Social Psychology Experiments


Social Psychology Experiments


This essay focuses on social psychology experiments which are explained and evaluated on the basis of free will. The main experiments that were selected for the essay were:Stanley Milgram Experiment, Seminary Students experiment and phone booth experiment. The main argument is whether the experiments are against free will by showing that people lack free will or not. In this case, the discussion supports the argument that people lack free will based on the fact that they were influenced by the set of rules given by the person in charge. Their behavior was also influenced by the situation.


The aim of Stanley Milgram Experiment was to find out why people would do horrible things they would not do on their own by obeying the commands they are given. He carried out an experiment based on how punishment relates to memory. The participants were men aged between twenty and fifty years whereby forty men were chosen. They picked slips of paper from the hat in determining who the teacher and the learner would be. The participant was always the teacher who listened to the cover story and was able to see the seat of the learner during the experiment (Mele, 2014). This was supposed to be the chair where the teacher would administer an electric shock to the learner every time they gave answers which were not correct. He watched as the learner was strapped into an electric chair with the straps preventing the learner from making a lot of movements when being shocked. The scientist had assured the teacher that despite the shocks being painful they would not cause any permanent damage on the tissues. When the participants felt that they would not continue with the experiment, they were given replies such as:” Please continue” and “You have no other choice, you must go on.”

Twenty six out of forty participants continued shocking until the end and no participant stopped shocking before the twentieth shock. Five stopped after the twentieth, four after the next one and the other four dropped later. The participants were sweating, stuttering, twitching, nervous laughter and had massive tension. They were not supposed to stop and the experiment was terminated if a participant did not continue after being told he had no choice.

The decisions made had to do with personal control. What one did was based on an individual or the situation. The role of the teacher had a huge effect on how the participants behaved and they were really in control of what they were doing. The experiment appeared to control them. It is hard to administer painful shocks to learners in order to help a scientist in their experiment (Kane, 2011). Therefore, the learners acted against their free will.

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In Seminary students experiment,some of the students were supposed to hurry to give a short presentation in a nearby building after their discussion. Others were told to be a bit in a hurry while others were not supposed to hurry at all and could take their time. On their way to the building, they passed a person who was slumped in a doorway and as they approached, the person coughed and groaned. The aim of the researchers was to see the students who would stop to offer help out of the forty participants. Students who were in not in hurry only sixty three percent offered some help, forty five percent of those who were in a bit of hurry offered help while only ten percent of student who were in big hurry offered help. People who were in a big hurry valued the presentation more so they could not have time to help. The situation they were in affected their behavior (Mele, 2014).

The participants were supposed to run for help since this was the right thing to do. They had the free will of running for help but they did not and ended up making a bad decision of not helping which could have been made freely. In this experiment, the participants were not total victims of their situation. In as much as the situations influenced them, they were determined by the situation. As such, they ended up acting against the free will.

Phone both experiment was based on finding out how the mood affects the behavior of individuals. This was when people used pay phones in phone booths and would pay a dime for local calls and would line up as used the phone. The person carrying out the experiment would live a dime in the coin return gizmo while in other occasions they would not live it (Mele, 2014). When the dime was left, the experimenter would discreetly watch to see if the next caller would find it. The control group did not find anything as they received change after depositing a quarter.

The sidekick of the experimenter would wait at a distance and people completed their calls and left the phone booth. Then she walked near the person and dropped a folder that had papers in the person’s path making it seem like an accident. The sidekick did not have an idea whether the people had found a dime or not with only the experimenter having an idea. The results showed that only fourteen people stopped to help, sixteen found the dime while twenty five people were not able to see the dime with only one stopping to help.

Finding the dime could have put the fourteen participants in a good mood to help since the woman needed help. Being in a good mood is a situation that made it easier to make the decision of helping the woman.  Therefore, those who did not find the dime acted against the free will of helping the woman since they were not in a good mood. The situation influenced them.

These experiments successfully show that people lack free will. The behavior of the participants was to a large extent based on the set of rules given by the person in charge. As such, when the participants violate the rules it could lead to feelings of awkwardness and embarrassments such that they preferred to accept the submissive roles they were given (Rigoni et al., 2011). This shows that the participants lacked the free will of doing what they would have done if there were no rules. In fact, if there were no rules they would have done what is right and what an individual would have done on normal circumstances out of free will.

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In Milgram’s experiment, the participants were forced to endure the pain caused by the shocks since there were rules that they were not supposed to stop. The teacher was given rules and so they had an effect on the behavior of the participants. Milgram was interested in the experiment and not the pain that the participants endured. Normally, they could have stopped the experiment if it was painful but in this case they did not have the free will to do so since there were set rules that they had adhered to. This was the same case with the seminary students although the participants were not the main victims of the situation. The least percentage that offered help to the person was those who were in a big hurry. They acted against their free will since they had been given rules that they were supposed to hurry in a nearby building for presentation. On the other hand, the fourteen participants on the phone booth were motivated to help after finding the dime. Those who did not find the dime only person helped. The issue of freewill in this case was influenced by the aspect of finding the dime.


In these experiments, it is a bad human behavior in that people would rather suffer or let something bad happen than behave in a socially responsible manner. This is attributed to fact that people may lack free will in most cases based on a given situation. This happens mostly when someone is in power and is dictating what should be done.


Kane, R. (Ed.). (2011). The Oxford handbook of free will. OUP USA.

Mele, A. R. (2014). A dialogue on free will and science. New York: Oxford University Press.

Rigoni, D., Kühn, S., Sartori, G., & Brass, M. (2011). Inducing disbelief in free will alters brain correlates of preconscious motor preparation: The brain minds whether we believe in free will or not. Psychological science22(5), 613-618.

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