result of evolution, but we aren't here to judge evolution.  we are here to evolve, to adapt to current conditions with what we have and know.  people are continually growing due to the accumulation of knowledge, which you cannot argue against.  I argue this is for the benefit of all because the more perspective people have on the universe, the more perceptive we are in making the best decisions for our future.  

I'm sorry, what's your point? (3.45 / 11) (#250)
by kitten on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:31:51 PM EST

First, a few notes:

This majority shrank when disobedience was shown, when the authority figure was remote, or when the participant had to physically place the confederate's hand on the shock plate (Touch-Proximity). These results were completely unexpected.

Unexpected to whom? I find it difficult to accept that Yale students were unable to predict this. A fifth-grader could tell you that the further away the authority figure is, the less adherence to the rules is displayed.

Judeo-Christian religious beliefs America was founded on,

Incredible that you actually believe this. As stated numerous times, especially in recent weeks surrounding the Pledge controversy, the US was in no way founded on religious ideals. The very men who founded this country are the same ones who forbade church and state from tangling with each other, having witnessed firsthand the results of church-controlled England. Many of them were Deists - Thomas Jefferson and John Adams being among the most vocal. Ben Franklin was as close as one could be to an atheist in those days without being lynched.

The complicit Germans in Nazi Germany might have considered Hitler's policies wrong, but in the Judeo-Christian context of their culture, they subjugated their opinions and obeyed.

No, they obeyed because if they didn't obey, or displayed dissenting opinions, they'd be killed. There's no deep psychological underpinning at work here.

the Stanford experimenters, were attempting to analyze the interactions that occur between guards and prisoners in order to understand the brutal behaviours of prison guards in real prisons

There's a reason prison guards are thought to be sadists: They are. Only a person with a streak of sadism would choose to be a prison guard in the first place. Meanwhile, the men who were placed in the role of prison guards are simply subjected to the old but true axiom: Power corrupts. There is no mystery here.

While prisoners are often portrayed in Western culture as either passive or aggressive,

Why the constant reference to "Western culture"? Are you implying that these things do not apply in Eastern culture? Drop the pretentious air of disdain. People are people.

Psychology is little more than inane role-playing games coupled with either wild speculation or "No shit!" observations, virtually unreproducible experiements (with no control group), guesswork, and attempts to discover an explanation for invented questions or problems that never existed. Psychology is to actual understanding of the mind what alchemy is to actual chemistry - it's a vague start, but cannot be dignified with the word "science".

All in all, I really don't see what your point is, other than "People will probably obey orders and be mean to each other, even if it means hurting someone, and especially if they won't be held accountable." Simply a shocking revelation. Thank god for rigorous psychological experiments.

mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
Judeao-Christian follow-the-leader (5.00 / 1) (#283)
by darkonc on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:38:00 PM EST

Judeo-Christian religious beliefs America was founded on,

Incredible that you actually believe this. As stated numerous times, especially in recent weeks surrounding the Pledge controversy, the US was in no way founded on religious ideals. .....

It may be that the US wasn't originally intended to have a religious basis -- but, as the controvosery^w outrage over the Pledge ruling has shown, the US is now very much religious based. That the founding fathers are probably spinning in their graves over this is another issue.

The complicit Germans in Nazi Germany might have considered Hitler's policies wrong, but in the Judeo-Christian context of their culture, they subjugated their opinions and obeyed.

No, they obeyed because if they didn't obey, or displayed dissenting opinions, they'd be killed. There's no deep psychological underpinning at work here.

This is one of those catch-22 situations. If the people of germany, as a whole, had expressed horror at what the NAZIs were doing, it would never have happened. Who would have shot you?? People as revulsed at what was going on as you were. It is the societal norm of bowing to authority that has gotten us into trouble. Western culture is still suffering a hangover from feudal days when we were taught that the rulers had the authority of God behind them and would only do what was good and right. That wasn't true then, and it isn't true now.

Even September 11 can be blamed on people in our society not being willing/able to take responsibility for their own safety. The Hijackers had people calling for help on their cell phones to distract them from the fact that nobody's going to come help you at 10,000 feet.

It wasn't until the 4th aircraft that people realized that, if they didn't stop the hijackers themselves, they were going to do the Dr. No Dance. (unfortunately, the US Air Force had also concluded that if they didn't shoot the airliner down they'd have a second crater in Washington).

(How many people didn't play "Simon Says" in their first years at school?)

Why the constant reference to "Western culture"? Are you implying that these things do not apply in Eastern culture? Drop the pretentious air of disdain. People are people.
People are people, and western society is western society. The article also references a similar study done with the macaque people (i.e. non-westernized). They generally refused to torture their fellows -- even when threatened with starvation for refusing to follow orders. It's easy to presume that what's the norm in western society is (or should be) the norm for the rest of the world. That's not necessarily so -- but it's getting harder and harder to do true comparisons between western and non-western culture as westernized culture Borgifys all the other cultures on this planet.
Killing a person is hard. Killing a dream is murder. : : : ($3.75 hosting)
[ Parent ]
I agree (none / 0) (#295)
by Fuzzwah on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 01:22:48 AM EST

I agree with what you've explained here, but a macaque is a monkey.

--
The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

West vs East (none / 0) (#313)
by Cro Magnon on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 09:47:37 AM EST

Many eastern cultures are even more "follow the leader" than modern western cultures. Can you imagine a 1940's Japanese going against the Emperor, or a Chinese going against his government?
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Naziism (none / 0) (#346)
by adequate nathan on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 11:03:55 AM EST

In fact, most compicit Nazis didn't have guns to their heads. I find it incredible that you explain away a creature like Eichmann in this fashion.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

Interesting (5.00 / 1) (#253)
by Ressev on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:56:21 PM EST

I would be interested to know more about the macaques. Are they a real people and if so, how do they view individuals? Also, I doubt that it can be accurately said that this is only a phenomena of "Western Culture". Judeo-Christian comments aside, there are plenty of religions that teach obedience as a way to be ok with your god. Islam for example.

What I find more interesting is the drop in obedience when it is "hands-on" let alone when the experimentor is remote.

More importantly is this: was the experiment possibly impacted by people knowing it was an experiment (whether or not they knew the shocking was real)? Also, in the case of the Germans: Hitler was not that long ago and there might have been a sensitivity there otherwise not attended to in the Americans.

I think more convincing evidence for mankinds tendancy towards cruelty is found when you look at non-experimental events. Take the rise of Communism. Communism is for all intents and purposes aethist, yet they have done remarkably evil deeds in torturing and killing millions.

There are more factors in "why" people did what they did in the experiments than you have accounted for. Either due to your own bias and objectives in pointing the experiment out, or in not taking in the full historic contexts, your article is lacking in fullness despite it's informative nature.
"Even a wise man can learn from a fool."
"There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact." - Mark Twain

Side Note (none / 0) (#258)
by virg on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:40:45 PM EST

Macaques are lower primates, not humans.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Ahh, Thanks! (none / 0) (#325)
by Ressev on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 03:37:18 PM EST

So, the author of the story uses another completely different species to demonstrate Western Culture and Judeo-Christian beliefs as causing people to be blindly obedient? Can we say mis-match?

The example then is moot since we are not talking about humans but monkies!. Oh well, nice to know what a Macaques is however.

"Even a wise man can learn from a fool."
"There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact." - Mark Twain
[ Parent ]

Macaques explained (none / 0) (#260)
by imperium on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 06:05:39 PM EST

Macaques are a sort of monkey. They are famous for providing the origin of the One Hundredth Monkey story, which describes how a group of macaques gradually learnt one by one to wash yams before eating them, and how suddenly, after that gradual growth, every monkey in the group did it. Although many have claimed it is simply a myth, this concept is used by ecologists in hopeful analogy with human behaviour: it is hoped that at some unknowable point, once more individuals learn to live in harmony with nature, Western society will all move away from our current polluting lifestyle.

x.
imperium
[ Parent ]

And a silly myth at that! (none / 0) (#275)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:00:45 PM EST

Your synopsis of the 'myth':

the One Hundredth Monkey story, which describes how a group of macaques gradually learnt one by one to wash yams before eating them, and how suddenly, after that gradual growth, every monkey in the group did it.

And the salient point of the 'myth' as presented in the link you provide:


The added energy of this hundredth monkey somehow created an ideological breakthrough!

But notice.

A most surprising thing observed by these scientists was that the habit of washing sweet potatoes then jumped over the sea --

Colonies of monkeys on other islands and the mainland troop of monkeys at Takasakiyama began washing their sweet potatoes.

Thus, when a certain critical number achieves an awareness, this new awareness may be communicated from mind to mind.

Although the exact number may vary, this Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon means that when only a limited number of people know of a new way, it may remain the conscious property of these people.

But there is a point at which if only one more person tunes-in to a new awareness, a field is strengthened so that this awareness is picked up by almost everyone!

The action at a distance (or should that be education at a distance) element of this little ditty firmly establishes it, as far as I am concerned, as a myth.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Macaca mulatta (none / 0) (#358)
by runlevel0 on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 08:18:49 PM EST

<em>Macaca mulatta</em> also known as <a href="http://www.szgdocent.org/pp/p-mcrhes.htm">Rhesus Monky</a> is one of the most used simians in cientific experimentation.<br>
It's used to be very widespread in India and China.<br>
There's also a colony of Macaques in the Rock of Gibraltar, which is the only simian colony in Europe, except Homo Sapiens.<br>

<a href="http://www.mamata.com.br/macaco/">Macaque</a>

[ Parent ]

Communism (none / 0) (#291)
by refulgence on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 12:02:05 AM EST

It might be said that people with an intense pseudo-religious belief in the ideals of the party would be similar to or more obedient than extremely religous people.


______________________________________________
"Disgust is the appropriate response to most situations."  JennyHolzer
[ Parent ]
Macaques are a type of monkey [n/t] (none / 0) (#374)
by andfarm on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 06:13:49 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Interesting Side Effects of this idea? (3.33 / 3) (#254)
by vile on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:03:55 PM EST

>>Because the majority of Westerners wish to be accepted, when there is a conflict between their norms and society's, they choose society's unless they witness other members of society violating the norms. Then one can redefine social norms to reflect the fact that there is a social group compatible with one's internal norms. This does not occur often in Western society, and so Westerners are forced into a state of ethical and moral duality, periodically choosing whether they should violate dissonant social norms or force their internal norms to conform (Levy, 1997). >>

So, you're taught smoking is bad.. yet, you see others do this activity... hmm why not try it? murder is bad.. accepted in some areas (i.e., some parts of L.A., W.D.C.)? Legality/Morality of smoking marijuana..? Brought up as bad (DARE, parents, etc.)... social group witnessed.. allows one to decide?

Another thing... how does media tie into all of this? and Advertising?

Just some thoughts...

~
The money is in the treatment, not the cure.
How media and advertising tie into all of this (none / 0) (#274)
by speedfreak2K2 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:52:32 PM EST

 "So, you're taught smoking is bad.. yet, you see others do this activity... hmm why not try it? murder is bad.. accepted in some areas (i.e., some parts of L.A., W.D.C.)? Legality/Morality of smoking marijuana..? Brought up as bad (DARE, parents, etc.)... social group witnessed.. allows one to decide?"

They're all pimped by advertisers (cigarettes) and the news (murder). The marijuana subject isn't touched too much in the news though...
You! Take that crown off your head, I'm kicking your ass!
[ Parent ]

American Media (5.00 / 1) (#316)
by vile on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 12:33:29 PM EST

Nor is much else... i.e., something you won't hear in the American Media Entertainment Industry

I guess some things are just... left unsaid. A few men trapped in a mine must rank higher in the eyes of the producers.

~
The money is in the treatment, not the cure.
[ Parent ]
Indeed (4.00 / 2) (#293)
by aspartame on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 12:35:34 AM EST

If you wish to remove the social stigma from something, the best way to do it is to get together a group of people willing to loudly proclaim that they find it acceptable.

Thus, you have campaigns like, "We're here and we're Queer!". Parades, marches, etc. Seems to have been fairly successful at removing the social stigma from homosexuality (at least, in many social circles).

Another example is, "We're Jeff and Tracy. We're Your Good Neighbors. We Smoke Pot".

--
180 times sweeter than sugar
[ Parent ]

I can.. (none / 0) (#315)
by vile on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 12:28:09 PM EST

.. totally agree with that. Homosexuality is a great example here... 'closet people' too afraid to come out and proclaim their nature due to the perceived social unacceptance.. but do so anyway (and more as others do).. awesome example..

And I don't think you could beat the neighbor example......

~
The money is in the treatment, not the cure.
[ Parent ]
homesexuality and male dominance (none / 0) (#371)
by jafac on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:45:05 PM EST

By nature, most male homosexuals are not what you'd call "dominant male" types. It only makes sense that they're conflicted about a desire for acceptance in mainstream culture, against their desire for acceptance in the gay subculture.

[ Parent ]
Macaques (5.00 / 2) (#261)
by Lord of the Wasteland on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 06:08:40 PM EST

I looked around on the web and couldn't find any detailed description of the Macaque experiment, which was apparently originally published in Psychonomic Science (1964, pp. 47-48). However, I did find this which details some experiments with rhesus monkeys and macaques regarding empathy and social structures.

Excellent link (none / 0) (#290)
by refulgence on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:58:10 PM EST

Thank you.


______________________________________________
"Disgust is the appropriate response to most situations."  JennyHolzer
[ Parent ]
Why do so many people fear this issue? (4.00 / 2) (#264)
by ph0rk on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 06:35:19 PM EST

Believe it or not I'm not that much of a bleeding-heart type, but to dismiss a discussion of morality-based cognitave dissonance as being childish bothers me.

The only ways that this could no longer be an issue for an individual is if either society's values change (hasn't happened) or the individual has changed their sense of ethics to match that of society.  Is this good? Is this bad?  Who knows, but damn it, it is something.
[ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]

So, who lives by the "Western Cultural Norms& (4.50 / 2) (#266)
by mami on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:17:58 PM EST

Just Judeo-Christians in highly developed countries? Any validity to the studies if they haven't been conducted in non Judeo-Christian societies of less developed, not so Western societies for purpose of comparison?

Your Eichman quote sickens me. I have one for you too, from Himmler. In a letter to Dr. Rascher, who conducted (very obediently) the low pressure or "high altitude" experiments on prisoners in the concentration camp Dachau.

They had a discussion about which prisoners, Russian, Polish or Jews, should be used for the experiments. Then they kind of reflected about saving their lives, if they happen to survive the experiments, as a reward, so to speak. Because the Russians and Polish prisoners faced the death penalty, otherwise.

Dr. Rascher described the experiment results in one letter, saying that one of the Russians really survived the experiments four times. Himmler answered that he would be very interested in more results, and of course, their life would be saved, their death penalty waived, if they survived and if they were Russians.

Next letter from Dr. Rascher described (very obediently) more experiments. This time of course he used the "race-spoiling Jews" (raschenschaenderische Juden) for the experiments.

I wonder if Milgram had a source like an eyewitness report (from the victim's point of view) that could confirm that Eichmann was "sickened" when he toured the concentration camps?

Sources: Natl. Archives, Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, Medical Case No. 1, Exhibits.

Here one online exhibit provided by the Holocaust Museum

Abstraction (3.50 / 2) (#349)
by RyoCokey on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 02:12:46 PM EST

Ordering someone's death is really quite easy. The less you think about it, the more it becomes about the mental equivalent of ordering your lunch. You could be physically sickened by something (Such as people rotting and dying at a camp) but not morally sickened by it (You put them there originally because they were Jews.)



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
[ Parent ]
Mad x-periment anyway (1.00 / 2) (#357)
by runlevel0 on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 08:04:49 PM EST

So, what's that all about?
Somebody organized an experiment which consisted in guys shocking each other to see what they did?
Those guys where volunteers ?
And if they where, wasn't that members of the prison's BDSM club who got volunteers for that?

Braindead...

I can imagine those ill-brained nazi's doing something like this, but in a "western" country.

BTW: es wird "ra-ss-enschänderische Juden" geschrieben ;)


[ Parent ]

runlevel0 - right (nt) (1.00 / 1) (#359)
by mami on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 10:17:48 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Can anyone answer for the population? (4.00 / 1) (#267)
by greenshoe on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:43:37 PM EST

Both experiments: From what population did the experimentors extract their subjects? Particularly, were they all 20-30? The older people get, the less they care about what other people think. Also if the people were childless at the time, then they might be less likely to be cruel to those who are helpless. Were they extracted against their own will or did they choose to participate in their studies? What incentives ($?) were offered to participate in the studies, and if there were any did they know before they signed up what the studies would involve? Stanford experiments: I would find it interesting to see what the correlation is between the number of participants who were particularly violent to the prisoners and the number of decendants of those people who suffer the effects of child abuse. Then compare that to the number of people who didn't assume the roles so vehemently. Also, I wonder if picking all males made a difference.

an answer (none / 0) (#286)
by ucblockhead on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:07:33 PM EST

Standford: one set of 18 college students. Never repeated except for a bad BBC reality show knockoff that didn't repeat the results.

Milgrim: repeated many, many times with subjects of all ages and from many different cultures.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Oh no, it's unethical! (4.00 / 1) (#389)
by A Trickster Imp on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 08:24:22 AM EST

You cowards.

This sounds like a job for Johnny Knoxville.

[ Parent ]

Milgrom subjects (none / 0) (#339)
by tgibbs on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 12:53:24 AM EST

The Milgrom subjects were volunteers, and were presumably modestly paid, as is typical. However, they were misinformed as to the nature of the study, believing that they were assisting in a learning study, rather than being themselves the subjects in an obedience study. Such a deception would be considered unethical today, as a person cannot give informed consent without full knowledge of what they are consenting to.

[ Parent ]
Nope (5.00 / 1) (#352)
by DavisImp on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 04:33:00 PM EST

Psychological studies are often designed to decieve the subject. It prevents the subject's bias from creeping into the study. The reason this study was unethical is because of the possibility of psychological harm to the subjects (causing apparent extreme pain to another being is not something you brush of lightly).

[ Parent ]
Informed...that you will not be informed. (none / 0) (#388)
by A Trickster Imp on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 08:21:22 AM EST

> as a person cannot give informed consent without
> full knowledge of what they are consenting to.

It's quite ethical, though, to tell people the experiments they are agreeing to might not be what they seem to be, and that you might be fooled.

In psych 101, everyone had to take part in experiments.  You had to sign a form that said basically "I agree to partake in experiments in which I might be fooled."  If you didn't want to, they let you do non-fooled experiments, which were basically filling out anonymous monster psych forms.

[ Parent ]

This supports what I've believed for a long time (4.00 / 3) (#269)
by greenrd on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:03:19 PM EST

Carl Sagan, in his book Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, mentions an experiment involving macaques that was similar to the Milgram experiments. Macaques were fed only if they shocked a fellow macaque. Nearly ninety percent of them chose to starve rather than shock another macaque. Sagan uses this anecdote to criticize human ethical and moral standards (Sagan, 1992, pp.117-8)

So it really is true. Homo sapiens really is an ethically degenerate species.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes

Of course we are. . . (none / 0) (#281)
by IHCOYC on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:50:49 PM EST

From Frans de Waal we learned, among other things, that the emotionally expressive faces of primates, and (it seems likely) human language, evolved at least in part because they enabled us to better deceive our fellow members of the troupe. [Sharing, by contrast, arose out of the mostly male top-dog culture of carnivory and the fortunes of the hunt.]
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelćis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy
[ Parent ]
not the same experiment (5.00 / 3) (#285)
by ucblockhead on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:06:07 PM EST

Note that the macaque experiment was not quite the same...Milgrim didn't threaten people with starvation if they didn't shock.

Sad thing is, probably fewer would have shocked for food then because of authority.

It is interesting to note that when they removed the authority figure, nobody went over 60 volts or so.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Nah. All primates behave like us. (none / 0) (#327)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 05:04:17 PM EST

Chimps rape, steal, have "affairs", and go to war.

Many animals have been proven to lie to other members of their species - although people still argue whether the animal realizes it's lying or if the behavior is instinctive.

For example - sea gulls will sometimes give the "hawk" warning cry when they see food - it distracts their buddies and gives them a head start towards the food.


--
To understand American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservative
[ Parent ]

NOT Linked to western culture (3.50 / 2) (#310)
by BigMap on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 06:40:35 AM EST

If the turks had had ( round 1900 ) the technology the germans had in the 1940s there
would de no one of armenian origin on earth...

Next step : someone's gonna say the Turks are
westerners, after all..

So what about the Red Khmers??

I agree with subject line of yours (OT) (none / 0) (#326)
by nusuth on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 04:52:33 PM EST

And Turks are definetly not westerners, you got that right too. But the rest is completely bullshit. I don't want to go into genocide debate, both because it will quickly degenerate into a flame war and because it is offtopic in this thread, but even if you want to accuse us of past genocide, don't use that lame excuse to explain why we didn't succeed. We had quite sufficient technology to kill any number of our citizens we wanted to; all other governments did, every single one still has. Noone needs fancy gas chambers when a single bullet will do.

[ Parent ]
Bullets were too expensive (nt) (none / 0) (#354)
by xenthar on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 06:14:30 PM EST


-- Conciousness is contagious. Work on improving yours, it will affect the world.
[ Parent ]

Nazis Not An Aberration (4.42 / 7) (#329)
by meehawl on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 05:52:55 PM EST

I think what the Milgram study most clearly indicates about "society" is that there are psychopaths and followers everywhere and the idea of "deviance" vs "normative" individuals from the criminologists is at best a quaint notion. It's possible for any society to lurch unwittingly into savagery as did German society in the inter-war periods. The death camp guards were not, on the whole, deviant sadists -- they were a representative sample of German society. Many of them suffered profound psychological trauma and emotional distress from their jobs, as anyone largely sane would. Others revelled in their task and authority positions, but these psychopaths were not limited to Germans of the mid-20th Century period and it would be foolish to imagine otherwise. Likewise, the people in neighbouring towns who accepted the death camps with knowledge of their purpose were cowed by police brutality and indoctrinated into racialism and seterotyping through mass media and propaganda. They were not so different from you or I.

Of course, the idea that certain sociological patterns predispose a greater proportion of the society to cruelty, lack of affect, and loss of empathy (ie, the Frankfurt School's ideas of the anal retentive conservative personality disorder) can explain why some societies tend to lurch through periods of militarism and destructive fascism more frequently than others.

In a country where the rulers casually export prisoners for torture abroad and the body politic politely discusses the reintroduction and refinement of torture mechanism, that imprisons more of its population than any other Western nation, that almost alone in Western nations sanctions a racially-weighted execution media circus, the cautionary lessons of Erich Fromm in his magisterial The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness are incredibly pertinent and need to be considered alongside Milgram and the Stanford Experiment.

Mike Rogers www.meehawl.com
Tone: (none / 0) (#333)
by marc987 on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 09:09:12 PM EST

I rate youre comment a "5", but i can't because of this

"the anal retentive conservative personality disorder"

[ Parent ]

Submission and Potty Training (5.00 / 2) (#334)
by meehawl on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 10:27:30 PM EST



Dude, it's a theoretical construct.

What Freud had called the anal retentive, they might be parsimonious if not miserly, tend to accumulate things, especially wealth. They much value doing their duty-surely learned as children encouraged to become toilet trained when people moved from huts with dirt floors to houses with tile floors and/or rugs. This was the typical character of the European merchant classes that would embrace the Protestant ethic and its this worldly asceticism. By saving and investing profits, they would prosper and become the dominant class in capitalist societies. But they would create a society that would foster managerial control and consumerism and new, modern character.
-- The "Carnival Character" of the Present Age

Mike Rogers www.meehawl.com
[ Parent ]
Israel is this experiment in action (4.16 / 6) (#345)
by crunchycookies on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 10:47:01 AM EST

All of the elements of these experiments are put in action in Israel.

Authority figures directing that horrible crimes be committed. Don't the Israelis always look great in their starched uniforms (lab coats)? The Palestinians always look so scruffy. People who look scruffy have no rights anyway.

Ordinary people will do horrible things when put in a situation where such horrible things are expected of them. Most Israelis are Americans or Europeans, they would never think of torturing or murdering a poor and oppressed people. Indeed, many Jews were active in the American civil rights movement. Then they go to Israel. (What are they doing there anyway?) In Israel they become monsters. You see Israelis explaining why torture is necessary. They explain that assassination is being forced on them because the Palestinians are so bad. They explain that they must bulldoze Palestinian villages because they need more space. All of this seems to make sense to them.

One thing that the experiment did not look into was the use of euphemism. This is surely an amplifying technique. If the results of your action are described to you in honest and graphic terms, you are less likely to go so far. If however, what you are doing is described euphemistically they you do not feel so bad. It is "research", not causing pain. Israel has mastered this technique well. Do not call it torture, call it "moderate physical pressure". If the dial in the Milgram experiment has said "moderate physical pressure" instead of 450 VOLTS them more people would have gone further. Israel has euphemisms for torture, assassination, genocide, child abuse, secret trials, etc, etc, etc.

Another technique not explored is to demonize the subject. If the "guard" was told that the "prisoner" was actually a terrible criminal then it is likely that the punishment would increase drastically. Again, Israel knows this well. Israel has successfully demonized the Palestinians. First they steal the Palestinian's country and when they resist, they are condemned as terrorists. We in the US still seem to believe this. However, the rest of the world has seen through it. Is this an American character flaw?

The experiment required that there be a division between the student/prisoner and the teacher/guard. In Israel they would never consider giving the Palestinians their basic human rights. Even though this would lead to peace it would remove the division that is so important to the Israelis. Without the division, there would be too many people of the wrong color who go to the wrong church in Israel.



Interesting. (none / 0) (#348)
by zeda on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 01:28:08 PM EST

So how do suicide bombings fit into this interpretation. Do suicide bombings by their anonymity and randomness create paranoia in their targets?

[ Parent ]
Re: Interesting (none / 0) (#360)
by crunchycookies on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 10:54:01 PM EST

Bombings are the normal weapons of all liberation movements. The ANC used bombings in their struggle against Apartheid. How do you overthrow a brutal and racist regime? Suicide bombings are the mark of the extreme desperation of the Palestinian people.

I am not sure that the bombings are intended to create paranoia in the Israeli oppressors as much as terror. That is their precise purpose. Why should the Israelis have peace when they continue to oppress the Palestinians? Terror begets terror.

Your comment about paranoia raises an interesting subject. Normally, seeing an IDF soldier causes terror in a Palestinian. That is the whole purpose of the IDF. Now that some attacks by Palestinians have been undertaken while they are wearing IDF uniforms, the Israelis find themselves in the same boat. It may be that Israelis as well as Palestinians will fear the IDF. It is certainly an interesting turn of events.

[ Parent ]

Terror begets terror - (none / 0) (#370)
by jafac on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:37:20 PM EST

So the solution is - more terror? These people are so headstrong, so stubborn, so prideful, that they can't imagine anything like Ghandi's successful "passive resistance". So they chant in the streets; "revenge revenge revenge" and get all whipped up into a frenzy and suicide bomb or whatever - TOO STUPID TO REALIZE THAT THEY'RE SIMPLY PERPETUATING THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE. Saying that suicide bombing is the "natural" weapon of an oppressed people is like saying "Society made billy steal that car and run over that old lady". IMO - those who perpetuate the cycle of violence are simply vying for their own personal Darwin awards. Unfortunate that innocent people get caught in the crossfire - from both selfish, stupid, insensitive, stubborn sides.

[ Parent ]
Terror begets terror: breaking the cycle (4.00 / 1) (#384)
by crunchycookies on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:27:48 PM EST

Yes, they are dedicated, committed, and heroic.

It is interesting that you bring up Ghandi because he answered this very question. He was asked if non-violence would work in every case. It had work against the British. He answered that it would not likely to have worked against the Nazis. It only works against an opponent who will not go beyond certain bounds of violence.

Would it work in Israel? Can Israel be defeated using non-violent tactics? Could a Palestinian leader emerge that could rally the Palestinian people to a non-violent movement? It is possible, but there are several things working against it.

Israel keeps assassinating Palestinian leaders. A policy of assassination gets the doctors, lawyers, writers, professors, all the intellectuals, because they are easy to find. It rarely gets the hardened fighters. The fighters thrive in a violent environment. They know how to hide. The only (remaining) Palestinian leaders are the fighters.

The Israelis are not like the British. The British knew that they were foreign invaders and that one day they would have to leave. The Israelis think that God gives them the right to be there. That God says that they have the right to commit any crime in the name of Israel. Assassination, torture, stealing, oppression, racism are all OK because God says so. What do you think Ghandi would say?



[ Parent ]

Propoganda and Internet Explorer (2.00 / 1) (#373)
by Peaker on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 04:21:01 PM EST

After writing a big piece explaining why this paper is a big piece of propoganda crap, Internet Explorer failed to post it, and obviously erased any trace of my essay, as Microsoft programs always happily do, I will try to rewrite a small portion of the essay:

Assasinations: Israel assasinates people according to direct intelligence indicating that the specific person is about to murder as many Israeli people as he can.

House destruction: Houses are destroyed in war, as part of the fighting, when wanted terrorists won't surrender, and sending soldiers into the house would be a suicide mission. Houses are also destroyed in Israel when they are built without the proper legal procedure.

Houses are NOT destroyed for expansion, ever.

Torture: Torture is used to extract crucial information from specific terrorists who are known to have information that could save the lives of many innocent people who are about to die in a terrorist bombing.

This all makes sense to them
It sure makes sense to me.

First they steal the Palestinian's country and when they resist, they are condemned as terrorists

What a load of crap.

Palestinian terrorism predates the 1967 occupation, and terrorizing innocent civilians is under no circumstances acceptable.

No land was stolen, and it was all bought legitmately, until in 1948, Israel was attacked by the Palestinians and all arab neighbours.

Get your history straight and lay off the propoganda machine.

[ Parent ]

Propoganda and the Big Lie (none / 0) (#381)
by crunchycookies on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 11:01:58 PM EST

Israel uses assassination as a matter of policy as you say. You, of course, allow the same policy to the Palestinians. Right? They assassinated that Israeli minister a little while ago. He was a advocate of the "Israeli Final Solution". How many Palestinians will die when that policy is put in effect? You don't have a problem with that, do you?

House destructions? Proper legal procedure??? This is Israel. The Palestinians have no rights when they conflict with Israeli policy. Expansion is Israeli policy. If you doubt that try this test. Ask an Israeli what are the proper borders of Israel. Some will include Amman Jordan, Damascus Syria. This is the "Greater Israel" that many Israelis believe in.

Torture is handy. If you torture enough people you are bound to learn something. Israel always knows the right type of people to torture, Palestinians. How many Israelis get tortured? They commit terrorist acts as well. Is it OK with you if the Palestinian Authority tortures all IDF soldiers that it captures? They are responsible for a lot of terrorist acts.

I won't comment on your silly comment that all Palestinian land was bought.

Zionists took Palestine by force in 1948. They were successful and thus Israel was created. You, of course, grant the Palestinians the right to take it back by force. That is what we are seeing now. Why are you surprised and outraged?



[ Parent ]

Stop spreading ignorance and lies (none / 0) (#393)
by Peaker on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 10:55:42 AM EST

The Israeli minister who was murdered was advocating the transfer of Palestinians.

That minister was not, unlike assasinated Palestinians, involved in any act of murder.

Saying that he was advocating the final solution, trying to make associations to the holocaust is just some more transparent propoganda, and again, blatant lies.

Very few Israelis actually believe in the "Greater Israel", and they are considered an extreme minority. If expansion was Israeli policy, Israel would already include Jordan, Sinai, and a lot of Syria, as it could easily conquer all of those.

Proper legal procedure is due when building houses in Israel, from both Jews and Israeli Palestinians. Israeli Palestinians are civilians with all the rights of Israeli civilianship, the only difference is that they are not required to serve in the Israeli army. When those arab Israeli civilians build houses without permission from the city hall/etc, those houses are illegal and destroyed, just like Jewish Israeli houses.

Again, Israel only tortures specific terrorist Palestinians who are known to have the required information.

You need to get back to learn your Israeli history.

The Jewish settlement of Israel began under the Turkish regime, back in the 19th century. Jews came into Israel and bought lands. No lands were taken by force.

This continued until 1948, as more and more lands were bought. The local arabs (Only much later called the 'Palestinians', as they had no nationality), were outraged by the idea of the incoming flood of foreigners, so in 1921, 1929, and 1936-1939 they began terror campaigns against the Jewish settlers of the bought land, and killed hundreds of people.

The Hagannah (later the core of the created IDF) was set up in response to these arab attacks on the unprotected Jews, under the British Mandate.

In 1947, the Jews already had quite a bit of population and lands (all aquired by purchase), and the UN proposed a partition plan by which the Jews get a small piece of Israel, the local arabs get another state next to it, and Jerusalem becomes an international region.

The Jews accepted this plan, and yet the local arabs refused. In 1948, the Jews declared a state in the lands they have already bought, and the local arabs and neighbouring states tried to destroy the new state. The new state won that war, during which a lot of territory was conquered.

The Palestinians in this land has fled, as did Jews from arab states in that period.

Israel was now a small country next to Jordan, under which most Palestinians lived, Egypt and Sinai.

The Palestinians, wanting to take back lands they lost in their attacks, tried to terrorize Israeli citizens, and this terror movement has later become the PLO.

As to justification to live in the area - the world provided Jews with no place or solution to the Jewish Problem, and so a state with a majority of Jews had to be set up, and only the Jews could set it up, as nobody else cared. The British expressed their acceptance that a Jewish state will be set up in Palestine, and so Zionists came to Israel and bought lands.

Palestinian land was not ever stolen, and their losses are all their fault:

  • They refused the UN partition plan of 1947.
  • They attacked Israel and lost more territory.
  • They terrorized civilians until they were conquered.

    The Palestinian fight through the ages is akin to a dumb child picking on a bigger child and then comes crying to his parents when the bigger child hits him back.

    [ Parent ]

  • You're history is right, but not what's happening (none / 0) (#405)
    by feronti on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 11:36:03 PM EST

    You are correct in your assesment of the early history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians picked the fight, lost, and now are crying about it.

    But, that does not in any way justify Israel's current response to the problem. Assassination is wrong; it short-circuits due process and does not allow the victim the right to confront his accuser, because he is dead. In addition, most of these assassinations result in collateral casualties to those who are completely innocent... women, children, and anyone else who is nearby. Torture is never justified. I don't care if you are Satan incarnate, you still have basic human rights, and among those are the freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. And now, Israel is destroying the homes of the families of suicide bombers... who may not have even known that their relative had planned the deed.

    I agree that at first Israel had the moral upper hand. But no longer are they simply defending themselves against an attacker. They are now embarked on a campaign of genocide against a powerless minority. I do not believe that the Palestinians are prosecuting their protest in an acceptable manner, but neither is Israel's response justified.

    [ Parent ]

    Assasination, house destruction, and torture (none / 0) (#408)
    by Peaker on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 04:47:52 PM EST

    You are mistakengly classifying assasinations as a legal procedure, when they are more correctly labeled as acts of war. They are preemptive strikes against people who are in the process of planning or executing the murder of innocent people.

    House destruction is controversial, and rightfully so. However, in the cases the terrorists' houses are destroyed, it is only done when the family was aware of the terrorist plan, and have some (even weak) link to it. This helps to reduce motivation for suicide bombers.

    You are again misclassifying torture as a means of punishment, when it is actually a means of extracting crucial information from terrorists, in order to save lives.

    It is ideally only done in extreme cases, and to save lives from terrorists attacks, however I agree Israel is abusive in its torture, by overusing it in many cases. I will reemphasize that I find torture completely valid if it means it can almost guarantee saving the lives of people.

    [ Parent ]

    Zionists bought Palestine???? (none / 0) (#406)
    by crunchycookies on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 11:52:50 PM EST

    Since you choose to continue insisting that Zionists bought the land during the invasion I will explain. Let us examine the facts surrounding this claim. Zionists were invading Palestine. The Palestinians were resisting.

    Now lets look at how the transaction would have taken place.

    You are a Palestinian living on land that your family lived on for thousands of years. One day a Zionist shows up and offers you a ridiculously small sum of money for your land. Just outside is a bunch of well-armed Zionist terrorists. You know that is you refuse you and your family will be killed.

    If you agree, the Zionist will claim that he bought the land. If you refuse then the Zionist will bury the bodies and claim that you ran away.

    I will bet that you claim that the Nazis bought all that Jewish property that they got. The Jews either sold it or they ran away. It is very neat and tidy. Israel did not invent this crime.

    If you keep repeating it, if you can silence anyone that questions it, then you will be successful with your Big Lie. The trouble with this is when people will not be silenced the Big Lie then collapses. For 55 years we Americans bought the Big Lie. Now some of us are questioning it and it is beginning to collapse.

    The trouble with Big Lies is that most are logically ridiculous. Simply asking yourself if they make sense is enough to let the air out of them. Once deflated, they cannot be repaired. That is why Big Lies are always buttressed with threats and insults. Facts on the other hand, are buttressed with additional facts. There is no need for insults and threats.



    [ Parent ]

    Big lies? (none / 0) (#409)
    by Peaker on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 04:55:03 PM EST

    You are a Palestinian living on land that your family lived on for thousands of years. One day a Zionist shows up and offers you a ridiculously small sum of money for your land. Just outside is a bunch of well-armed Zionist terrorists. You know that is you refuse you and your family will be killed.

    Do you have anything to back this up? No? Maybe because:

  • The Jews that came to Israel, the invaders, had no weapons and had no organized militia.
  • Rotschild, and other very rich Jewish people, contributed huge sums of money to the buying of lands in Israel, and thus Jews could afford to peacefully buy lands.

    The resistance you mention, is the land workers who lost their jobs as land owners sold their lands and "fired" them, who got upset at losing their work, and attacked the foreign invaders.

    The resistance is also the result of the fear of the incoming flood of foreign settlers, and the result of frustration of the inability to prevent the selling of lands to them.

    I will bet that you claim that the Nazis bought all that Jewish property that they got. The Jews either sold it or they ran away. It is very neat and tidy. Israel did not invent this crime.

    You seem to be saying that the Jews in Israel have stolen this 'method' or 'tactic' from the Nazis, however I'm referring to periods predating the Nazis by decades. I am not sure you know at all what is being discussed or the relevant history.

    If you keep repeating it, if you can silence anyone that questions it, then you will be successful with your Big Lie. The trouble with this is when people will not be silenced the Big Lie then collapses. For 55 years we Americans bought the Big Lie. Now some of us are questioning it and it is beginning to collapse.

    Before you classify major historic discussions as Big Lies or such, perhaps you should go get a history book and learn some of the facts.

    [ Parent ]

  • Oldest philosophical inquiry (4.00 / 2) (#350)
    by xee on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 03:25:23 PM EST

    Does art follow life, or does life follow art? What the Milligram study calls social norms are invariably messages delivered by the media industry. How many people get their prison-guard-info from first hand experience visiting prisons? How many get that info from the evening news? This study appears to claim that the actions of society are direct results of media influence (the widespread communication of social "norms") -- life following art. This interpretation would be immediately countered by any self-respecting news agency, as it would claim that its news report is a fair and unbiased representation of the facts of life in a prison -- art following life. This is probably the oldest catch-22 of any culture.


    Proud to be a member.
    Why the exclusive or? (4.50 / 2) (#353)
    by xenthar on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 06:11:34 PM EST

    Life follows art and art follows life. Any reason this is impossible?

    It's just like asking 'is personality born from society or is society born from personality'. Both, of course.


    -- Conciousness is contagious. Work on improving yours, it will affect the world.
    [ Parent ]

    Good point (none / 0) (#363)
    by xee on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 12:25:53 AM EST

    I was hoping that point would be made after lots of interesting discussion, but...


    Proud to be a member.
    [ Parent ]
    Western? (4.00 / 1) (#351)
    by kimbly on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 03:27:08 PM EST

    You repeatedly say that this is due to "Western" social norms, but you offer no experiments to show that any other human society behaves any differently.

    Here! Here! (none / 0) (#364)
    by directed ascent on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 02:22:01 AM EST

    I agree completely -- the tone of the article seems to want to blame "Western" culture, but provides no basis whatsoever for that characterization. From what little I learned about WWII, I'd suspect the Japanese at that time were also quite good at obeying authority, despite their "Eastern" locale and "mindset".

    [ Parent ]
    Exactly my reaction (none / 0) (#369)
    by Alhazred on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 12:47:51 PM EST

    First there is nothing to say that non-westerners behave differently. Even if they DID behave differently in a specific study that would only indicate a different reaction to specific authority queues, not necessarily a fundamental difference in ethical behaviour.

    Secondly your use of the term 'dualism' would give most philosophers fits...
    That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
    [ Parent ]

    did they test the Brits or the French? (1.66 / 3) (#356)
    by werner on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 07:07:28 PM EST

    I'd be interested to see the results of the same tests run on Brits or French. In my experience, a large proportion of Germans try to avoid thinking / taking responsibility as much as they can - i.e. they like being told exactly what to do. I would be intrigued to see the same tests run on Brits, who, I believe, rely on their own judgement a lot more than the Germans, and the French, who never listen to anyone...

    Unthinking Germans? (5.00 / 1) (#361)
    by asret on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 11:24:43 PM EST

    In the article it was mentioned that the obedience rates for Germans were just over 50%, as compared to over 80% of those tested in the original experiments.

    If they avoid thinking / taking reponsibility so much, then why the difference in results?

    Why did they not do exactly as they were told?

    In making this comparison I am of course assuming that most of the Americans in the original experiment also thought of themselves as relying on their own judgement.


    Be happy. You're cute when you smile.
    [ Parent ]
    Exactly! (5.00 / 1) (#410)
    by epepke on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 10:41:04 PM EST

    I take second place to no one in my disregard for human ethical standards and in my distaste for religion, but you've managed to put your finger on something that's bothered me about the Milgram experiments for a long time.

    In both studies, participants were deceived about the amount of physical and psychological stress they would have to endure in the experiment.

    Exactly. In the Milgram experiments, nobody got a shock except for the "sample shock." In fact, the very idea that they could have been set up that was was entirely ludicrous. All of the conclusions of the Milgram experiements are based on the idea that a volunteer, paid for participation in an experiment and required to read the ethics policies, lied to by someone who is not a professional liar, with a confidante who also was not a professional liar pretending to be shocked, could not possibly suspect, correctly and with plenty of evidence, at even an unconscious level, that it was all play-acting.

    From the referenced link: Slight Shock, Moderate Shock, Strong Shock, Very Strong Shock, Intense Shock, Extreme Intensity Shock, Danger: Severe Shock. (Two switches after this last designation are simply marked XXX.) Deliver unto me a fucking break already! They might as well have added someone with conical stainless steel breasts and someone dressed up as Ming the Merciless to enhance the "authenticity" of the machine. Even if people believed they were moderately real, there have been similarly cheesily constructed shock machines in arcades for a century!

    I guess it's also unthinkable that any of the subjects could possibly have known anything about electricity. The subject, Gretchen Brantt, is an attractive thirty_one year old medical technician... I suppose she could not possibly have known how medical devices that admister shocks work and how they meter the dosage, and how some doofus psychologist's 1950's monster movie wet dream could possibly be different. That would only be a medical technician's basic job, after all. She only has to know more about this stuff than a doctor for a living. But I guess if she's a woman and attractive, she must be stupid or something, at least according to Milgram.

    As you point out, even their levels of deception skirted ethics. Actually causing cardiac arrest is beyond the pale. Is it entirely impossible that a research subject could have had a sneaking suspicion of this?

    Carl Sagan, in his book Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, mentions an experiment involving macaques that was similar to the Milgram experiments. Macaques were fed only if they shocked a fellow macaque. Nearly ninety percent of them chose to starve rather than shock another macaque.

    And, of course, here's the difference. The macaques got shocked. The human targets didn't get shocked. The macaques were reacting to an actual emotional reaction. The human's were reacting to some cheezy faking.

    Sure, I'd love to believe that humans were ethically inferior to macaques. But when you're making an experiment, you really do have to switch on the old neocortex from time to time.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    They're finally all the same | 413 comments (373 topical, 40 editorial, 1 hidden)
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