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Milgram is most famous for his controversial Obedience Study, performed at Yale University in 1961. He was inspired to perform this study by the defense commonly used at the WWII Nuremburg War Criminals Trials, that the Nazi officers and guards implementing the Holocaust had just been “following orders.” Milgram’s Behavioral Study of Obedience tested the extent to which random American civilians could be convinced to inflict pain upon their fellow citizens when ordered to do so by a perceived authority figure. The results of this study horrified the psychological community, the general public, and the study participants themselves once the true nature of the study was explained. This study was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) to review proposed scientific experiments using human subjects, and approve or veto their implementation.
The Robbers Cave Experiment was named after its location, as it took place at a boys summer camp in Robbers Cave State Park, Oklahoma. Sherif identified 22 psychologically-normal, white, middle-class, eleven- and twelve-year-old boys from Connecticut to take part in the experiment. The boys were divided into two groups and Sherif studied how conflict and prejudice were first fostered and then reduced. Sherif concluded that groups have their own biases, prejudices, and culture. The Robbers Cave experiment was most helpful in showing that superordinate goals for both groups can help resolve issues and create peace.
In 1960, following their work with sensory-perception in rats, Gibson and Walk hypothesized that depth perception is inherent knowledge as opposed to a learned process. Their experiment consisted of placing an infant on the visual-cliff apparatus: simply described as a table whose edge has been extended by a piece of solidly fixed Plexiglas. The parent or caregiver would call out to the child from across the Plexiglas. If the child was reluctant to cross the Plexiglas, or “cliff”, to go to its parents, the experimenters assumed that the child was able to perceive depth. The study was published that same year in Scientific American and has come to be one of psychology’s most well-known experiments.
The Stanford Prison Experiment was scheduled to run for two weeks, with the intent of studying situational influences on human behavior. The experiment was shut down after just six days due to how extreme those influences turned out to be. The experiment was conducted from August 14 to August 20, 1971, funded by the US Office of Naval Research, and showed that the random assignment of “prisoner” and “guard” to 24 male college students made a major impact on their psychology and behavior, fostering depression among the prisoners and sadism among the guards.