OBEDIENCE TO AUTHORITY: An Experimental View by Stanley Milgram


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A chilling and fascinating report from a Yale social psychology study which is sure to shock humanitarian liberals who like to explain away My Lais and concentration camps as the historical aberrations of a demented few who somehow gained power. The results of these experiments -- which were to determine at what point subjects would rebel against administering electrical shock to others, presumed volunteers in an ostensible study of the effects of punishment on learning -- confounded the expectations of psychiatrists and social scientists: screams, mention of heart trouble, and demands to be released from the experiment all proved no avail to the majority of shockers, one-quarter of whom were willing to give the highest possible shock (450 volts) even when they had to manually force the resisting subject's hand down on the shock lever mechanism. All this for four dollars an hour, on the command of a person they had never previously seen and, despite the often extreme personal repugnance and anxiety that the subject (the shocker) experienced at having to hurt another human being. The value of these studies of individuals who renounce the dictates of conscience when placed in hierarchical structures of dubious validity is indisputable and frightening, both for what it might tell about us and the scarifying future of our civilization.

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 1973
ISBN: 006176521X
Publisher: Harper & Row