How to Be a Hero: Insight From the Milgram Experiment

You have probably heard of Stanley Milgram. You know, the 1960s psychologist who discovered that hundreds of ordinary Americans could be directed to deliver apparently excruciating electroshocks to another ordinary volunteer, simply on the say-so of a scientist in a gray lab coat. In a series of two dozen studies lasting almost a year, Milgram systematically explored how, by making changes to the social situation — the proximity of the shocker to the man being shocked, the presence of two scientists contradicting each other, the role of the shocker in a chain of command, et cetera — he could cause rates of obedience to rise or plummet at will. The Milgram Obedience Experiment soon became world-famous as one of the most controversial psychological experiments of all time.

The controversy has not ended, and experts today are still hashing out what, if anything, Milgram demonstrated about the dark side of human nature: our putative propensity to blindly acquiesce to authority-directed courses of action, no matter how immoral. To what extent can social psychological findings in a Yale lab illuminate the darkest episodes of modern history, from the factory-style murder of millions of civilians in the Holocaust, to the —> Read More Here


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