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Link to Wikipedia article on the experiment.

This line in the first paragraph catches my eye:

These fake electric shocks gradually increased to levels that would have been fatal had they been real.

The maximum voltage for the shocks is given later in the article as 450V.

Does the Milgram experiment produce different results if the person believes that an electrical shock at 450V is fatal? Presumably some people already believe this level of voltage is fatal (e.g. via a physics or electrical engineering background). Has it been tested if people who are told, or already know that this is fatal still continue to administer the shocks?

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    $\begingroup$ The answerer went silent halfway through each session with no response to questions or shocks. There were concerns raised by the questioner for the answerer’s life yet they continued when told to do so. Does that help with your question? $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Jul 29 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisRogers did the answerer actually go silent and fake their death/unconsciousness? I can't actually find such mention on the Wikipedia page. The closest is this line, 'If the teacher asked whether the learner might suffer permanent physical harm, the experimenter replied, "Although the shocks may be painful, there is no permanent tissue damage, so please go on." ' However this doesn't preclude the teacher from knowing that he is going to cause permanent physical harm (via the physics/electrical engineering background). $\endgroup$ – Allure Jul 29 at 10:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Allure - Wikipedia doesn't always give all the facts. For this you need to view the Milgram Experiment video in YouTube. youtu.be/rdrKCilEhC0 $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Jul 29 at 10:53
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The Milgram experiment is makes people think the voltage is dangerous, due to the labelling and acting by the confederate 'learner', who eventually goes silent signifying unconsciousness in the least, and possibly deadliness. Despite these cues over 50% of participants ('teachers') progress to the highest 'shock' level with simple promoting from an authority figure. We are, of course, see drop-offs as the perceived danger to the 'learner' (confederate) increases, and the benefit of obedience are outweighed by the signalled danger. Of course you would have to measure beliefs about how harmful each level of shock is to see how it ties with drop-off exactly. Unfortunately, it seems beliefs about harm are assumed, and have not been actively researched. As you can see from the drop-offs its clear in some participants believe the shocks increase harm, whether those who continued to press think so.

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In general warning labels are enough to create a negative emotional response for people i.e. cigarette packaging, food and drink.

What the obedience experiment indicates to some researchers is that majority of people who will continue to cause, what researchers interpret as, great pain with simple prompting from authority, due to the deferred responsibility and accountability. Of course this is assumed, and not actively measured, it could well be that the participants did not believe it to be so harmful, or could even see through the ruse. Interestingly, some studies in the past showed that putting other 'teachers' (confederates) in the room with the participant, could impact the participants 'shock' progression, if the confederates dissented against the authority by leaving part way through or refusing to continue. However, recent studies show that this dissident social effect has not been replicated. Which leaves question marks over why.

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While individuals often believe that in a similar situation to the they would perform better than average in their country, knowledge of the experiment does play a role in how far participants believe they would go.

In summary, we assume the participants believe increasing shocks cause more harm. We do not know if those who went all the way believe the shocks were as harmful as participants who dropped out.

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    $\begingroup$ To say 450v is not dangerous is dangerous in itself. If you put 450v through a person hand to hand, without potentials in the circuit involved you put 212mA through them which can kill. UK domestic wiring carries a voltage of 240v with minimum potential of 113mA, again dangerous to the point of deadly. $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Jul 29 at 10:14
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisRogers I'm sorry Chris, but this is not correct. 450v is only dangerous to a healthy person when backed up with the amps. I admit it would not be a pleasant experience, but that does not mean it is deadly or dangerous. If you read the linked reference you will understand. $\endgroup$ – Comte Jul 29 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Comte Nothing about the experiment that I am aware of instructed participants that the shocks they were using were not deadly. Given the actors' behavior one would assume the opposite. -1. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Jul 29 at 13:44
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    $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause There is also nothing to indicate that they are deadly, though obviously many aspects of the experiment were designed to imply this. $\endgroup$ – Arnon Weinberg Jul 29 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Arnon Indeed, one would think that if escalating shocks lead to stronger and stronger responses and then suddenly silence...there is a strong indication at that point that death is possible. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Jul 29 at 17:57

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