Historical Who is Who
1933 - 1984
Stanley Milgram work in social psychology is famed for its exposure of human susceptibility to the influence of others on ‘moral’ behaviour. Specifically, an explanation is sought for the extent of collusion shown by ordinary German civilians and prison officers unquestioningly to ‘obey orders’ in horrendous cruelty against Jews in the Third Reich. He finds it in the readiness of those volunteering to take part in a scientific study which involves being encouraged to administer dangerous levels of electric shock on other perceived volunteers. That readiness to obey a scientific authority figure is presented by him as analogous to that shown in other pressured circumstances. In spite of some debate regarding the ethics of the deception which was part of the research method, the evidence is disturbing and has been replicated many times. From a Jewish background himself, he also developed other experiments which variously test the boundaries of human identity and relationship, eg the Cyranoid experiment and that known as the ‘6 degrees of difference’.