The Milgram Experiment

In 1962 Stanley Milgram conducted this world-famous experiment to demonstrate that people are capable of heinous acts due to the "Befehl ist Befehl" principle. Subjects had to administer increasingly strong electric shocks to a "pupil with a heart condition" (in real life, an actor with sound recording) whenever they made a mistake. The vast majority of these subjects continued to administer electric shocks at the command of the "investigator," even when the "learner" begged to stop and then failed to respond. With this experiment, Stanley Milgram showed that people tended to obey authorities even if it meant exceeding their standards. They were less likely to feel responsible for their behavior if it was ordered by an authority. This experiment shows that the Befehl ist Befehl principle relied upon by the war criminals of WW2 at the Nuremberg trial did not just fall out of the sky.

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