I found this fascinating video on youtube which discusses Milgram's ground breaking work on obedience. I was first taught about Milgram over ten years ago and it has remained one of the most important pieces of research I have ever learnt.
What you have to understand is, a lot of social psychology developed after the second world war, because of the general belief that it had been caused by something specific to the German people. The horrors of the holocaust had shocked the world and nobody wanted to believe that they would have collaborated if they had been in the same place.
Milgram therefore devised his experiment with the aim of comparing the results with the German people. It is important to understand that he essentially believed that his American sample would be a control group.
And what did he do? Simply put, he asked participants to press a button on a machine, which would administer an electric shock to a person in another room (who was a stooge, working for Milgram). Under the guise of a learning experiment, the participant was required to give the stooge an ever increasing electric shock. He tested some 40 men and found that 60-65% gave the maximum level of shock (marked xxx dangerous). Essentially those men were under the impression that the stooge was dead (or at least seriously injured). But responsibility for that act was deferred to the experimenter; despite having pressed the button, even if the person had died in the other room, it was not the participant's fault.
What does Milgram's experiment tell us? That human beings are capable of obeying orders whether they are German or not, with potentially fatal consequences. I say it often: you have a brain, you have no excuse not to engage it!Go Top