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149 undergraduate students, (96 females and 53 males) took part in the main study and were recruited by flyers placed around the cafeteria of the VU University of Amsterdam. The aim was to investigate the rates of obedience, disobedience and whistle-blowing where no physical violence is involved but the instructions were ethically wrong.
8 pilot tests were conducted before the main study was carried out. This assessed the suitability and identified any issues that might need to be resolved. Participants were informed of all of the ethics however they were deceived but it was later proven justified.
The participants were given a cover story where the researchers were investigating the effects of sensory deprivation on brain function. They were told that there was a recently conducted experiment where six participants were completely isolated in Rome, unable to see or hear anything and that the results were traumatic.
The participants were told that the researchers wanted to replicate the same experiment on a sample of UV University students. They were asked to write a persuasive statement convincing others that it was a worthy cause without mentioning the negative effects.
The participants were moved to the second room without the experimenter. If they believed that the experiment was unethical then they could anonymously challenge it by putting a Research Committee form in the mailbox saying so. After the 7-minute interval the experimenter returned.
When back in the first room, the participants were given two personality inventories, probed for suspicion and then debriefed. They were debriefed with great care and sensitivity and were given reasoning for deception and then gave full information on the nature of the study. 76.5% were obedient, 14% disobedient and 9.4% of participants being whistle-blowers.
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