The Milgram experiment

I’m currently reading the book “Tricks Of The Mind” by the British magician Derren Brown. This is a really interesting – if badly-written – book. I have just come across his account of the Milgram test – something I’ve heard of before but thought it would be useful to revisit.
The Milgram experiment of the early 1960s was a series of social psychology tests conducted by Yale University psychologist 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.
The test involved the person selected as the ‘teacher’ applying a series of electric shocks to the person selected as the ‘learner’. These shocks were graduated in 15-volt increments all the way up to a deadly 450 volts. What proportion of the ‘teachers’ do you think were willing to ‘kill’ their inadequately performing ‘learner’?

Astonishingly the experiment found that the figure was 65%. You can read more about the tests here.
Now imagine that the ‘teacher’ was a Nazi and the ‘learner’ was a Jew or that the ‘teacher’ was an American and the ‘learner’ was an Arab. Is it any wonder that the world is messed up? If we want to reform our world, we have to start with ourselves.

One Comment