The Stanley Milgram Experiment

Why do people sometimes do bad things just because someone else told them to? And what does the term Groupthink mean?

The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures was a series of notable social psychology experiments conducted by Yale Universitypsychologist Stanley Milgram, which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience. Milgram first described his research in 1963 in an article published in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology,[1] and later discussed his findings in greater depth in his 1974 book, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View.[2]

The experiments began in July 1961, three months after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Milgram devised his psychological study to answer the question: “Was it that Eichmann and his accomplices in the Holocaust had mutual intent, in at least with regard to the goals of the Holocaust?” In other words, “Was there a mutual sense of morality among those involved?” Milgram’s testing suggested that it could have been that the millions of accomplices were merely following orders, despite violating their deepest moral beliefs. The experiments have been repeated many times, with consistent results within societies, but different percentages across the globe.[3] The experiments were also controversial, and considered by some scientists to be unethical, physically or psychologically abusive, motivating more thorough review boards or committee reviews for working with human subjects.

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