Perceived Power & Milgram Experiment

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” You people are blood-sucking parasites, you are here to suck the company’s blood.” This is branch managers meet at Gurugram in a five-star hotel. All these branch managers are here for a performance review meeting. And, the man in his late 50s is the MD-CEO of the company. As if, What they just heard was not enough. ” They are no better than dogs, they are here to enjoy good food and cookies, why should they bother about the performance.” This time it is the sales head. wow, never knew corporates hire wordsmiths at senior levels.

Another scene from corporate, the branch manager already upset with one of the sales managers for not meeting last week’s targets is shouting, scolding, rebuking, refuting, snubbing the sales manager

These scenes were quite common in the last decade, thanks to these new mobiles, where making videos or recording is so easy that the number of these incidents has really gone down.

Not only in the corporate world, but you also get to hear about similar incidents everywhere. Police personnel brutally thrashing duo that resulted in rectal bleeding and eventual death for breaking coronavirus lockdown rules or a teacher allegedly thrashed a student of Class 10 to death at a private school after he was unable to memorize a lesson.

Why do you think incidents happen? People alleged were so different otherwise. They were nice, polite, dignified, humble, etc. What went wrong with them.?? Were they possessed? Was it a personality disorder ..a strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or something else?

What could be the reason? The sense of pleasure generated from perceived power which the authorities feel. The policy or practice on the part of people in authority of restricting the freedom and responsibilities of subordinate or otherwise dependent on them, in their supposed interest.

Milgram Experiment (1963) researched how far people would go if it involved harming another person. He was interested in how easily ordinary people could be influenced into committing atrocities.

stanley milgram generator scale

The Miligram Original Experiment

In Milgram’s original experiment, participants took part in what they thought was a “learning task.” This task was designed to investigate how punishment—in this case in the form of electric shocks—affected things. Volunteers thought they were participating in pairs, but their partner was in fact a confederate (pretending to be a real participant) of the experimenter. A draw to determine who would be the “teacher” and who would be the “learner” was rigged; the true volunteer always ended up as the teacher and the confederate as a learner.

The pairs were moved into separate rooms, connected by a microphone. The teacher read aloud a series of word pairs, such as “red–hammer,” which the learner was instructed to memorize. If the learner erred, the teacher was instructed to deliver an electric shock as punishment, increasing the shock by 15-volt increments with each successive error.

Milgram was horrified by the results of the experiment. In the “remote condition” version of the experiment described above, 65 percent of the subjects (26 out of 40) continued to inflict shocks right up to the 450-volt level, despite the learner’s screams, protests, and, at the 330-volt level, disturbing silence. Moreover, once participants had reached 450 volts, they obeyed the experimenter’s instruction to deliver 450-volt shocks when the subject continued to fail to respond.

As the experiment progressed, the “teacher” would hear the “student” plead to be released or even complain about a heart condition. Once they reached the 300-volt level, the “student” would bang on the wall and demand to be released. Beyond this point, the “student” became completely silent and refused to answer any more questions. The experimenter then instructed the “teacher” to treat this silence as an incorrect response and deliver a further shock.

Most participants (“teachers”) asked the experimenter whether they should continue. The experimenter issued a series of commands to prod the participant along:

1. “Please continue.”
2. “The experiment requires that you continue.”
3. “It is absolutely essential that you continue.”
4. “You have no other choice; you must go on.”

The experiment was terminated by the experimenter after 3 shocks at the highest level i.e. 450 volts. Of the 40 participants (teachers) in the study, 26 delivered the maximum shocks (XXX) which in reality would have been fatal to the “student”. 14 participants were stopped before reaching the highest levels.

Disturbing findings

The results showed alarming levels of moral conscience overthrown by authority. Around 65% of the participants reached the highest levels of giving a shock to their student which was fatal.

The findings of Milgram’s experiment illuminate the enjoyment of sadistic pleasure drawn out of any act when performed with a false and ingrained sense of power and obedience to authority.

The acts of atrocities by authorrities using processes, muscle power on subordinates, students, etc. who may be violators convey a sense of perceived power in view of obedience to the authority.

At one point, authorities inflicting mental or physical hurt on a probable violator may start feeling a sense of sadistic pleasure.

Milgram’s experiment showed how individuals may be subtly made obedient and, under a sense of power, can lose their moral compass and be nudged into participating in acts of violence against people.

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