Stanley Milgram

Stanley Milgram

Stanley Milgram (August 15, 1933December 20, 1984) was a social psychologist at Yale University, Harvard University and the City University of New York. While at Harvard, he conducted the small-world experiment (the source of the six degrees of separation concept), and while at Yale, he conducted the Milgram experiment on obedience to authority. He also introduced the concept of familiar strangers.


He took a psychology course as an undergraduate at Queens College, New York, where he earned his Bachelor's degree in political science in 1954. He applied to a Ph.D. program in social psychology at Harvard University and was initially rejected due to lack of psychology background. He was accepted in 1954 after taking six courses in psychology, and graduated with the Ph.D. in 1960. Most likely because of his controversial Milgram Experiment, Milgram was denied tenure at Harvard after becoming an assistant professor there, but instead accepted an offer to become a tenured full professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (Blass, 2004). Milgram had a number of significant influences, including psychologists Solomon Asch and Gordon Allport (Milgram, 1977). Milgram himself influenced other psychologists such as Alan C. Elms, who was his first graduate assistant on the obedience experiment. Milgram died on December 20, 1984 of a heart attack at the age of 51 in the city of his birth, New York. He left behind a widow, Alexandra "Sasha" Milgram, and two children. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Dr. Stanley Milgram, 51, Is Dead. |url= |quote=Dr. Stanley Milgram, a psychologist widely known for his experiments on obedience to authority, died of a heart attack Thursday night at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. He was 51 years old and lived in New Rochelle, N.Y. Dr. Milgram, who was a professor of psychology at the Graduate ... |work=New York Times |date=December 22, 1984 |accessdate=2008-08-07 ]

Obedience to authority

In 1963, Milgram submitted the results of his Milgram experiments in the article "Behavioral study of Obedience". In the ensuing controversy that erupted, the APA held up his application for membership for a year because of questions about the ethics of his work, but then granted him full membership. Ten years later, in 1974, Milgram published "Obedience to Authority" and was awarded the annual social psychology award by the AAAS (mostly for his work over the social aspects of obedience). Inspired in part by the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, his models were later also used to explain the 1968 My Lai massacre (including authority training in the military, depersonalizing the "enemy" through racial and cultural differences, etc.).

In 1976, CBS presented a made-for-television movie about obedience experiments: "The Tenth Level" with William Shatner as Stephen Hunter, a Milgram-like scientist. Milgram himself was a consultant for the film, though his personal life did not resemble that of the Shatner character. In this film, incidents were portrayed that never occurred in the followup to the real life experiment, including a subject's psychotic episode and the main character saying that he regretted the experiment. When asked about the film, Milgram told one of his graduate students, Sharon Presley, that he was not happy with the film and told her that he did not want his name to be used in the credits.

A French political thriller, titled "I... comme Icare" ("I" in Icarus"), involves a key scene where Milgram's experiment on obedience to authority is explained and shown.

In Alan Moore's graphic novel, "V for Vendetta", the character Dr. Delia Surridge discusses Milgram's experiment without directly naming Milgram, comparing it with the atrocities she herself had performed in the Larkhill Concentration camps.

In 1986, musician Peter Gabriel wrote a song called "We do what we're told (Milgram's 37)", referring to the number of fully obedient participants in Milgram's Experiment 18: A Peer Administers Shocks. In this one, 37 out of 40 participants administered the full range of shocks up to 450 volts, the highest obedience rate Milgram found in his whole series. In this variation, the actual subject did not pull the shock lever; instead he only conveyed information to the peer (a confederate) who pulled the lever. Thus, according to Milgram, the subject shifts responsibility to another person and does not blame himself for what happens. This resembles real-life incidents in which people see themselves as merely cogs in a wheel, just "doing their job," allowing them to avoid responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

The award-winning short film "Atrocity" (2005) re-enacts Milgram's obedience to authority experiment.

Small World Phenomenon

The six degrees of separation concept originates from Milgram's "small world experiment" in 1967 that tracked chains of acquaintances in the United States. In the experiment, Milgram sent several packages to 160 random people living in Omaha, Nebraska, asking them to forward the package to a friend or acquaintance who they thought would bring the package closer to a set final individual, a stockbroker from Boston, Massachusetts.

The letter included this specific condition: "If you do not know the target person on a personal basis, do not try to contact him directly. Instead, mail this folder to a personal acquaintance who is more likely than you to know the target person."

In the past year,when skepticism has been levied at Milgram's "six degrees" theory. Milgram did not follow up on many of the sent packages, and as a result, scientists are unconvinced that there are merely "six degrees" of separation.Fact|date=May 2008 Elizabeth DeVita–Raebu has discussed potential problems with Dr. Milgrams's experiment. []

In 2008, a study by Microsoft showed that the average chain of contacts between users of its .NET Messenger Service was 6.6 people. []

ee also

* Milgram experiment
* Silent Generation
* Small world phenomenon
* Breaching experiment
* Cyranoid

* List of ethicists
* List of famous experiments
* List of psychologists
* List of social psychologists


Further reading

*Milgram, Stanley. " [ The Small World Problem] ". "Psychology Today," 1(1), May 1967. pp 60 - 67
* Milgram, S. (1974), "Obedience to Authority; An Experimental View" ISBN 0-06-131983-X
* Milgram, S. (1974), [ "The Perils of Obedience"] , "Harper's Magazine"
* Milgram, S. (1977), "The individual in a social world: Essays and experiments / Stanley Milgram". ISBN 0-201-04382-3.
** Abridged and adapted from "Obedience to Authority".
* Blass, T. (2004). "The Man Who Shocked the World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram". ISBN 0-7382-0399-8

External links

* [] - site maintained by Dr Thomas Blass
* [] - site documenting Milgram's Obedience to Authority experiment by UK artist Rod Dickinson
* [ Milgram Experiments on Film] - Psychology Film Library
* [ Milgram Page] - page documenting Milgram's Obedience to Authority experiment
* [ 'The Man Who Shocked the World' article in Psychology Today by Thomas Blass]
* [ 'The Man Who Shocked the World' article in BMJ by Raj Persaud]
* [ 'Steve Blinkhorn's review of 'The man who shocked the world: the life and legacy of Stanley Milgram' by Thomas Blass.]
* [] and [] - papers on the ethics of the Obedience to Authority experiments by Milgram's research assistant, Alan Elms
* [ Pinter & Martin] , Stanley Milgram's British publishers
* [] - link to the short film "Atrocity," which re-enacts the Milgram Experiment
* [ Guide to the Stanley Milgram Papers, Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library]
* [ Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority (1974)] Chapter 1 and Chapter 15

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