Historical perspectives and their significant impact on the development of ethical standards governing research using human participants

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What the teachers did not know was that the third person who played the role of learner was in fact a confederate of the investigator. No shocks were administered. The learner (who deliberately gave wrong answers) only pretended to be hurt. The real intent of the experiment was to see how far the participant could be pushed under the guise of complying with authority. At the completion of the experiment (either after the maximum shock was ostensibly given or upon firm refusal by the participant to continue), the confederate came out of his room and demonstrated to the participant that he was uninjured. A debriefing with the participant was held that explained the deception and the real purpose of the study. During the debriefing interviews, participants often justified their actions by saying that they were only following instructions. (A similar line was taken by the Nazi defendants).

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