More on Milgram in NYT

Milgram's Although nearly half a century old, it seems that there are still many things to say about Stanley Milgram’s famous series of experiments on obedience. Recently there was a new report in New York Times on the research program, in which many otherwise normal subjects were persuaded by white-coated experimenter to deliver (apparent) electrical shocks to another (apparent) subject, sometimes up to the point of (apparently) killing him.

The July 1 NYT article, by Benedict Carey, includes a description of a forthcoming publication in American Psychologist of Jerry Burger’s replication of the Milgram study. The replication was first presented on ABC in 2007. NYU psychologist Mike Palij recently alerted me to a link to Burger’s website where one can find a prepublication version of the article (scroll down about halfway to the section subtitled “Milgram Replication”).

The NYT article also covers a new analysis of Milgram’s results conducted by Dominic Packer, a postdoc at Ohio State, which was published in Perspectives on Psychological Science. Carey summarized the finding as follows:

At 150 volts [the confederate “learner” in the Milgram experiment] cried out: “Stop, let me out! I don’t want to do this anymore.” At that point about a third of the participants refused to continue, found Dominic Packer, author of the new paper. “The previous expressions of pain were insufficient,” Dr. Packer said. But at 150 volts, he continued, those who disobeyed decided that the learner’s right to stop trumped the experimenter’s right to continue…. This appreciation of another’s right is crucial in interrogation, Dr. Packer suggests. When prisoners’ rights are ambiguous, inhumane treatment can follow.

About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.