Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cyberspace May Overcome Ethical Constraints In Experiments

Date:
December 25, 2006
Source:
University College London
Summary:
Psychological experiments that stopped 40 years ago because of ethical concerns could instead be conducted in cyberspace in the future.

Psychological experiments that stopped 40 years ago because of ethical concerns could instead be conducted in cyberspace in the future.

Related Articles


By repeating the Stanley Milgram's classic experiment from the 1960s on obedience to authority -- that found people would administer apparently lethal electrical shocks to a stranger at the behest of an authority figure -- in a virtual environment, the UCL (University College London) led study demonstrated for the first time that participants reacted as though the situation was real.

The finding, which is reported in the inaugural edition of the journal PLoS ONE, demonstrates that virtual environments can provide an alternative way of pursuing laboratory-based experimental research that examines extreme social situations.

Professor Mel Slater, of the UCL Department of Computer Science, who led the study, says: "The line of research opened up by Milgram was of tremendous importance in the understanding of human behaviour. It has been argued before that immersive virtual environment can provide a useful tool for social psychological studies in general and our results show that this applies even in the extreme social situation investigated by Stanley Milgram."

Stanley Milgram originally carried out the series of experiments in an attempt to understand events in which people carry out horrific acts against their fellows. He showed that in a social structure with recognised lines of authority, ordinary people could be relatively easily persuaded to give what seemed to be even lethal electric shocks to another randomly chosen person. Today, his results are often quoted in helping to explain how people become embroiled in organised acts of violence against others, for example they have been recently cited to explain prisoner abuse and even suicide bombings.

Following the style of the original experiments, the participants were invited to administer a series of word association memory tests to the (female) virtual human representing the stranger. When she gave an incorrect answer the participants were instructed to administer an 'electric shock' to her, increasing the voltage each time she gave an incorrect answer. She responded with increasing discomfort and protests, eventually demanding termination of the experiment. Of the 34 participants 23 saw and heard the virtual human and 11 communicated with her only through a text interface.

The experiments were conducted in an immersive virtual environment, formed by a computer-generated surrounding real-time display. It delivers a life-sized virtual reality within which a person can experience events and interact with representations of objects and virtual humans.

The results show there was a clear behavioural difference between the two groups depending on whether they could see the virtual human. All participants in the Hidden Condition (HC) administered all 20 shocks. However, in the Visible Condition (VC) 17 gave all 20 shocks, 3 gave 19 shocks, and 18, 16 and 9 shocks were given by one person each.

Participants were asked whether they had considered aborting the experiment. Almost half of those who could see the virtual human indicated they had because of their negative feelings about what was happening. Measurements of physiological indicators including heart rate and heart rate variability also indicated that participants reacted as though the situation was real.

"The results demonstrate that even though all experimental participants knew that the situation was unreal, they nevertheless tended to respond as if it were," Professor Slater.

"This opens the door to the systematic use of virtual environments for laboratory style study of situations that are otherwise impossible whether for practical or ethical reasons -- for example, violence associated with football, racial attacks, gang attacks on individuals, and so on. Why do some people participate in such activities even though it is against their nature? The original Milgram experiment helps to explain this, and the exploitation of virtual environments may help to further research into these difficult and pressing questions."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University College London. "Cyberspace May Overcome Ethical Constraints In Experiments." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 December 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061221074947.htm>.
University College London. (2006, December 25). Cyberspace May Overcome Ethical Constraints In Experiments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061221074947.htm
University College London. "Cyberspace May Overcome Ethical Constraints In Experiments." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061221074947.htm (accessed January 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Computers & Math News

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Google High-Speed Service Coming to 4 Cities

Google High-Speed Service Coming to 4 Cities

AP (Jan. 28, 2015) Google is expanding its fiber-optic high-speed internet service to four cities in the Southeastern US. The company selected Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh and Nashville and their surrounding communities. (Jan. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
PlayStation Now Smart TV App

PlayStation Now Smart TV App

Rumble (Jan. 27, 2015) PlayStation Now Smart TV app is coming soon and will be available on both Sony and Samsung HDTV, allowing you to play games without even a counsel! Check out the video for more info. Credit to &apos;booredatwork&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
WikiLeaks Accuses Google of Handing Over Emails to US

WikiLeaks Accuses Google of Handing Over Emails to US

AFP (Jan. 27, 2015) Whistleblowing site WikiLeaks accused Google of handing over the emails and electronic data of its senior staff to the US authorities without providing notification until almost three years later. Duration: 01:09 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Bite Victim Making Amazing Recovery

Shark Bite Victim Making Amazing Recovery

AP (Jan. 27, 2015) A Texas woman who lost more than five pounds of flesh to a shark in the Bahamas earlier this month could be released from a Florida hospital soon. Experts believe she was bitten by a bull shark while snorkeling. (Jan. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins