Obedience to Authority
Milgram's shock experiments in obedience are classics that confront us with our passive, conformist nature. Obedience to Authority is a cogent, compelling and accessible account of these famous experiments and their outcomes. In the early 1960s, Psychology Professor Stanley Milgram was thinking about Nazi Germany. In the wake of World War II, many academics struggled to contrast the atrocities committed by groups of people with the lofty ideals burgeoning in the Twentieth Century. Milgram surmised that there was something crucial about social pressure that might explain the transformation from idealism to conformity. In order to test his suspicions, Milgram set up shop near Harvard with an experiment: subjects were instructed to teach an associate word pairs, seemingly (but not actually) shocking their associate when he answered incorrectly. Milgram was surprised to find that individuals would continue to apparently shock others even when doing so was making subjects uncomfortable, and even when shocks were clearly associated with others' harm or death. After the experiment, subjects clearly communicated their sense that, because authority figures gave the orders, they themselves were not responsible for their acts. Milgram's experiment, the essence of which can be described in just a paragraph, shocked American culture into rethinking our supposed moral strength. Obedience to Authority captures these experiments in fine detail and offers some useful insights to those interested in the sources of conformity. How was the experiment carried out? What individuals more likely to conform to pressure from an authority figure? When are individuals more likely to resist conformity? The answers to these questions are important because they're not restricted in importance to an experimenter's laboratory; the implications of Milgram's findings extends to each one of us. Obedience to Authority discusses those implications in a compelling manner, while being careful to make only the claims that the research supports. In short, if you're looking for an introduction to Milgram's historically important experiments, if you have questions about tendencies toward conformity in our society, if you are interested at all in questions about the tendency of people to follow authority, even in directions we'd call evil, then this is the the book for you. I highly recommend Obedience to Authority to those with curious, open, and questioning minds.
Get Ye back to Science Books, O Sinner! Obey!