Milgram’s Obedience to Authority Experiment

Morality and responsibility for violence are explored in a re-enactment of Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram’s famous experiment on obedience to authority. Under the close supervision and direction of a professor, participants are told to administer increasingly dangerous electric shocks to a person in another room, under the pretense that it’s an experiment about learning and memory. They hear screams and protests from the “learner” pretending to be receiving shocks, but when the professor tells them to continue, most do, even after believing the “learner” may have died as a result. In Milgram’s first study, 65 percent went on to deliver the maximum 450 volt shock. Variations were conducted over the years with similar results. In the BBC experiment, only three people (of 12) refused to continue. 2011 is the 50th anniversary of Milgram’s original experiment, which began as a study of mutual morality after Nazi atrocities and was controversial due to ethical concerns. To learn more click here, check out the article “Identifying Systematic Disobedience in Milgram’s Obedience Experiments: A Meta-Analytic Review,” Dominic J. Packer, Perspectives on Psychological Science (subscription required), and read a 1974 interview with Stanley Milgram.