Some new evidence about what really happened in Milgram’s studies has recently come to light. About 10 years, Australian journalist and psychologist Gina Perry discovered that Yale University had an archive with hundreds of audiotapes documenting Milgram’s research. Her study of these tapes have recently been published in a book (‘Behind the shock machine‘, 2013) where she reveals a number of major concerns.
Perhaps most importantly she reveals that the description the procedures does not reflect what actual happened. In reality the experimenter did not limit himself to the four standard prods but used a variety of different commands amounting to being quite coercive. He insisted that the true participant (the ‘teacher’) must keep going and blocked their efforts to swap places with the learner or to check on him. themselves.
A further issue the fact that participants were actually quite suspicious of the setup. Unpublished reports show that some participants noticed that the learner’s cries seemed to be coming from a speaker in the corner of the room, suggesting it was a tape recording. Others noticed that the check given to the learner looked dog-eared and worn, an indication that it had been handed over many times before.
A final issue relates to the debriefing – or ‘dehoax’. Apparently 75% of the participants had no debriefing at all and, of those who were debriefed, nothing was said about the shocks not being real.