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In the 1960's, a bizarre psychology experiment was performed by a man named Stanley Milgram to study obedience. He had men individually come into the laboratory at Yale and then told them they would participate in an experiment on "memory and learning." There was another man in the laboratory as well, who was ostensibly just another naive subject, but was really a confederate (co-conspirator of the experimentor).

The men were assigned roles: one was teacher, one was learner. The learner (who was always the confederate) was given a list of word pairs and was told to memorize them. He had to go sit in a separate room and was bound to a chair, from which he could receive electric shocks administered by the "teacher" (the naive participant). The experiment facilitator remained in the room with the teacher, while the other man was supposedly in the other room giving answers to the questions given to him about what word goes with the other.

The man had to give a shock to the learner every time he got a word pair wrong, and had to increase the voltage of the shock with each subsequent incorrect answer. The shocks began with mild voltages, and the machine (which was just an elaborate set-up and had no capability of giving real shocks) went up to voltages that were labeled as "DANGER: Severe Shock." At around 300 volts, the man in the other room would begin pounding on the wall, saying he wanted to be let out and that he was having heart problems, but the teacher was always urged by the experimenter to continue. After 300 volts, the "learner" simply stopped responding to the "teacher's" questions, and the teacher was told to take this as an incorrect response and shock the learner anyway. You'd think that most people would refuse to administer any more shocks once the guy began yelling that he was in pain and pounding on the walls. But the majority of subjects (65%) continued on to the very highest shock, just because the experimenter urged them to, and only stopped when the experimenter told them to.

Milgram wrote in his experiment report that they observed usual signs of anxiety and tension and nervousness in the men administering the supposed shocks, but the most unusual and unexpected thing they saw was fits of nervous laughter. Several men giggled fiercely every time they had to give a shock. A few had continuous laughter, and one man broke into such a seizure of uncontrollable laughter that the facilitator had to end the experiment. Afterwards, the men were interviewed and debriefed (meaning they were told about the true nature of the study), and all men insisted they weren't sadistic, they were just laughing out of nervousness.

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