Thank you for responding to our ad. I'm the experimenter and I'll be talking you through the procedure. The guy behind you has also responded to our ad so you two will we participating together. Just to start off here's $4.50.
The experiment requires that you continue. You have no choice but to continue.
I think I hurt his heart. I don't want to continue!
THE TRUTH REVEALED
This experiment was not studying memory but obedience. The person you were "shocking" was an actor and did not really receive any shocks.
This participant was brought here through the ad that Milgram posted in the local newspaper. He, unknowingly, got chosen to be the "teacher" through a fixed draw. He thinks that he is here to help research memory. In reality, his role in this study will expose how likely we are to obey what we perceive to be legitimate authorities. He will be shocking the "learner" should he get an answer wrong during the test on pre-learned word pairs following the directions of the "experimenter" (a confederate of Milgram).
The "learner" (also a confederate) deliberately answers wrong for most questions during the test in a pre-recorded audio. This stage of the experiment tested how far the participant would go in shocking the "learner". Upon refusal, the "experimenter" had subsequent prompts to ensure that the participant continued. This pressure did make some very stressed and conflicted. All participants went up to 300V and most went to the whole 450V (which could have been a possibly fatal shock).
After that stressful ordeal, Milgram debriefed the participant on the true nature and purpose of the study. They were also assured that the "learner" was safe and sound. This was to make sure that any impacts of taking part in the study were not going to cause long-term psychological damage. Most of the participants actually were grateful for the experience but a small minority regretted taking part in the study. This study showed how we were likely to obey authorities despite being demanded to perform an immoral action.