Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Man Who Shocked The World

I found this biography of Stanley Milgram to be an enjoyable read. I had heard about some of his work, not realizing who had done it. I think social psychology greatly benefited from Milgram's work and enthusiasm for a wide range of topics.

Of course, Milgram is most famous for his shock experiments, in which he demonstrated the extent of a normal person's obedience to authority. Many people believe these experiments to be unethical in their treatment of the participants; however, I disagree. I think these particular experiments are very important to understanding human nature. They help to give an explanation of the willingness of people to follow leaders who demand them to be cruel. While the experiments were not perfect (there could have been more variations to account for other variables), they gave an unintuitive and important answer.

Milgram also performed work in other areas: using novel methods of determining public opinion through the lost letters experiment, and working on the small world phenomenon with his experiments of delivering a package from one random person to another.

I think the fact that he has been given little to no recognition from his colleagues is pitiful. Milgram approached his field with great enthusiasm and came up with clever ways of understanding humanity. I think it is unfair for his colleagues to use his work but not give him proper appreciation.

I enjoyed reading this biography, and learning a little more about the man behind some of the most important, most controversial, and most ingenious experiments in the history of his field.


  1. Yea, I think he didn't get as much recognition as he probably deserved as well. But I suppose that's just life. I guess we can thank Thomas Blass for doing a comprehensive biography on him and his experiments.

  2. I agree that his shock experiment made him famous, but he also needs to be given more credit for the 6 degrees of separation, I had no idea he was also responsible for that.

  3. Ya, I completely agree with the lack of recognition. I really don't understand how people still say his obedience experiments were unethical. What exactly were the subjects afraid would happen if they refused to go on? Pride was the only thing on the line and they showed that peoples pride will make them do awful things.

  4. I agree that his lack of recognition is disappointing. I was going to try to come up with a parallel to the CS industry, but couldn't :( As Tony said, Thomas Blass definitely does his part.

  5. I enjoyed reading of his academic life, too. The experiments were noteworthy, if only the cognitive jump of use in the CS industry. Yes, it's there, but one has to do it themselves.

    The jump of logic for people is a flaw in the unethicality of the experiments. It was a "trust" that was broken, but in order to find the results that "trust" needed to be broken—a sense of going to hell and back with someone.