The Experimenter


Over the Christmas holidays, I watched the movie The Experimenter, a quasi-semi-sorta-documentary about Stanley Milgram.

The film was rather quirky and dry, but it did mention that Milgram was half Romanian, and there’s a scene about halfway through where an actor with a thick (fake) accent talks about the (real) atrocities that the Iron Guard committed during World War 2, that I wrote about in (gory) detail in Fury Unleashed.

Unfortunately for the film, as well as Milgram personally, the majority of people recoiled in horror when Milgram easily demonstrated that people will do evil things when told to do so by an authority figure.

Over and over again, you hear that the experiments were “debatable” or even downright “unethical”. Of course, if Milgram had proved that good, noble Americans would never do (simulated) evil things like the Nazis did, then nobody would’ve ever questioned the experiments.

Nonetheless, as Milgram says (in the film), despite all the controversy, his obedience experiments are still a fundamental part of basic psychology classes, and people still continue to wonder “how can it be so?” when considering the implications.

All I can say to that, on a personal level, is that people are social animals. Cows, birds, wolves, and thousands of other species are hardwired precisely to “follow the leader”. Humans are too, which is why they’ll do just about anything (good or bad) if a “pack leader” tells them to do it.

Of course, the advertising industry uses this “secret” on a daily basis to sell you shit you don’t need, never wanted, and can’t afford, and they figured it out decades before Milgram was born.

Like it or not, the final conclusion is that Milgram demonstrated something of real value. As for the film The Experimenter, there’s not much new there, so feel free to skip it, unless, of course, your boss orders you to watch it :P

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. karl says:

    Most of the criticism on Milgram’s Obedience Experiment* was of an ethical nature, but there were some methodological objections as well (e.g. some test subject ‘looked through’ the acting; there was much more objection from test subjects in later replications; test subjects became severly distressed in spite of following the commands which does show a degree of reluctance). Still, Milgram did make a point: under authoratative commands, most people will go quite far in inflicting cruelty, and even more so when peers are looking on.

    *He did other remarkable research in social psychology as well, so the denomer ‘Milgram’s Experiment’ can be confusing and apply to the Lost Letters or the Parcel Forwarding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right. By his experiment, I meant the obedience testing he performed when he was at Yale.

      Like

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