Samples Science Educational Theory-Based Research View

Educational Theory-Based Research View

1032 words 4 page(s)

Milgram’s experiment investigated how willing human subjects were eager to obey a figure of authority even if this involved a conflict with their conscience. Given today’s ethical and human subject standards, Milgram’s experiment cannot be deemed ethical. Based on Gall, Gall & Borg (2006, p.68), “Ethics is a branch of philosophy concerned with questions of how people ought to act toward each other, which pronounces judgments of value about actions and develops rules to guide ethical choices.”  The key features of the experiment were deception and coercion. As for deception, even though its judicious use has been endorsed by a significant portion of contemporary research in psychology, it violates the ethical principle of providing subjects with truthful informed consent and truthful information regarding the purpose of the study. As for coercion, it was absolutely unethical by the modern standards. In this experiment, the participants who wanted to withdraw from the study got continually prodded by the experimenter to go on in their roles of shocking other participants. According to the current ethical standards of APA, that coercive aspect makes the research obedience unethical. For example, APA Ethics Code says that “when obtaining informed consent (…) psychologists inform participants about 1) the purpose of the research, expected duration, and procedures; 2) their right to decline to participate and to withdraw from the research once participation has begun” (Liao, 2003, p.645) In this way, Milgram’s use of coercion as a part of his research method does not align with modern ethical standards.

The Milgram experiment is associated with the following problems that conflict with Christian principles and guidelines for treating other people. First of all, this is the problem of tempting the subjects to do a wrong thing, when the participants were thrust in a situation of potential moral peril and faced the danger of becoming wicked people in the eyes of God. Indeed, one becomes a torture by torturing and one becomes a murderer by murdering (Nagasawa, 2012). The Bible says, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver form the evil one” (Matthew 6: 13). Secondly, the principle of telling the truth was violated (the Bible says, “Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself” in Mark 12: 31), because the subjects were told that was the study of memory and learning. Thirdly, the experiment violated the principle “love thy neighbor as thyself” because it was absolutely insensitive to the participants who had to traumatize others (as a result, they had nervous laughter and other signs of stress). In this light, avoidance of deception, using informed consent, and showing sensitivity to the feelings and experiences of the subjects are the issues that need to be considered when conducting my dissertation research.

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Response to Maggie
Maggie’s response is very similar to mine. I also wrote that the Milgram experiment contradicts the Christian principles and guidelines for treating others. As the Bible says, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver from the evil one” (Matthew 6: 13) and “Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mark 12: 31), so the ethical research from the Christian perspective should avoid deceiving people (in Milgram’s experiment, the subjects were told that was the study of memory and learning) or doing harm to them (in Milgram’s experiment, the subjects got stressed and, perhaps, got a psychological trauma). Similar to Maggie, I am committed to making sure that the subjects of my research in the dissertation study feel comfortable and realize they can quit the study at any time. In real life, however, I doubt that I am going to be involved in a study similar to Milgram’s. For example, I am highly unlikely to carry out a laboratory-based experiment aiming to test people’s behavior. Instead, I am going to do a survey, conduct interviews, and, probably, do a quasi-experimental study not in a controlled environment. Bearing this in mind, I am resolved to keeping my research free from ethical failures by following the set disciplinary code, getting informed consent from the participants and making them aware about the aims of the research and how I will use the data, along with ensuring that the information they provide remains highly confidential and anonymous (University of California, 2017). Indeed, even such thing as leaving out the subjects’ names on a desk can do harm.

Response to Nick
I agree with Nick regarding his views on conducting ethical research. Nick believes that research subjects should be treated as “individuals made in the image of God.” Also, he thinks that researchers should be guided by their understanding of the Biblical principle “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7: 12). Also, I agree with Nick that confidentiality is paramount when carrying out a research. Confidentiality means that the identity of a research subject is known to the researcher but gets protected from exposure to the public. In my dissertation, confidentiality will be especially important because some of the participants’ statements might cause them embarrassment if they were exposed to the public. Hence, just as Nick, I am determined to maintaining confidentiality as much as it is possible. For example, when writing a description of data collection or data analysis, I will write a general description of an organization (e.g. a large northeastern university) and avoid mentioning cities by name (a small rural community in the Southeast) as well as may use some fictitious names (University of California, 2017). Whenever it is possible I will ensure participants’ anonymity. It means that I will not know the identities of study subjects. For instance, if I decided to do an observational study, anonymity will be the best protection of confidentiality. Likewise, in questionnaires, anonymity can be a good safeguard. If I decided to administer a survey, I will not ask the participants to sign their names.

  • Gall, M. D., Gall, J. P., & Borg, W. R. (2006). Educational research: An introduction (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Liao, F. (2003). The SAGE encyclopedia of social science research methods. SAGE
  • Nagasawa, Y. (2012). Scientific approaches to the philosophy of religion. Palgrave McMillan.
  • University of California (2017). Research ethics: Protecting the welfare of research participants. Retrieved from