The Full Wiki

Stanley Milgram: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Stanley Milgram
Born August 15, 1933(1933-08-15)
New York City
Died December 20, 1984 (aged 51)
Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center
Cause of death Heart Failure [1]
Education Queens College, New York (1954) M.A.
Harvard University (1960) Ph.D.
Known for Milgram experiment
Small world experiment

Stanley Milgram (August 15, 1933 – December 20, 1984) was an American social psychologist most notable for his controversial study known as the Milgram Experiment. The study was conducted in the 1960s during Milgram's professorship at Yale.[1] Milgram was influenced by the events of the Holocaust to carry out an experiment that would prove the relationship between obedience and authority. Shortly after the obedience experiment, Milgram conducted the small-world experiment (the source of the six degrees of separation concept) while at Harvard.



Stanley Milgram was born in 1933 to a Jewish family in New York City. Milgram's father, Samuel, worked as a baker to provide a modest income for his family until his death in 1953 (upon which Stanley's mother, Adele, took over the bakery). Milgram excelled academically and was a great leader among his peers. In 1954, Milgram received his Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Queens College, New York where he attended tuition-free.[1]. He applied to a Ph.D. program in social psychology at Harvard University and was initially rejected due to an insufficient background in psychology (he had not taken one undergraduate course in psychology while attending Queens College). He was eventually accepted to Harvard in 1954 after first enrolling as a student in Harvard's Office of Special Students.[1] Milgram was granted his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Harvard 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 influenced numerous psychologists including Alan C. Elms, who was Milgram's first graduate assistant in the study of obedience. Milgram died on December 20, 1984 of a heart attack in the city he was born, New York. He left behind a widow, Alexandra "Sasha" Milgram, and two children.[2]

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.).


Milgram's Experiment 18: A Peer Administers Shocks.

In this experiment, 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 machine, just "doing their job," allowing them to avoid responsibility for the consequences of their actions. The shocks themselves were fake, the participant who took the place as the 'learner' in the experiment was in fact a paid actor who would simulate the effects of the shock depending on the voltage. Milgram became very notorious for this tactic, and his experiment was soon classed as highly unethical as it caused stress to the participants in the study. The study soon became one of the most talked about psychological experiments in recent history, invading headlines across the world, Milgram finding himself in the centre of public attention. There was a huge divide in the psychological community as many believe that his deception was necessary in proving fault with the human condition and helping to explain the actions of the Nazis in the Holocaust, which was the main reasoning behind the creation of the study.

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 whom they thought would bring the package closer to a set final individual, a stockbroker from Boston, Massachusetts.

Milgram's "six degrees" theory has been severely criticized. He 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.[3] Elizabeth DeVita–Raebu has discussed potential problems with Dr. Milgrams's experiment.[4]

In 2008, a study by Microsoft showed that the average chain of contacts between users of its .NET Messenger Service was 6.6 people.[5]

Lost letter experiment

Milgram developed a technique for measuring how helpful people are to strangers who are not present, and their attitudes toward various groups, called the "lost letter" experiment. Several sealed and stamped letters are planted in public places, addressed to various entities, such as individuals, favorable organizations like medical research institutes, and stigmatized organizations such as "Friends of the Nazi Party". Milgram found most of the letters addressed to individuals and favorable organizations were mailed, while most of those addressed to stigmatized organizations were not.[6][7]

Anti-social behavior experiment

In 1970-71, Milgram conducted experiments which attempted to find a correlation between media consumption (in this case, watching television) and anti-social behavior. The experiment presented the opportunity to steal money, donate to charity, or neither, and tested whether the rate of each choice was influenced by watching similar actions in the ending of a specially crafted episode of the popular series Medical Center.[7]

References in media

In 1975, 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.

The French political thriller I... comme Icare includes 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 subjects (out of 40) who obeyed the experimenters all the way in Milgram's authority experiment, Milgram 18.

The award-winning short film Atrocity (2005) re-enacts Milgram's Obedience to Authority experiment.

In 2008, folk musician, Dar Williams, released a song called "Buzzer", in which the narrator participated in the Milgram experiment. After being debriefed, the narrator realizes that evil is not committed by an unreachable other, but instead ordinary people and every day.

The 2008 Episode of Law and Order: SVU "Authority" has Detective Munch mentioning Milgram's experiment in reference to corporate training at HappiBurger (A McDonalds-like restaurant). Likewise, Merritt Rook (portayed by Robin Williams) poses as a "Detective Milgram" to convince a restaurant owner to molest an employee and drive the doctor that let his wife and infant child die to suicide. He later kidnaps Detective Olivia Benson, takes her to an old recording studio, and wires her to a battery. He tells her partner, Detective Elliot Stabler (played by Christopher Meloni) to push the button on his remote that sends anywhere from 2 to 2000 volts of current into Benson. Stabler then realizes that Rook performing Milgram's experiment on him. Each time he (Stabler) refuses, Rook becomes more enraged. Finally, when Stabler says he can't hurt his partner, Rook calls him a human being and tells him that his partner was never in any actual danger.

In March 2010, French television channel France 2 broadcast Jusqu'où va la télé, describing the results of a fake game show that they had run 80 times (each time independently, and with a new contestant and audience). The contestants were encouraged by the show's host, and by an unprimed studio audience, into giving near fatal electric shocks to another "contestant", on getting memorised word-associations wrong.[8]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d Blass, T. (2004). The Man Who Shocked the World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram. ISBN 0-7382-0399-8
  2. ^ "Dr. Stanley Milgram, 51, Is Dead.". New York Times. December 22, 1984. Retrieved 2008-08-07. "Dr. Stanley Milgram, a psychologist widely known for his experiments on obedience to authority, died of a heart attack Thursday night at the Columbia 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 ..." 
  3. ^ "Could It Be A Big World After All?". Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  4. ^ by Elizabeth DeVita–Raebu (2008-01-28). "If Osama's Only 6 Degrees Away, Why Can't We Find Him? | Human Origins". DISCOVER Magazine. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  5. ^ "[0803.0939v1] Planetary-Scale Views on an Instant-Messaging Network". 2008-03-06. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  6. ^"lost+letter"+milgram&source=bl&ots=SsClFZkcDB&sig=EP41P1eqhKvZDOScJ4m9iqdp86g&hl=en&ei=vNE_SsXBN9bBtwe0pcQb&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4
  7. ^ a b "Stanley Milgram". Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  8. ^ French contestants torture each other on TV Game of Death Daily Telegraph, 17 March 2010

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
  • Milgram, S. (1965), Liberating Effects of Group Pressure [1]
  • Milgram, S., Liberty; II. J., Toledo. R. and Blacken J. (1956). Response to intrusion in waiting lines. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 51, 683-9.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Stanley Milgram (1933-08-151984-12-20) 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, which was the source of the concept of six degrees of separation. While at Yale, he conducted the Milgram experiment on obedience to authority. He also introduced the concept of the familiar stranger.


  • The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority.
    • Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View (1974), ch. 1: The Dilemma of Obedience

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address