Up to 90% of us will torture others until they’re screaming in agony, an experiment has found – all that’s required is an authority figure to tell us to do it.
In a re-run of one of the most controversial psychological experiments of all time – the ‘Milgram experiment’, Polish researchers found little had changed since 1961.
Polish researchers found that almost all of their volunteers kept pressing a button in the belief that it would cause terrible pain – continuing right up to the highest level.
All that was required was for the ‘doctors’ in the experiment to keep saying, ‘The experiment requires that you continue’ and ‘You have no other choice, you must go on.’
Ninety per cent of the volunteers continued up to ‘Level 10’ – 450V.
The original 1961 ‘Milgram experiment’ was formulated after Nazis such as Adolf Eichmann used the defence that they were ‘only following orders’.
Co-author Dr Tomasz Grzyb, a social psychologist at SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Poland, said: ‘Half a century after Milgram’s original research into obedience to authority, a striking majority of subjects are still willing to electrocute a helpless individual.’
‘Upon learning about Milgram’s experiments, a vast majority of people claim that “I would never behave in such a manner.”
‘Our study has, yet again, illustrated the tremendous power of the situation the subjects are confronted with and how easily they can agree to things which they find unpleasant.’