Erin C. DeFuria
EN 201-02
Dr. Walton
February 24, 1999



A Critique of Diana Baumrind's "Review of Stanley Milgram's Experiments on Obedience"


Imagine yourself in a laboratory at Yale University, one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the United States of America. Stanley Milgram, a Yale psychologist, has set up an experiment to "test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist" (360). The subject walks into the labo-ratory believing that he is part of a study of memory and learning and does not know that he is, in fact, the subject of the experiment. The subject is told to administer electric shocks to an actor who plays along. Over time, the shocks become more painful; that is the actor pretends as such. This poses serious moral and ethical questions to the subject. At what level should one stop doling out these shocks? Should one administer any shocks at all? Diana Baumrind's critique of Stanley Milgram's experiment claims that Milgram is "entrapping his subjects and potentially harming their self-image or ability to trust adult authorities in the future" (373). She argues that that the subject "has the right to expect that the psychologist with whom he is interacting has some concern for his welfare" (374) and that Milgram "disregards the special quality of trust and obedience with which the subject appropriately regards the experimenter" (374).
Baumrind, herself a psychologist, attacks the manner in which the experiment was carried out. She points out that the laboratory where Milgram's experiment took place was "unfamiliar," causing the subjects to behave "in an obedient, suggestible manner" (374). Baumrind states that a laboratory should not be the place for an experiment like Milgram's because "the base line for these phenomena as found in the laboratory is much higher in other settings" (374). I disagree with Baumrinds statement because I believe that a laboratory is where this type of experiment should take place. She states that the place where the experiment took place would make the subject act the way they did, I do not see her reasoning here. Maybe she could explain herself more. Yes, there could be other methods, such as survey's , for this type of experiment, but I do not believe that she should attack Milgram for the setting of his own experiment.
There are some points where I agree with Baumrind. Her statement that it is hard for subjects to "express their anger outwardly after the experimenter in a self-acceptant but friendly manner reveals the hoax," (376) is valid. There are some people that would be extremely upset if they were put in this situation and they would still be so intimidated by the experimenter that it would be hard for them to express their feelings about the experiment to the experimenter's face. Another mistake that Milgram makes and Baumrind argues is the objectives of Milgram's study. Baumrind believes that the correspondence that Milgram makes about authority versus subordi-nate is unclear. In Milgram's "Perils of Obedience" he talks about why members of the German Officer Corps killed millions of people during the Holocaust just because authority ordered them to. They did not do it just because they were ordered to; they did it because authority led them to believe that the people being killed were "subhuman and not worthy of consideration" (377). They believed that they were doing the right thing by killing off these innocent humans.
Baumrind seems to be upset about the emotional status of Milgram's subjects when they leave the experiment. She understands that they must be in some type of emotional distress and suffering from solemn after affects. Most would understand the experiment and the reason why they were there, but some of the subjects would not. As Milgram stated "The teacher is genu-inely a naive subject who has come to the laboratory for the experiment" (361). Baumrind wants to remind psychologists to protect their "ethical sensibilities" when conducting an experiment that messes with the minds of humans. Therefore I agree with Baumrind on this actuality. Mil-gram should protect and respect the teacher's health.
Milgram responded to Baumrind's review with some points of his own. He states that he rejects "Baumrind's argument that the observed obedience does not count because it oc-curred where it