Ethics For COINTELPRO Criminals #1

Research Ethics


     In 2010 in order to attend a meditation seminar I visited a huge pharmaceutical company in Thousand Oaks, which a friend of mine works for. This corporation owns humongous chemical and biological experiment facilities, and all laboratory buildings are huge enough to occupy almost the whole town. The meditation seminar was held in their lecture hall building. There I saw the corporation’s slogans written on banners and hung on the wall. One of them said: “Be Ethical.”  The moment I saw it, I wondered why such a common sense was written among their business mottos. I felt it even funny since in the environment which I was raised in, basic ethics such as not harming other’s lives, including animals, is supposed to be taught by our parents when we are toddlers. To me, such basic ethics does not seem to suit something that a corporation teaches to full-fledged, adult researchers.

   However, as I took several courses of psychology later at the university, I figured out why such an elemental slogan was hung on the wall at the company’s lecture hall – because unethical experiments do happen. For the same reason, to teach experimenter’s ethics, Milgram’s electric shock experiment has been cited over and over again in psychology classes all over the world.

Milgram’s experiment was unethical because a part of the procedure was deception and the outcome was harmful to the participants. The Milgram’s experiment lacked an agreement from the participants in advance. He should have explained the procedures, especially about the purpose of the experiment before it was carried out. This is called informed consent. All psychology experiments today require to provide participants with enough information about the experiment except the cases where there is a legitimate reason to hide the purpose of the experiment (APA Ethical Codes 3.10).

Moreover, Milgram’s experiment pretended to include torturing the people although actual electric shock was not conducted. Some participants claimed after the experiment that they suffered severe stress from this trick.  
Keitel at Nuremberg Trial (Wilhelm Keitel testifying at the Nuremberg Trials: He claims that he was "just following orders.)

Although there was a deception in this experiment, Milgram seemed to intend to reveal that ordinary people can be cruel if ordered by authority. Probably he hoped that revealing the mechanism of human’s obedience would contribute to preventing the atrocities they had witnessed during the World War II, especially in Germany.

  However, his experiment itself was unethical because apparently he ignored the dignity of the subjects. In other words, under the name of scientific research, Milgram abused authority power. Probably, he assumed that he was superior to ordinary people and had a right to command and/or deceive the participants. This is an irony, because the abuse of authority power was exactly the issue which consequent atrocities we witnessed in the 20th century-- Ordinary German people were ordered to implement inhumane deeds under the Nazis regime.

In addition, it is a contradiction to carry out an experiment in an immoral manner in order to enhance human morality. For example, finding a solution to stop making people cruel, an experiment which induces people’s cruelty is self-contradictory. This is as hypocritic as capital punishment intended to punish a killing by killing a person. Therefore, the similar experiments would not be conducted the way Milgram did. Any research which includes unethical procedures should no longer be performed.



American Psychological Association. (2002). Ethical principles of psychologists and Code of conduct. Washington, D.C: APA.

Post a comment

Private comment



The Writer of 『拝啓 ギャングストーカー犯罪者の皆様』(Dear COINTELPRO Criminals) and <集団ストーカーの死> The Death of Gangstalker; also Co-Editor of 「新しいタイプの人権侵害・暴力」 Unprecedented Human Rights Violation

Latest journals
Latest comments
Latest trackbacks
Monthly archive
Search form
Display RSS link.
Friend request form

Want to be friends with this user.