On my first day of college, back in 2003, I sat down for my first lesson in psychology, a subject I was already interested in…
…and I learnt about an experiment that blew me away.
Back in the 60s, a Harvard professor set up an experiment about teaching and learning.
He wanted to see whether electric shocks would help people learn things faster (or so he said).
The experimenter set things up so that there were two volunteers – one a “teacher” and the other a “learner”.
They sat in different rooms where they couldn’t see each other, but they could hear each other.
The “teacher” asked questions and every time the “learner” got one wrong…
…the “teacher” would give them an electric shock!
With each wrong answer, the shock-o-meter (not the official name!) would go up a notch.
After a while, the “learner” would start screaming due to the pain of the shocks being given.
More often than not, the “teacher” would refuse or hesitate in giving the shocks as it must have been a horrific thing to do.
Each time the “teacher” refused, a professor (who sat in the room with him/her) wearing a white lab coat…
…would coldly ask them to “please continue the experiment”.
Two-thirds of the “teachers” took the experiment all the way to the extremely dangerous and deadly 450 volts.
100% of them took the experiment up to 300 volts…
…the point at which the learner (i.e. victim) refused or couldn’t respond to the pain.
This shocked the world of psychology.
It’s a relief to say, no one actually got hurt during the experiment.
The “learner” was actually a stooge pretending to be in pain.
Therefore, the experiment was NOT real.
So then, what was the point of the experiment?
For the experimenter, the brilliant Stanley Milgram, who was Jewish, it was to find answers to atrocities that happened during the Holocaust.
He wanted to know how people could murder so many innocent people just because they were told to and how they did, without question.
This experiment helped to explain the power of obedience and how people can blindly follow the orders of others in authority. (The authority figure was the professor in the lab coat telling them to carry on).
The “teachers” in the experiment all showed signs of distress at giving the shocks, yet they carried on – simply because the professor in a lab coat, a man of big authority, asked them to do so.
It’s a really powerful experiment.
It explains a lot about human behaviour, the mind, and just how blindly people follow advice from those who are authority figures.
You see this all the time in the world of music tuition.
So many teachers, friends, and random people dish out advice with an “it’s my way or the highway” mentality.
This isn’t good for no one.
I always say, when listening to others, remember, there is more than one way to skin a cat.
In other words, with the guitar, which is a flexible instrument (due to the fact that you can play most notes somewhere else on the fretboard) you have options on how to do things.
- There’s sometimes a clear cut right way and a wrong way.
- There’s sometimes a better way or worse way.
- And sometimes there are just opinions and options.
One thing to take from this is don’t be like the subjects in Milgram’s experiment and don’t be afraid to question things!
There are a lot of people out there who can be opinionated on how you should do certain things on the guitar, and they are not always right.
Remember, people often expect you to learn exactly as they did, and that’s not always the best way for you.
Anyway, I hope you found the Milgram experiment as fascinating as I did, and it helps you remember that you don’t always have to follow people’s advice blindly – it’s okay to ask questions and do things your way.
Have a great day and keep enjoying your playing!
P.S. If you want help with things, someone to ask for advice, and to join like-minded guitarists while learning the most important techniques around, check out my Elite Guitarist Inner Circle.
It now contains a brand new mini-forum which is the place to ask all your questions, find balanced advice on any guitar related subject, and get help when needed.
It’s a really exciting new addition. To join, hit the link below…
P.P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.