Tag Archives: Milgram

History of Psych at Sundance

Two films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival take inspiration from now infamous experiments from psychology’s past. Experimenter, starring Peter Sarsgaard, centres on Stanley Milgram’s controversial obedience to authority experiments,

In 1961, social psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted the “obedience experiments” at Yale University. The experiments observed the responses of ordinary people asked to send harmful electrical shocks to a stranger. Despite pleadings from the person they were shocking, 65 percent of subjects obeyed commands from a lab-coated authority figure to deliver potentially fatal currents. With Adolf Eichmann’s trial airing in living rooms across America, Milgram’s Kafkaesque results hit a nerve, and he was accused of being a deceptive, manipulative monster.

Experimenter invites us inside Milgram’s whirring mind, beginning with his obedience research and wending a path to uncover how inner obsessions and the times in which he lived shaped a parade of human behavior inquiries, including the “six degrees of separation” findings. Constantly subverting expectations with surprising structural and stylistic choices, writer/director Michael Almereyda transmutes the crusty period biopic form into something playful, energetic, and deeply satisfying—taking bold risks to yield profound insights, like all great experiments. —C.L.

The Stanford Prison Experiment, starring Billy Crudup, explores Philip Zimbardo’s study of the same name. The film is described on the Sundance site as follows,

It is the summer of 1971. Dr. Philip Zimbardo launches a study on the psychology of imprisonment. Twenty-four male undergraduates are randomly assigned to be either a guard or a prisoner. Set in a simulated jail, the project unfolds. The participants rapidly embody their roles—the guards become power-hungry and sadistic, while the prisoners, subject to degradation, strategize as underdogs. It soon becomes clear that, as Zimbardo and team monitor the escalation of action through surveillance cameras, they are not fully aware of how they, too, have become part of the experiment.

Based on the real-life research of Dr. Zimbardo (who was a consultant on the film), The Stanford Prison Experiment is a dramatic period piece that remains relevant over 40 years later. Along with an impressive cast, including Billy Crudup as Zimbardo, Kyle Patrick Alvarez (C.O.G., 2013 Sundance Film Festival) delivers an intense, visceral film about the role of power that plays to both chilling and exhilarating effect. —K.Y.

Milgram’s Obedience to Authority Experiment on Mysteries at the Museum

Stanley Milgram’s infamous obedience to authority experiments have made their way to the Travel Channel. The study appears – in highly dramatized form – in the February 6th episode of Mysteries at the Museum.  Helping describe the study is Cathy Faye, Assistant Director of the Center for the History of Psychology in Akron, Ohio. The simulated shock generator from Milgram’s experiment now resides in the Center’s Museum.

New HoP: Milgram, Murray, Nostalgia, and More!

The August 2013 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Included in this issues are articles that look at the history of the concept of nostalgia, the contingencies surrounding the voice-feedback condition in Stanley Milgram’s obedience to authority experiments, a translation of Wilhelm Wundt’s (above) Psychology’s Struggle for Existence (Die Psychologie im Kampf ums Dasein) by James Lamiell, and the correspondence between American psychologist Henry Murray and Chinese psychologist Siegen K. Chou. Other items in this issue explore strategies in writing books in the history of psychology and developments in history and philsophy of psychology in Brazil. Full titles, authors and abstracts follow below.

“Nostalgia: The bittersweet history of a psychological concept,” by Krystine Irene Batcho. The abstract reads,

The concept of nostalgia has changed substantially both denotatively and connotatively over the span of its 300-year history. This article traces the evolution of the concept from its origins as a medical disease to its contemporary understanding as a psychological construct. The difficulty of tracing a construct through history is highlighted. Attention is paid to roles played first by the medical context, and then by the psychiatric, psychoanalytic, and psychological approaches. Emphasis is given to shifts in the designation of nostalgic valence from bitter to sweet to bittersweet, and the processes of semantic drift and depathologization are explored. Because the sense of nostalgia was constructed and reconstructed within social, cultural, and historical contexts, its meaning changed along with the words used to describe and connect it to other entities. Nostalgia’s past illustrates the influence of language, social-cultural context, and discipline perspectives on how a construct is defined, researched, and applied.

““The last possible resort”: A forgotten prod and the in situ standardization of Stanley Milgram’s voice-feedback condition,” Stephen Gibson. The abstract reads, Continue reading New HoP: Milgram, Murray, Nostalgia, and More!

Obedience to Authority Conference Program Now Online

The full program for this summer’s Obedience to Authority Conference is now online. Fifty years after Stanley Milgram’s now infamous shock experiments, the conference looks back at the impact these studies have had on the discipline and in broader society. Among the stellar list of conference participants are a number of individuals who are undoubtedly familiar to AHP readers: Hank Stam, Jill Morawski, Ian Nicholson, Gina Perry, Thomas Blass, Herbert Kelman, and many more. The Obedience to Authority Conference: Milgram’s Experiments 50 Years On takes place August 6-8th, 2013 in Bracebridge, Ontario. The full program can be found here.

Obedience to Authority Conference, August 2013


Fifty years after the results of Stanley Milgram’s (above) obedience to authority experiments first appeared in print, a conference on his controversial work is scheduled to take place. The 2013 Obedience to Authority Conference will take place August 6th to 8th in Bracebridge, Ontario in the Muskoka district north of Toronto. As the conference website describes, this event

came about as a result of a conversation at the 2012 Cheiron conference. After a panel discussion on Milgram’s obedience research, the four panellists – Nestar Russell, Gina Perry, Dr Stephen Gibson and Dr Ian Nicholson – agreed that a conference on the topic was long overdue.

The Call for Papers for the Obedience to Authority Conference follows below.

The 2013 Obedience to Authority conference invites proposals for papers that explore and investigate the implications and applications of Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments in the following areas:

Ethics
Gender and power
Historical analysis
Methodology
Paradigms of power
Replications and representations
Value and meaning

Submissions are due May 15, 2013 and can be submitted here.