Researchers at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Poland have recently recreated the experiment to see what the results would look like if it happened in Central European countries that were previously part of the communist-run Soviet Union. “Our objective was to examine how high a level of obedience we would encounter among residents of Poland. It should be emphasized that tests in the Milgram paradigm have never been conducted in Central Europe. The unique history of the countries in the region made the issue of obedience towards authority seem exceptionally interesting to us," the researchers wrote.
The experiment was not recreated in full due to ethical considerations. Researchers recruited 80 participants -- 40 men and 40 women -- aged between 18 and 69, a vast majority of whom claimed to have never committed electrocution upon learning about the history of the experiment. Each participant was unknowingly paired with an actor, who played the part of the learner, while the study participant played the teacher.
The experiment was conducted in two neighboring rooms. One room was where the learner was hooked up to electrodes, giving the respondents an impression that the learner was to receive electric shocks. The other room was designated to the respondents. The teacher was given levers to control and was instructed to deliver electric shocks whenever the learner made a mistake. Prerecorded screams were played simultaneously when the shocks were delivered.
As the experiment proceeded, the facilitator would ask the respondents to intensify the electric shocks. Comments such as "please continue" and "you have no choice" were given when the participants appeared hesitant to deliver the shock. Researchers said the participants were given debriefing sessions following the experiment. "During this debriefing, [the] participants were told of the details of the procedure, apologized [to] for being deceived at the start of the experiment … and received an explanation of why it was done in that way," researchers noted.
Data showed that some 90 percent of participants were willing to electrocute someone using the highest levels of shocks. However, the number of participants who refused to carry out electrocution was three times higher when the learner was a woman. However, the study's sample size is too small to determine other possible reasons.
"It is exceptionally interesting that in spite of the many years which have passed since the original Milgram experiments, the proportion of people submitting themselves to the authority of [the] experimenter remains very high," the researchers said. "In summary, it can be said that such a high level of obedience among participants, very similar to that attained in the 1960s in the original Milgram studies, is exceptionally fascinating," the researchers added. (Related: Study proves 95% of people really are sheeple.)
"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...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," said researcher Tomasz Grzyb.
These findings were published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.