Dispatches from the Creation Wars

This Just In: People Still Suck

A psychologist has redone the infamous Milgram experiment and found that a large majority of people will still continue to inflict pain on them at the order of an authority figure – even if they’re shown an example of someone who refuses to do so.

Some things never change. Scientists said on Friday they had replicated an experiment in which people obediently delivered painful shocks to others if encouraged to do so by authority figures.

Seventy percent of volunteers continued to administer electrical shocks — or at least they believed they were doing so — even after an actor claimed they were painful, Jerry Burger of Santa Clara University in California found.


They made a couple of changes to the experiment. First, they stopped at 150 volts and stopped the people from delivering that level of shock before they did it:

Burger modified the experiment, by stopping at the 150 volt point for the 29 men and 41 women in his experiment. He measured how many of his volunteers began to deliver another shock when prompted by the experiment’s leader — but instead of letting them do so, stopped them.

In Milgram’s original experiment, 150 volts seemed to be the turning point.

In Burger’s modified experiment, 70 percent of the volunteers were willing to give shocks greater than 150 volts.

And this is even more bothersome: they also introduced a control into the experiment by having one volunteer refuse to go any further because it was causing someone pain and most people still went along with what was required:

At one point, researchers brought in a volunteer who knew what was going on and refused to administer shocks beyond 150 volts. Despite the example, 63 percent of the participants continued administering shocks past 150 volts.

“That was surprising and disappointing,” Burger said.

In Milgram’s study, 82.5% of the volunteers continued giving shocks after 150 volts even with the victims screaming in pain. I guess it’s good that it’s gone down to 70%, but it still reveals something pretty appalling about human nature.