Milgram Experiment, The: The History and Legacy of the Controversial Social Psychology Experiment

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“Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?" – Stanley Milgram 

Among psychology experiments, one of the most famous was based on studies into society’s willingness to conform to orders. In the wake of World War II and the Nuremberg Trials, where various Nazis defended their actions by insisting they were simply following orders, various psychologists began to study just how far people were willing to go to listen to authority, even when the authority’s orders were morally dubious. Stanley Milgram oversaw a series of studies in which participants from all kinds of backgrounds were led to believe that they were administering shocks to strangers, and despite the fact that the orders became more severe, the participants continued to administer the shocks, even at levels that could have been deadly. While the study was influenced in part by the Holocaust and people responded to the results with analogies to that genocide, one of the participants himself wrote to Milgram, “While I was a subject in 1964, though I believed that I was hurting someone, I was totally unaware of why I was doing so. Few people ever realize when they are acting according to their own beliefs and when they are meekly submitting to authority.”

The Milgram Experiment: The History and Legacy of the Controversial Social Psychology Experiment looks at the origins of the study, how it was conducted, and the effects that the results had on science and psychology.