Milgram experiment

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Even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority. ~ Stanley Milgram

The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures was a series of social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram.

Quotes[edit]

  • I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.
  • Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.
  • Stanley Milgram carried out the “Eichmann experiment” to determine whether Nazi war criminals such as Adolf Eichmann, whose trial had begun a couple of months earlier in Jerusalem, could have committed the heinous acts of the Holocaust merely because of a misplaced obedience to authority. ... The German philosopher Hanna Arendt, a reporter during the trial of Eichmann, coined the phrase "the banality of evil" to describe him, seeing behind the architect of the Holocaust a thoroughly normal person. Going further, Arendt also mentioned that Eichmann’s attitude toward his family and friends was “not only normal but most desirable.”
    • Laurent Begue, et. al., "Personality Predicts Obedience in a Milgram Paradigm," Journal of Personality, 83:3, June 2015
  • In the present study, we shed a new light on how personality factors predicted obedience and rebellion in a Milgram-like study. ... We hypothesized that personality traits that are consensually desirable in interpersonal relationships, such as Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, could contribute to destructive obedience given the right context. These are two traits that some observers, including Arendt herself, attributed to Adolf Eichmann.
    • Laurent Begue, et. al., "Personality Predicts Obedience in a Milgram Paradigm," Journal of Personality, 83:3, June 2015
  • Personality traits such as Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, which are widely related to positive outcomes such as better mental health ... may also have darker sides in that they can lead to destructive and immoral obedience. ... It may be that a significant share of human suffering stems from personality dispositions that are not necessarily intrinsically antisocial. On the contrary, some traits that often have negative interpersonal consequences, such as low impulse control, may in some extreme circumstances benefit others, such as when someone jumps into a river and risks his life to save a stranger.
    • Laurent Begue, et. al., "Personality Predicts Obedience in a Milgram Paradigm," Journal of Personality, 83:3, June 2015
  • Our results provide new empirical evidence showing that individual differences in Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, political orientation, and social activism matter. Not only “evil” behavior such as destructive obedience may indeed be “banal” in the sense of not relying on extraordinary cruelty of ideological hate, but it also may even be facilitated by dispositions that are consensually desirable elsewhere with family and friends, as Hanna Arendt proposed over 50 years ago. Although our results suggest that adaptive traits in the interpersonal domain may be maladaptive in a context involving destructive authority, they also suggest that some behaviors that may disrupt social functioning, such as political activism, may express and even strengthen individual dispositions that are both useful and essential to the whole society, at least in some critical moments.
    • Laurent Begue, et. al., "Personality Predicts Obedience in a Milgram Paradigm," Journal of Personality, 83:3, June 2015

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External links[edit]

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