The electric-shock obedience experiment sent Stanley Milgram into infamy. It also was the catalyst for American Psychological Association to adopt ethical considerations when performing psychological experiments on people. Plus One reports that a group in London re-ran the same experiment in a virtual world and the results were eerily similar. The participants showed comparable stress and anxiety levels. Their conclusions?
Our results show that in spite of the fact that all participants knew for sure that neither the stranger nor the shocks were real, the participants who saw and heard her tended to respond to the situation at the subjective, behavioral and physiological levels as if it were real. This result reopens the door to direct empirical studies of obedience and related extreme social situations, an area of research that is otherwise not open to experimental study for ethical reasons, through the employment of virtual environments
My conclusion? I am not all that concerned with the world of obedience studies but what I am concerned with is the empirical proof that a virtual world can have a comparable emotional impact on is residents as real world activities. This being said it lends additional support to engaging in psycho-significant research and therapeutic activities in the medium. For the human service sector it provides further credence to the Asperger's therapy work that is currently experiencing success in virtual worlds such as Second Life.