Table of contents
- What is the title of the text and what is the text about?
- What is the author’s view? How do I know?
- What is the evidence presented by the author to support ideas?
- Is the evidence valid? How do I know?
- Is the evidence relevant? How do I know?
- Have I heard/read anything similar or dissimilar? What was it?
- Do I agree or disagree with the views expressed by the author? Why?
What is the title of the text and what is the text about?
The chosen article: “Modern Milgram experiment sheds light on the power of authority” (Abbot, A. 2016) explores two similar studies. Firstly, the controversial 1963 study by Stanley Milgram (Milgram, S. 1963) and then the 2016 study by Universite´ libre de Bruxelles that mimics the original study but with important ethical boundaries (Caspar, E.A, Christensen, A.C, Haggard, P. 2016). The objective of both studies on coerced action is how responsibility for the action is shifted to the one giving the order, whether sinister or benign (Abbot, A. 2016). The hypothesis tested is to see whether coerced action really does cause the subject to lose the sense of responsibility.
What is the author’s view? How do I know?
The author reporting on the studies is surprisingly non-committal to which side she sits on this debate. The debate here is: whether following orders removes oneself from fault, and therefore responsibility regardless of the action’s outcome. The author keeps strictly to the facts of the studies and does not give us their opinion.
What is the evidence presented by the author to support ideas?
In the concluding remarks, usually a space to offer an opinion, the author simply offers insight. The final statement: “companies that want to create — or avoid — a feeling of personal responsibility among their employees could take its lessons on board” (Abbot, A. 2016. para. 15). The insight given is remarkably simple - and yet powerful. We can take this as a lesson in accountability, to show our employees how to take responsibility for their actions. Regardless of what the person who instructed them to do said.
Is the evidence valid? How do I know?
Both studies that are explored are published and reviewed scholarly studies. The article by Abbot is written by a journalist - reporting what is found. The article points to references to said studies as well as several quotes from the neuroscientist leading the study itself.
Is the evidence relevant? How do I know?
The timing of the article, as well as the title photograph - was brought on by the 2015 Biopic, “Experimenter” (Almereyda, M. 2015). Making it relevant to the discussions brought on by the film. Moreover - the findings of the study are relevant to the applications in business and law. ‘I was just following orders’ is no longer considered a justification for evil actions.
Have I heard/read anything similar or dissimilar? What was it?
In an article from People’s World in January this year, the 2005 Nobel Prize winner, Harold Pinter wrote a dark comedy called “The Hothouse”. It is reported that Pinter’s writing preceded Milgram's study and showed remarkable insight that professional academics would later understand. The key takeaway for me was: “As in any dysfunctional system, everyone is always blaming other people” (Gordon, E. A. 2018)
Do I agree or disagree with the views expressed by the author? Why?
The subject matter is extremely interesting, I find myself drawn to the application in business - and how we can encourage accountability despite orders from above. The fact is that we really need to be accountable for our own actions. It is too easy to blame others for a situation, or outcome that we don’t necessarily agree with. We must aspire to take full responsibility for our actions. Whenever an order comes to do something we disagree with - to be strong enough to object and refuse the order.
- Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. J. Abnorm. Psychol.
- 67, 371–378. Retrieved from https://www.birdvilleschools.net/cms/lib/TX01000797/Centricity/Domain/1013/AP%20Psychology/milgram.pdf
- Caspar, E.A, Christensen, A.C, Haggard, P. (2016). Coercion Changes the Sense of Agency in the Human Brain. Current Biology, Volume 26, Issue 5, 585 - 592. Retrieved from http://www.cell.com/current-biology/pdf/S0960-9822(16)00052-X.pdf
- Abbot, A. (2016, February 18). Modern Milgram's experiment sheds light on the power of authority. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/news/modern-milgram-experiment-sheds-light-on-power-of-authority-1.19408
- Almereyda, M. (Director). (2015). Experimenter [Motion picture]. United States of America: BB Film Productions.
- Gordon, E. A. (2018, January 29). Harold Pinter's dark comedy 'The Hothouse' menacingly amuses in L.A. Retrieved February, from https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/harold-pinters-dark-comedy-the-hothouse-menacingly-amuses-in-l-a/