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DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

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DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby Bludgeon » Thu Aug 01, 2013 9:47 am

The Milgram Experiment was (briefly) a famous experiment where you would take an average, everyday ordinary person - an old lady for example, and present her with what she believes is a scenario where she's in a position to punish (or "teach") a criminal in order to produce a desired behavior:

By Milgram, Stanley
The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol 67(4), Oct 1963, 371-378. wrote:
The experimenter (E) orders the teacher (T), the subject of the experiment, to give what the latter believes are painful electric shocks to a learner (L), who is actually an actor and confederate. The subject believes that for each wrong answer, the learner was receiving actual electric shocks, though in reality there were no such punishments. Being separated from the subject, the confederate set up a tape recorder integrated with the electro-shock generator, which played pre-recorded sounds for each shock level. After a number of voltage level increases, the actor started to bang on the wall that separated him from the subject. After several times banging on the wall and complaining about his heart condition, all responses by the learner would cease.

At this point, many people indicated their desire to stop the experiment and check on the learner. Some test subjects paused at 135 volts and began to question the purpose of the experiment. Most continued after being assured that they would not be held responsible. A few subjects began to laugh nervously or exhibit other signs of extreme stress once they heard the screams of pain coming from the learner. If the subject still wished to stop after all four successive verbal prods, the experiment was halted. Otherwise, it was halted after the subject had given the maximum 450-volt shock three times in succession.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

Milgram polled Yale psych majors, his own colleagues, and forty psychiatrists from a medical school about their predictions. Basing these predictions on what turned out to be flawed conventional wisdom, the general thrust of all predictions was the supposition that not more than 3-4% of all subjects would inflict the maximum volt shock upon the "learner". After conducting the experiment and recording that a shocking sixty-five percent of all subjects had been induced to inflict what they believed to be a fatal shock to the Learner, Milgram wrote:

"The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous importance, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' [participants'] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' [participants'] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority"
Last edited by Bludgeon on Thu Aug 01, 2013 9:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby Bludgeon » Thu Aug 01, 2013 9:47 am

Milgram's focus was on obedience but I've always drawn from it a number of parallels. I find it to be illustrative of the potentials of human nature. When I hear on NPR this morning that lawmakers are again going to meet at the capitol building to gin up more hysteria about the DUI laws in Wisconsin, I think of the Milgram Experiment.

Because, the severity of these laws is already brutal in the extreme. Being clear: this is a wide net they're casting. Our problem is particularly 1). severely inebriated bingers and 2). problem alcoholics who are physically addicted, essentially these are people who can't stop driving because they can't stop drinking. In response we have passed laws to target:

    1. First offenders with a 0.08 BAC
    2. Second offenders with as little as 0.01 BAC
    3. (Get mad hippies) anybody whom it can be established is under the influence of marijuana or any other narcotic.
Using this threshold on a Friday night, the 'perp demographic' is pretty much everybody: buzzed, wasted, young, old, black, white, gay, straight, male, female, you pull people over on a Friday night, very rarely will it be the coincidence that there's a designated driver behind the wheel.

Statistically, not many of the people on the road are actually a danger to anyone. However, the penalty for the girl with the 0.08 BAC is the same as for the alky with the exploding liver who crashes into a telephone pole; then once she gets that first one, if there's so much as a trace of alcohol in her system next time (translation she's not drunk), she gets her bell rung by the state for some TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS, what this is a kid taking a poli-sci major, here we are just gouging her future to bits.

I am saying, the lawmakers out legislating these crimes are getting way out of hand. Under Doyle, under Walker, terrorized by the M.A.D.D. gestapo, these "teachers" are hitting the "learners" with a lethal 450 volt dose. Like the subjects in the experiment, they've moved on from simply trying to correct a problem, and settled comfortably in to a 'devastator' role.

At best, we're doing a terrible job of targeting the real threat with these DUI laws - just a horrible job. At worst, state lawmakers have lost touch with the incredible impact that penalties of this stature are bound to have upon the lives of those receiving them. This is what we want to do to the kids in our community? Just stick them straight in prison?

Unfortunately, 'moralists' are too quick to equate apples to oranges as well as to apply the earned stigma of problem offenders, to the whole group caught in their net. These hugely severe penalties may be right (or even insufficient) for out-of-control personalities racking up 10+ DUI's, but I believe it's glaringly apparent that such extreme penalties are far out of proportion with what's merited by a UW college student who get's pulled over with a point zero eight blood alcohol level. We're trying to generate a class of trained professionals - what'a we gonna do, throw'em in the slammer?

What they need to be doing is lowering these penalties and creating smarter divisions of legal classifications for people caught over this limit. The state (at this point) needs to show and demonstrate it's not simply ganking people for the revenue. A college kid pulled over with the 0.08 legal limit the first time and a second time charged as a "second offender" with a BAC of zero point zero one, should not be spending thousands of dollars installing a faulty breathalyzer system into their car. The police need to have ways to designate - legal limit aside - who is a risk, who is a problem, and who is probably okay. If there's a constructive purpose to ours and other states' DUI policies, NOW is a good time to show it.

Add: As a person who almost never drinks, I'm posting on this subject sheerly in reaction to having heard on the radio that they're considering still more harmful DUI laws.
Last edited by Bludgeon on Thu Aug 01, 2013 9:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby Henry Vilas » Thu Aug 01, 2013 9:56 am

Wisconsin is the only state that just gives out a traffic ticket for a first time DUI. The proposed changes would not affect that over lenient law.
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Re: DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby Bludgeon » Thu Aug 01, 2013 10:16 am

Henry Vilas wrote:Wisconsin is the only state that just gives out a traffic ticket for a first time DUI. The proposed changes would not affect that over lenient law.

That's not a very good answer, Henry. What about this nonsense about giving people a DUI for driving under "the influence of marijuana"? Its ridiculous. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure you go to jail as well as receive a ticket on your first DUI; maybe I'm mistaken but what I've been told by a number of people is that you get arrested right off, although it's not a mandatory jail sentence.
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Re: DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby rabble » Thu Aug 01, 2013 10:26 am

Bludgeon wrote: Furthermore, I'm pretty sure you go to jail as well as receive a ticket on your first DUI; maybe I'm mistaken but what I've been told by a number of people is that you get arrested right off, although it's not a mandatory jail sentence.

Sounds like you know quite a few people who drink and drive. :-)

Think a minute: After you fail the test and get the ticket, what do you think happens? Pay your fine and drive away?
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Re: DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby snoqueen » Thu Aug 01, 2013 10:46 am

Going back to the Milgram Experiment for a moment, it's a landmark for another reason. A number of the subjects who were led to believe they'd delivered lethal shocks were so traumatized afterward they required psychological care. As a result, the experimental model was declared unethical and since that time, guidelines for more responsible treatment of subjects (who are usually volunteers, not even paid) were instituted.

As far as drunk driving laws go, we're definitely using a sledgehammer to squash ants. The laws need to target the most egregious offenders and repeat offenders, not cast such a wide net. The goal is public safety, not just putting on a big show. If we keep on making dumber and dumber laws, we'll eventually lose the public support we've taken such care to build up.
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Re: DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby rabble » Thu Aug 01, 2013 11:10 am

snoqueen wrote:As far as drunk driving laws go, we're definitely using a sledgehammer to squash ants. The laws need to target the most egregious offenders and repeat offenders, not cast such a wide net. The goal is public safety, not just putting on a big show. If we keep on making dumber and dumber laws, we'll eventually lose the public support we've taken such care to build up.

Unless you can provide numbers to show that the repeat offenders are causing all the deaths, I have to disagree. The reason the public doesn't like the laws is because the public thinks we ought to be able to drive drunk and we should only punish the people who aren't careful enough when they're driving drunk.

I don't share that opinion and I'm in favor of the European zero tolerance laws.

And I note that zero tolerance is a way of life here too, except for alcohol.
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Re: DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby gargantua » Thu Aug 01, 2013 11:33 am

rabble wrote:
snoqueen wrote:As far as drunk driving laws go, we're definitely using a sledgehammer to squash ants. The laws need to target the most egregious offenders and repeat offenders, not cast such a wide net. The goal is public safety, not just putting on a big show. If we keep on making dumber and dumber laws, we'll eventually lose the public support we've taken such care to build up.

I don't share that opinion and I'm in favor of the European zero tolerance laws.

European zero tolerance laws make more sense in Europe, because in Europe, there are many alternatives to driving in order to get from place to place. Most people here would never risk the consequences of getting nailed for DUI if they had the alternative of hopping aboard the convenient Metro that rolls by every 5 minutes. But we don't, so we have a culture in which people who are mildly buzzed take their chances. I think the public support that Sno alludes to is long gone. People are voting with their behavior. Few people argue against draconian DUI laws publicly because those few who do get painted as alcoholic-in-denial irresponsible monsters by the teetotaler lobby.
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Re: DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby rabble » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:24 pm

Yes. In Europe they have decent public transport and we don't.

So instead of advocating better public transport, we're drifting towards lax drunk driving laws which isn't all that surprising. More third world behavior.
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Re: DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby green union terrace chair » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:31 pm

I choose to drive my car to a tavern. I know I'll be drinking.
I choose to have a beer. I know I'm driving home.
I choose to have a second beer. I know I'm driving home.
I choose to have a third beer. I know I'm driving home.
I choose to have a fourth beer. I know I'm driving home.
I get in my car with a BAC of around .08%.

I get pulled over. Can't you be lenient? It was an accident.
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Re: DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby Francis Di Domizio » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:44 pm

rabble wrote:The reason the public doesn't like the laws is because the public thinks we ought to be able to drive drunk and we should only punish the people who aren't careful enough when they're driving drunk.

I don't share that opinion and I'm in favor of the European zero tolerance laws.

And I note that zero tolerance is a way of life here too, except for alcohol.


100% agree. When it comes down to it, the difference between the person caught for the first time and the the guy with three priors who just crashed into a family of four, is dumb luck. A drunk driver pretty much is deciding not having to go back and find their car in the morning is more important then the life of anyone they might encounter on their drive home.

gargantua wrote:uropean zero tolerance laws make more sense in Europe, because in Europe, there are many alternatives to driving in order to get from place to place. Most people here would never risk the consequences of getting nailed for DUI if they had the alternative of hopping aboard the convenient Metro that rolls by every 5 minutes. But we don't, so we have a culture in which people who are mildly buzzed take their chances.


So fix the bus system, and while you are waiting call a cab. If they were just taking a chance with their own lives, it wouldn't be an issue. It's the fact that they decide to take that chance for the rest of us where I see an issue.

gargantua wrote:Few people argue against draconian DUI laws publicly because those few who do get painted as alcoholic-in-denial irresponsible monsters by the teetotaler lobby.

So saying be responsible for your actions = teetotaler?
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Re: DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby Detritus » Thu Aug 01, 2013 1:07 pm

Bludgeon wrote:...terrorized by the M.A.D.D. gestapo....

Just highlighting a phrase here that caught my eye for some reason.
As a person who almost never drinks....

This one, too.
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Re: DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby Crockett » Thu Aug 01, 2013 1:33 pm

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Re: DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby gargantua » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:48 pm

rabble wrote:Yes. In Europe they have decent public transport and we don't.

So instead of advocating better public transport, we're drifting towards lax drunk driving laws which isn't all that surprising. More third world behavior.


Are we really drifting toward lax drunk driving laws? When was the last time Wisconsin's drunk driving penalties were made more lenient?
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Re: DUI Laws and the Milgram Experiment.

Postby wallrock » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:08 pm

One problem I have with the zero tolerance approach is it's actually difficult to know your own BAC and therefore know that you're breaking the law. Of course this doesn't really apply to someone completely shitfaced, but does anyone really know the difference between 0.06 and 0.08?

I've always kept to the one drink/one hour rule if I'm driving. I've heard this is roughly the rate a male of my age and size processes alcohol but I've never actually tested myself. I don't really do the bar scene anymore but I remember seeing a coin-operated BAC tester once in a bar in the UP. I think this would be a lot more useful to people than using a general drink per hour ratio and hoping it holds true (though I do recall there being a load of legal disclaimers affixed to that machine).
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