Ethics, deception, and ‘those milgram experiments’

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    Abstract

    Critics who allege that deception in psychology experiments is unjustified frequently cite Stanley Milgram’s ‘obedience experiments’ as evidence. These critics say that arguments for justification tend to downplay the risks involved and overstate the benefits from such research. Milgram, they add, committed both sins. Critics are right to point out that research oversight is often susceptible to self-serving abuse. But stating a priori how beneficial a given experiment will be is a tall order for psychologists, or anyone else. At the same time, critics themselves have difficulty in showing what is wrong with deception, and how subjects in these experiments suffer. Hence, it becomes unclear what the psychologists, including Milgram, are prone to downplay. There is also room to wonder how the Milgram studies can illuminate the debate over deception. Although Milgram probably exaggerated the scientific significance of his own work, critics who exaggerate its moral and historical significance do little to clarify the status of deception.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)245-256
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Applied Philosophy
    Volume18
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    StatePublished - 1 Jan 2001

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