Stanley Milgram (1933 - 1984) was a social psychologist at Yale University, Harvard University and the City University of New York. While at Harvard, he led the experiment of the small world (the source of the concept of separation of the six degrees), and while at Yale, he made the controversial Milgram's experiment on obedience to authority. His research showed to what extent people are willing to obey authority. Unfortunately, his experiments are also remembered today for his ethical problems, which contributed to changing the way experiments can be performed today. He also introduced the concept of "family stranger."
Stanley Milgram celebrity quotes
For a person to feel responsible for their actions, they must feel that the behavior has arisen from the self.
It is not so much the type of person that a man is, as the type of situation he is in that determines how he will act.
The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the consequence of greater scope of submission to authority.
We may be puppets controlled by the threads of society. But at least we are puppets with perception, with awareness. And perhaps our conscience is the first step to our liberation.
Some system of authority is a requirement of all community life, and only the man who lives in isolation is not obliged to respond, through challenge or submission, to the mandates of others.
It is easy to ignore responsibility when one is only an intermediate link in a chain of action.
And perhaps our conscience is the first step to our liberation.
Obedience is the psychological mechanism that links individual action with political purpose. It is the dispositional cement that unites men to the systems of authority.
The soldier does not want to appear as a coward, disloyal or anti-American. The situation has been so defined that he can see himself as patriotic, brave and manly only through compliance.
When an individual wishes to oppose authority, he makes every effort to find support for his position from others in his group. Mutual support among men is the strongest bulwark we have against excess authority.
A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, regardless of the content of the act and without penalty of conscience, provided they perceive that the order comes from a legitimate authority.
I would say that, based on having observed a thousand people in the experiment and having had my own intuition formed and informed by these experiments, if a system of extermination camps in the United States of the type we had seen in the Nazis in Germany was established , enough personnel could be found for those camps in any medium-sized American city.
Ordinary people, simply doing their job, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Furthermore, even when the destructive effects of their work become clearly evident and they are asked to perform actions incompatible with the fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the necessary resources to resist authority.
The essence of obedience consists in the fact that a person sees himself as an instrument to carry out the wishes of another person and, therefore, no longer considers himself responsible for his actions.
Although a person acting under authority performs actions that seem to violate the standards of conscience, it would not be true to say that he loses his moral sense. Instead, it takes a radically different approach. He does not respond with a moral feeling to the actions he performs. Rather, his moral concern now goes on to consider how well he is fulfilling the expectations that the authority has of him.
Each individual has a consciousness that, to a greater or lesser extent, serves to restrict the free flow of destructive impulses to others. But when he fuses his person with an organizational structure, a new creature replaces the autonomous man, unhindered by the limitations of individual morality, freed from human inhibition, aware only of the sanctions of authority.
Perhaps the challenge is to invent the political structure that will give conscience a better chance against authority.
I began with the belief that each person who came to the laboratory was free to accept or reject the dictates of authority. This vision sustains a conception of human dignity insofar as it sees in each man the ability to choose his own behavior. And as it turned out, many subjects, in fact, chose to reject the experimenter's orders, providing a powerful affirmation of human ideals.
Only in action can you fully realize the operational forces in social behavior. That's why I'm an experimentalist.
But culture has almost completely failed to instill internal controls over actions that have their origin in authority. For this reason, the latter constitutes a much greater danger to human survival.
Even Eichmann became ill when he toured the concentration camps.
Some system of authority is a requirement of all community life, and only the man who lives isolated is not obliged to respond, through challenge or submission, to the mandates of others.