Nature or Nurture?
A few years ago, in one of the most fascinating and disturbing experiments in behavioural psychology, Stanley Milgram of Yale University tested 40 subjects from all walks of life for their willingness to obey instructions given by a 'leader' in a situation in which the subjects might feel a personal distaste for the actions they were called upon to perform. Specifically Milgram told each volunteer ‘teacher-subject’ that the experiment was in the noble cause of education, and was designed to test whether or not punishing pupils for their mistakes would have a positive effect on the pupils' ability to learn.
Milgram's experimental set-up involved placing the teacher-subject before a panel of thirty switches with labels ranging from '15 volts of electricity （slight shock）' to '450 volts （danger—severe shock）' in steps of 15 volts each. The teacher-subject was told that whenever the pupil gave the wrong answer to a question, a shock was to be administered, beginning at the lowest level and increasing in severity with each successive wrong answer. The supposed 'pupil' was in reality an actor hired by Milgram to simulate receiving the shocks by emitting a spectrum of groans, screams and writings together with an assortment of statements and expletives denouncing both the experiment and the experimenter. Milgram told the teacher-subject to ignore the reactions of the pupil, and to administer whatever level of shock was called for, as per the rule governing the experimental situation of the moment.
As the experiment unfolded, the pupil would deliberately give the wrong answers to questions posed by the teacher, thereby bringing on various electrical punishments, even up to the danger level of 300 volts and beyond. Many of the teacher-subjects balked at administering the higher levels of punishment, and turned to Milgram with questioning looks and/or complaints about continuing the exp