Behavioral Study of obedience. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology.
This article describes a procedure for the study of destructive obedience inthe laboratory. It consists of ordering a naive S to administer increasingly more severe punishment to a victim in the context of a learning experiment. Punishment is administered by means of a shock generator with 30 graded switches ranging from Slight Shock to Danger: Severe Shock. The victim is a confederate of the E. The primary dependent variable is the maximum shock the S is willing to administer before he refuses to continue further. 26 Ss obeyed the experimental commands fully, and administered the highest shockon the generator. 14 Ss broke off the experiment at some point after the victim protested and refused to provide further answers. The procedure created extreme levels of nervous tension in some Ss. Profuse sweating, trembling, and stuttering were typical expressions of this emotional disturbance. One un- expected sign of tension—yet to be explained—was the regular occurrence of nervous laughter, which in some Ss developed into uncontrollable seizures.The variety of interesting behavioral dynamics observed in the experiment, the reality of the situation for the S, and the possibility of parametric varia- tion within the framework of the procedure, point to the fruitfulness offurther study.