SCIENCE
09/27/2013 07:45 am ET

Did Stanley Milgram's Notorious Obedience Experiments Actually Prove Anything?

In October 1963, the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology published an article, blandly titled “Behavioral Study of Obedience,” by a 30-year-old Yale professor named Stanley Milgram. The young author had never before published in an academic journal, and it was clear from his prose he was hoping to make an early splash. He had conducted an experiment that he claimed shed light on one of humanity’s basic features: our tendency to obey orders, even ones that conflict with our morals, so long as they are issued by an authority figure. By his fourth sentence he was already referencing Nazi death camps and their “daily quotas of corpses,” implying that the Holocaust was something his nine-page paper would help the world understand.

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