Monday, July 30, 2007

Psych experiments and their link to Nazi Germany

Nazi Germany demonstrated many aspects of human behaviour, for example we often follow authority and conform to fit in, and secondly that depending on the situation our behaviour and identity can change.

Milgram's Obedience experiment demonstrates that we will often follow authority rather than to listen to our conscience. This element was demonstrated in Nazi Germany, when many of the soldiers turned on their Jewish friends, and assisted in the rounding up and slaughter of around 6 million Jews. Many of us would not be able to comprehend us ever in a situation in which we would perform an act against our conscience of that magnitude. However, in Milgram's experiment it is evident that given a specific situation, and a certain level of authority, we may act against our beliefs and values.

Secondly, the Stanford Prison Experiment presents us with a situation where people who have stepped into specific roles (prison guard and prisoner) act in a way contradictory to thier personality. The participants in this experiment stepped into these roles and reflected how they thought a person in that situation would act. Therefore, could we put the actions of the German soldiers down to the fact that they were acting as soldiers?

Another experiment i feel demonstrates the behaviour of those in Germany during the rule of the Nazi Party, is the Solomon Asch conformity experiment. This experiment shows that in a group situation people will often conform, rather than to go against the group. Therefore it could be seen that the soldiers in Nazi Germany were conforming to the beliefs of those around them (mainly the leaders) rather than to step outside the mob mentality and risk their lives.

Based on these experiments of ordinary people (not in a war situation), do you think that any person given a specific situation could disregard their beliefs and values and turn against their friends?


Amanda said...

Hi Bec,
I know it's scary, but under certain situations i think it is possible for a person to abandon their conscience and values to follow a percieved greater presence, such as a mob or authority figure. Unfortunately it may even lead people to abandon their friends. I think there are a number of differing factors which contribute though, for example age. Children and young adolescents are usually highly impressionable, and unsure of themselves and their own opinions. From a cognitive development perspective children may not have the capacity to critically think for themselves, leaving them more susceptable to brainwashing type behaviour.

In regards to adults abandoning their friends and engaging in prejudice and aggressive behaviour, i am not quite sure. I couldn't image ever acting in that way, but there are many examples out there.....Nazi Germany etc..
I'm not sure what else i have to contribute right now, but i like the topic!

I also found a link for the Solomon Asch study so i thought i might leave it below if you want to check it out, or add it to your page! There are a few other studies there as well

Amanda :)

Fi Braybrooks said...

Hey Bec, after doing reading into genocide and group behaviour, I've also found that it is very easy for an individual to abandon their morals and values and partake in even the most horrific of activities. I think the basis of it all surrounds your loss of identity and individuality (also called deindividuation) within a group. Once you are seemingly 'invisible' to outside entities, you lose all forms of responsibility and accountibility for your actions, leaving the door wide open to partake in any kind of activity! Scary stuff, but very true!