The Milgram Obedience Experiment
Milgram started his experiments in 1961, shortly after the trial of the World War 2 criminal Adolph Eichmann had begun. Eichmann’s defense was that he was simply following instructions when he ordered the death of millions of Jews roused Milgram’s interest. In his 1974 book, Obedience to Authority, Milgram posted the question, “Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?”
Given an appropriate context, most individuals have the potential to blindly obey commands, even if such obedience leads to harm to others. Milgram’s experiment has become a classic in psychology, demonstrating the dangers to obedience. Obedience can be affected by the proximity and legitimacy of authority, the proximity of the victim, and the degree of social support for obedience or disobedience.