In a 2016 study, Patrick Haggard and his team of psychologists modernized the Stanley Milgram studies from the 1950’s. Both experiments explored the relatedness of coercion and the willingness to carry out harmful acts. Haggard et al. used meaurements of one’s sense of agency to determine whether people are more willing to committ harmful acts on someone else when that person is told to do so rather than acting out of their own volition.
For this study, all participants selected were women as a means of eliminating gender bias as a source of reasoning for their eventual conclusions. In both of Haggard et al.’s experiments conducted, one participant was dubbed the ‘agent’ while the co-particpant was given the ‘victim’ title. In the experiments, an experimenter would order the ‘agent’ to harm the ‘victim’ with financial harm or an electroshock that resulted in financial harm for the ‘victim’. Both trials of the experiment sought to answer the same question of why people so readily comply with orders to do harm to someone else.
The study found that coercion conditions decreased the time interval between the command to perform an action and actually doing the action. This suggests when told to do something, someone thinks about it less thus doing the action without fully understanding the consequences. Additionally, the idea of social reciprocity played a key role in this study. Haggard et al. found that the ‘agent’ was more likely to freely choose to harm the ‘victim’ when the ‘agent’ was first the ‘victim’. Lastly, the financial component suggests that money could be a potential motivating factor of complying to orders.
Is it in human nature to be violent, regardless of coercion? This study could not answer that question any more than other studies of similar nature that have been conducted. This psychological experiement, however, provides compelling statistical data to suggest our moral proccessing of a future event is greatly reduced when we are coerced into an action instead of having the freedom to choose.
According to the results of this experiment, simply obeying orders as a criminal defense for a violent crime could be seen as more than just a cry for leniency in court.
In my summary, I condensed the process and results of Haggard et al.’s psychological experiments. Additionally, I provided the journal article’s original reasoning behind conducting the experiment. Furthermore, those whom read my summary can understand the overall experiment from the information I provided. My summary allows for varied interpretations of the discussed experiment which can lead to different applications of this study’s findings about coercion and sense of agency.
Compared to the news article written by Alison Abbott, my summary provided a more accurate description of the reasoning behind Haggard et al. performing their psychological experiments. My summary, however, did not provide as much background information about the Stanley Milgram experiments as the news article did. I focused more on the modern-day ‘electroshock’ experiment whereas the news article drew more comparisons between Haggard et al. experiment and Milgram’s experiments. The news article generalized the findings of this study to everyone but I noted the legal defense aspect discussed in the journal article. Overall, my summary and the news article written by Alison Abbott provided commentary on a compelling and controversial psychological experiment recently conducted.
When I was writing my article about the experiment, I found it challenging to determine which information about the study would allow for readers to have the greatest understanding of the experiment ran by Haggard et al. After writing my article, I have gained a more accepting view of the news article written by Alison Abbott. Originally, I thought her article had many flaws but now I realize the assessment of which information in a journal article is necessary to include in a news article can vary with each person and does not mean any perception is wrong or inaccurate. Journalists often dramatize the topic they are writing about to increase the amount of readers and subsequently increase sales. This journalistic perspective of dramatization offers more excitement when reading articles in the media. At the end of the day, each news article written tells you what that journalist wanted you to hear, not what you want to hear. Sometimes, these two perspectives coincide which allows for a more informed public. When they do not coincide, however, the journalist’s perspective on a topic or current event can lead to people being misinformed.