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The report by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care said six staffers at a Stoughton residence run by the Canton-based Judge Rotenberg Education Center had ample reason to doubt the orders to administer the shocks, but did nothing to stop it.

The six staff members and video surveillance worker on duty that night were fired on Oct.

Although each of these safeguards came with a methodological price (e.g., the potential effect of screening out certain individuals, the effect of emphasizing that participants could leave at any time), I wanted to take every reasonable measure to ensure that our participants were treated in a humane and ethical manner. I knew from my own participation on the IRB that the proposal would be met with concern and perhaps a little fear by the board’s members. The IRB carefully reviewed and then approved the procedures.

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Students commonly assume that, even if Milgram’s famous experiment sheds important light on the power of situation today, were his experiment precisely reproduced today, it would not generate comparable results.

To oversimplify the argument behind that claim: The power of white lab coats just ain’t what it used to be.

When we look at Milgram’s data, we find that this point in the procedure is something of a “point of no return.” Of the participants who continued past 150 volts, 79 percent went all the way to the highest level of the shock generator (450 volts).

Knowing how people respond up to this point allowed us to make a reasonable estimate of what they would do if allowed to continue to the end. More than 38 percent of the interviewed participants were excluded at this point.

However, we administered a very mild 15-volt shock rather than the 45-volt shock Milgram gave his participants.

Fifth, we allowed virtually no time to elapse between ending the session and informing participants that the learner had received no shocks.

For a very recent one, we take you to Canton, Massachusetts, and specifically the Judge Rotenberg Education Center, a special-education school for students in grades one through 12.

The reports on a harrowing story of students receiving electric shocks because of a prank caller who seemed authoritative. * * * Staff members at a group home made multiple mistakes when they followed a prank caller’s direction to give dozens of electrical shocks to two emotionally disturbed teenagers, according to a report by a state agency that investigated the incident.

Within a few seconds after ending the study, the learner entered the room to reassure the participant he was fine. Given the possibility of a highly visible mistake, the easy response would have been to say “no.” To address these concerns, I created a list of individuals who were experts on Milgram’s studies and the ethical questions surrounding this research. More important, Steven Breckler, a social psychologist who currently serves as the executive director for science at the American Psychological Association, graciously provided an assessment of the proposal’s ethical issues that I shared with the IRB.

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