Too Obedient?

22 Feb Too Obedient?

In 1961 Yale University professor Stanley Milgram developed an experiment to test how far people will go to remain obedient to authority. The experiment was designed so that one volunteer, the “teacher”, would have to deliver electric shocks to another person, the” learner”, for every wrong answer given by the learner. An “experimenter” was also in the room with the teacher, prompting him to continue shocking the learner. The vast majority of people delivered the electric shock, despite the (fake) cries of the learner. They were clearly distraught by the cries, yet they couldn’t disobey the authority of the experimenter.

Milgram repeated a version of this experiment many times, using men and women of all backgrounds. He eventually published his findings. Volunteers and the general public were disturbed by the results. This was a fascinating and somewhat dark view into the human psyche that many thought was unethical. The “obedience experiments” became very well known, perhaps due to their controversial results. Milgram tested several other theories about humanity, but none are as famous as these first tests.

Are you curious to learn more about this interesting piece of psychological research? The 2016 film “Experimenter”, starring Peter Sarsgaard and Winona Ryder, is available to request from the Library. This biopic covers Milgram’s experiments and the consequences of publishing his work. It is a stirring film. The book, “Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments” by Gina Perry is also available at the library.