Movie Review​: Experimenter

Hello! 

It is not often that one gets to watch movies while working! However, one of my goals for my Research Fellowship is to understand how to conduct research. This film examined a famous study and brought about an essential question of research ethics. This film was valuable to me because considering ethics is very important when understanding how research is conducted.

The basis of this story is about Stanley Milgram and his experiment on obedience to authority. His curiosity about the subject was piqued because of Adolf Eichmann’s trial. Adolf Eichmann was responsible for transporting millions of European Jews to extermination camps. And when he was put on trial, he simply explained that he was doing what he was told and saw no guilt in doing his job. 

And so, Milgram wanted to explore why people are obedient to authority. He conducted an experiment in which a test subject would be assigned the position of the “teacher,” and there would be a “learner” who was in on the study. The teacher had to read word pairs off to the learner, and then the learner would have to repeat the word pairs. And when the learner would answer incorrectly, the teacher would have to administer shocks to the learner and increase the voltage with every wrong answer. As the voltage grew, the teachers became very uncomfortable with giving the learner shocks. However, it was unknown to the teacher that shocks were not actually being administered. And even though there was no reason to keep shocking the learner, the teacher always continued with the experiment when told to do so by an authority.

This experiment sparked a debate about research ethics and if his test caused psychological harm to the subjects. Although Milgram argued that his subjects had the choice to leave and not shock the learner. However, Milgram was using deceit to measure the obedience to authority, and some have taken his study the wrong way. While I think that his research could have caused psychological harm, how else would have Milgram studied his experiment? I think that that is the only that Milgram could have studied obedience to authority.

This film provided a lot of insight to me on what research ethics are and how important it is for research to be ethical. Learning about research is important to me because I aspire to go to grad school. Another thing that I learned from this movie (and in educational psychology) is that you have to define the intervening variables and modify the experiment. You would want your study to be as fair as possible and think of all the variables that could affect the result of the research. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and all that it has taught me!

Thanks for reading!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Reid Riggle

    I have not seen the film, but I am very aware of the study and I have a copy of the original text. As you say, this study brought to light issues about the ethics of research with human subjects. In our current unit on Behaviorism we are studying an earlier case, “Little Albert,” a study by Watson, see https://drrbehaviorism.weebly.com/watson.html.