The Wall Street Journal:
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Stanley Milgram’s experiments on “obedience to authority.” In 1963, two years after the Nazi Adolf Eichmann had claimed at his trial that he was “only following orders” in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust, Milgram wanted to know how many everyday, good Americans would obey an authority figure when directly ordered to harm another human being.
Participants came to the Yale lab thinking they were part of an experiment on the effects of punishment on learning. Each was assigned to the role of “teacher.” Another person, introduced as a fellow volunteer, was the “learner.” Whenever the learner, seated in an adjoining room, made an error in reciting a list of word pairs, the teacher had to give him an electric shock by depressing a lever on a machine. With each error, the voltage was to be increased. The shock levels on the machine were labeled from “SLIGHT SHOCK” to “DANGER—SEVERE SHOCK” and finally “XXX.”
Read the whole story: The Wall Street Journal