What causes the human to be either good or evil ? What causes man to become aggressive, rude, anti-social and cruel ? It is not chemical imbalance. Or vitamin deficiency. Scientists show that all it needs is to place the person in the right situation…
What is the real difference between a man and any animal or insect ? Let this article explain. A book called ‘Elephants on Acid, Bizarre Experiments’ by Alex Boise is a collection of experiments which the writer finds weird. While most of them are very sad killing hundreds of dogs to see whether any dog can live with two heads, two of the experiments should open your eyes to the nature of the human being.
What causes the human to be either good or evil ? What causes man to become aggressive, rude, anti-social and cruel ? It is not chemical imbalance. Or vitamin deficiency. Scientists show that all it needs is to place the person in the right situation. According to Philip Zimbardo “Any deed that any human being has ever done, however horrible ,is possible for any of us to do under the right or wrong situational pressures”
Are you capable of killing someone on the command of a stranger ? Ofcourse not, you say. But experiments done at YaleUniversity in the early 1960s show that anyone can and will do terrible things especially if they believe that the order is in the interests of “science” or that someone else is going to take responsibility for their act.
The researcher Stanley Milgram, wanted to find out whether Americans would kill thousands of people in the way Germans had killed Jews. So he set up an experiment in which randomly chosen ordinary people, postal workers, teachers, salesman, factory hands, were asked to commit acts of cruelty by an authority figure. No one would force them. They could leave when they wanted. Only verbal commands like “please go on … please continue with the experiment…” would be given. They would not be paid or pushed in any way. The ad asked for volunteers in an experiment to study “ memory and learning”.
The volunteer was met by an actor playing the role of a white coated “researcher” and another who pretended to be the “learner”. The volunteer was told that the experiment was designed to examine the effect of punishment on learning. As teacher, he would read out words to the learner and then ask him to repeat them. Each time the learner gave a wrong answer, the teacher had to press a button on a machine to give him an electric shock. The shocks would increase in intensity. The researcher pretended to strap the learner into an electric chair and the supposedly nervous learner told the researcher that he had a heart condition. The teacher was taken into another room where he could not see the learner again and given the voltage switch.
The first few times the learner got the words right but as he made mistakes, the teacher pressed the switch. When he passed the 75 volt level, the learner started moaning. At 120 the learner shouted and by 150 volts he started screaming. (All this was actually being done from a tape recorder.) The teachers, in most cases, began to sweat and tremble and all of them looked at the researcher for guidance. All he would ask was for them to go on for the sake of the experiment.
Milgram had forecast that no one would proceed beyond this point. But none of the volunteers backed off. They kept pressing the switch as the voltage got higher and higher and the agonised screams got louder and louder– all the way upto 450 volts when the screams fell silent as the learner was either unconscious or dead.
Milgram conceded “I would say, on the basis of having observed a thousand people in the experiment . that if a system of death camps were set up in the United States of the sort we had seen in Nazi Germany one would be able to find sufficient personnel for those camps in any American town.”
Milgram tried out hundreds of variations of the experiment and found that as long as the volunteer did not see or hear from the victim, he was totally obedient no matter what the cruelty level was. Even if he saw and heard the pain, it was still 65 per cent . And when he had to physically press the victim’s hand on a metal plate to give him a shock, 30 per cent still did it. Women were just as pliable as men. This experiment has been duplicated hundreds of times in different countries. The result is always the same.
Another experiment done by Charles Sheridan and Richard King used a puppy in a box. The researcher was told to shock the puppy if it stood in the wrong place as it was being trained. In fact there was no right place. The volunteers kept shocking the puppy till it howled and jumped up and down and then collapsed. The volunteers cried, they hyperventilated, they screamed – but all of them kept shocking the puppy till it died. Another researcher did an experiment in “obedience” involving “normal”people who were told that they were part of blood pressure experiments. Live white rats were put on their hands and they were told to decapitate them. The men swore, the women cried. But since they had been “ ordered “75 per cent of the volunteers decapitated the rats while they were squirming in their palms by stabbing and sawing away at them.
Contrast this with a study done in Chicago. Researchers locked rhesus monkeys into cages. To get food they had to pull a chain. But if the monkey pulled the chain, his neighbour got an electric shock. After seeing the agony of their neighbours, all the monkeys refused to pull the chain. Some went hungry for as long as 12 days before they died, instead of inflicting pain on one of their own kind. Whenever this experiment has been repeated from apes to rats and cockroaches, all of them have reacted like this. They would rather die than cause wanton pain. Do we deserve the Earth ? Are we superior in any way?