Maintaining the fabric of society to a large part depends on obedience of the citizens. Laws laid down by authority encourage obedience, required for harmonious communal living. But as experiments have shown, obedience is a deeply powerful ingrained behavior stemming from childhood that appears to override moral conduct, ethical training and sympathy. Experimental results indicate that individuals can very easily submit their entire moral standings to an authority. They may do just about anything to please the authority even when their internal moral gauge tells them that their actions are wrong.
Conducted at Yale University between 1961 – 1962, Milgram’s experiments involved three participants – two individuals and the experimenter. The two individuals enter a psychological lab to study memory and learning. Each has a designation; one is the “teacher”, the other a “learner” (Milgram 1974). The experimenter explains that the study aims to observe the effects of punishment on learning. The learner, who in actuality is an actor working for the experimenter, is led to a room and seated in a minor version of the electric chair. An electrode is attached to his wrist. The experimenter explains that he will be read a list of word pairs and then tested for his ability to recall a word pair upon hearing the first word. If he fails to remember the associated word or answers wrongly he will receive increasingly intensities of electric shocks. The teacher is led to another room housing an instrument console with thirty lever switches labeled with a voltage designation ranging from 14 to 450 volts along with word designations such as slight shock, moderate shock, strong shock, very strong shock, intense shock, extreme intensity shock, sever shock for groups of four switches. When a switch is depressed, the corresponding