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The volunteer participants are greeted by the experimenter, along with Mr. Wallace, whom they believe to be another participant when in fact he is a confederate. They select roles by a rigged hat draw, which makes sure that the participant always gets the role of teacher and Mr. Wallace is always the learner. The experimenter then explains the procedure.
The experiment requires that you continue.
Mr. Wallace is then strapped into a chair by the experimenter while the participant watches. The experimenter tells Mr. Wallace that while the shocks hurt, there is no permanent tissue damage. The participant is then gives a sample shock of 45 volts to convince them that the shocks are legitimate.
You have no other choice. You must go on.
The participant and the experimenter then go to another room, where the experimenter tells the participant that this is a paired associate task. This means that the participant will teach Mr. Wallace a set of word pairs, and then test him on what he has taught him. For every wrong answer, the participant must shock Mr. Wallace, going up in 15 volt increments all the way up to 450 volts. Mr. Wallace gave 3 wrong answers to every 1 correct answer.
All participants went to 300 volts. At 300 volts, the learner would bang on the wall then go on to give no more responses. The experimenter used standardised verbal prods to tell the participant to keep going, as well as telling him that no response is to be considered incorrect. The participants showed signs of extreme anxiety such as sweating, trembling and some even collapsing into seizures.
14/40 participants refused to go on. 65% of all participants went up to 450 volts
The experimenter kept using increasingly severe verbal prods to urge the participants to continue. However, the experiment ended if the participant refused to go on, or they reached the maximum voltage.
After the experiment, the participant would be debriefed and reconciled with Mr. Wallace. They would also be sent a follow-up questionnaire about their experience, and some would be interviewed. They were all told that their behaviour was normal and they shouldn't worry.
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