Between August 1961 and May 1962, a young professor who had yet to publish his first academic paper conducted a series of investigations in the basement of Yale University’s Linsly-Chittenden Hall. The unexpected and disturbing findings from that research challenged the conventional view of human nature, and the investigations remain arguably the most well-known psychological research inside or outside academia. For decades, each new generation of students encountering Stanley Milgram’s work on obedience to authority has found the research astonishing, provocative and hard to forget.
Milgram’s first study is the one most familiar to students, published in 1963. He subsequently conducted up to 17 variations to investigate the effects of situational variables on obedience, as reported in his book Obedience to Authority (1974). One of the variations (Experiment 5) is the one most often studied and discussed by researchers. This is outlined in Box 1. In this version, the learner mentions he has a heart problem and the teacher hears the learner’s verbal protests through the wall. The learner demands to be released after the 150-volt shock.
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