Milgram, Stanley, Some Conditions of Obedience and Disobedience to Authority, In Miller, A. (ed.), The Social Psychology of Psychological Research, 1972

"All organized hostility may be viewed as a theme and variation on the three elements of authority, executant, and victim".

The premise of this famous study was -- If an experimenter tells a subject to hurt another person, under what conditions will the subject go along with this instruction, and under what conditions will he refuse to obey?

The focus of the study concerned the amount of electric shock a subject is willing to administer to another person when ordered by an experimenter to give the "victim" increasinly more severe punishment.

Thus, the subject must resolve a conflict- does he heed to experimenter's orders and continue to shock for wrong answers, or does he heed the victim's pleas and stop the experiment?

The subject is led to believe the study is on the effect of punishment on learning, and must give increasinly stronger shocks to the "learner" (an accomplish whose voice is on tape for each shock level).

The result is scored from 0 (unwilling to give first shock) to 30 (give highest shock).

Initial pilot studies showed that people would heed the experimenter to the end much more than expected.

The next study was on the proximity effect of the victim. Milgram found that the closer the victim (seen but not hear, heard but not seen, in the room, ) the more disobedience seen. This may be due to emphatic clues from the victim or the "out of signt, out of mind" effect. Or maybe putting the victim in the room allows group dynamics to form a bond between subject and victim against the experimenter.

Another version of the study examined the closeness of authority. He found that disobedience went up drastically if the experimenter was out of the room (on a telephone, or on tape). Sometimes the subject would "lie" about what level of shock they administered to keep the voltage low.

Most subjects were extremely nervous and somewhat traumatized by the experience. Strange nervous laughter was even heard by some subjects. Yet despite extreme anxiety people continued to obey the experimenter. "Perhaps our culture does not have adequate models for disobedience".

"Tension, it is assumed, results from the simultaneous presence of two or more incompatible response tendencies".

During the initial study, one concern was that the subjects assumed that since the study was being conducted at Yale, it must be safe and therefore they were more confortable putting their trust in the experimenter. They tested this hypothesis by repeating the experiment with a fictitious name in an office building in Bridgeport with no connection to the university. The results were the same.

Milgram had some pyschiatrists review the method and predict what the result would be. Of course, the high level of obedience shocked everyone.

Milgram concludes with the grim observation that it seems people can easily be persuaded to hurt other people given the right situation.