Obedience to Authority
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Obedience to Authority

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  1,576 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Obedience is as basic an element in the structure of social life as one can point to. Some system of authority is a requirement of all communal living, and it is only the man dwelling in isolation who is not forced to respond, through defiance or submission, to the commands of others. Obedience, as a determinant of behavior is of particular relevance to our time. It has be...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 8th 1983 by Harper Perennial (first published 1974)
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The Power of Habit by Charles DuhiggPredictably Irrational by Dan ArielyThinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel KahnemanThe Tipping Point by Malcolm GladwellThe Social Animal by Elliot Aronson
sparringmind.com's 50 Best Social Psychology Books
26th out of 66 books — 99 voters
The Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsSway by Ori BrafmanEvolutionary Psychology by David M. BussObedience to Authority by Stanley Milgram
4th out of 4 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

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Esteban del Mal


I like to tell people that my first religious experience was seeing the music video for Peter Gabriel's song Shock the Monkey. This experience, coupled with some subsequent churchgoing misadventures in my adolescence, is why I always have to suppress the desire to throw poop whenever I pass a church.

Hardly scientific, but it gets my point across: I don't do well with authority.

Stanley Milgram is a pioneer in social psychology. Why? Because he convinced people -- good, churchgoing pe...more
Stanley Milgram (1933-1984) made several groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of human behavior. He was a master of particularly inventive research: for instance, he devised the experimental method to investigate path lengths in social networks, establishing what is variously referred to as the "small world" effect, the Kevin Bacon effect, or "six degrees of separation".

He will always be remembered, however, as the man who conducted the “obedience studies”, a controversial series o...more
"If one had as one's ultimate authority God, then it trivializes human authority" — أحد المتطوعين في تجربة ميلجرام

لتتخيل معي أنك تطوعت للمشاركة في تجربة علمية تحت رعاية جامعة محترمة، يشرح لك القائم على التجربة وهو في بالطو المعمل الأنيق الهدف منها وهو قياس مدى تحسن قدرات الذاكرة لدى البعض على إثر عقابهم، ويخبرك أن وسيلة العقاب ستكون الصدمة الكهربائية مؤكداً أنها لا تسبب ضرراً بالغاً، فكل ما تسببه هو شعور بالألم، بعد الإقتراع مع متطوع آخر كنت أنت المسؤول عن توجيه الصدما...more
Rich V
Were Nazi soldiers just following orders in WWII? How would civilians in the U.S. respond to demands from authority figures to perform seemingly immoral acts? Where does the "just following orders" response fall on the scale of moral behavior?

Milgram conducted an experiment in which individuals were asked to administer increasingly intense shocks to an unseen test subject in the next room, whenever the subject answered a question incorrectly. Some individuals refused to continue administering s...more
"Why did you do that?"
"Because I was told to."

Or put another way, which didn't wash at the Nuremberg war trials, "I was only following orders." This book explores, through a classic experiment, the horrifying lengths that pefectly ordinary people will go to in obedience to authority and how they think that authority relieves them of personal responsibility for their actions. The tragedy is that those of us like me, who have a deep suspicion of authority, will read this book. Those who have faith...more
An in depth look at a the classic examination of people and their willingness to obey to others. This book is a look at the classic experiment that occured on the Yale campus in the the early 1960s. There were many other experiments done testing certain parameters within the original design set up by Milgram. At the end of the book a great quote/lesson from the experiment appears. It goes "it is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that deter...more
Obedience to authority is a book about the Milgram experiment on obedience. Milgram and his team from Yale performed a series of experiments to test whether common individuals would inflict pain on others if told to do so by an authority figure. The team tested this by asking volunteers to participate in a psychology study.

The experiments had different settings, but the basic idea was that a teacher (i.e. the subject of the study) was to read something to a learner (i.e. a team member) and punis...more
Canard Frère
Le descriptif d'une expérience psychologique des années 60, consistant à observer jusqu'à quel point l'obéissance à un ordre extérieur peut prendre le pas sur les scrupules de l'exécutant. Le livre est assez fascinant dans le détail des réactions des sujets (début d'effondrement nerveux pour certains, impassibilité feinte pour d'autres, etc), et finalement un peu inquiétant quand on constate la propension majoritaire à obéir de façon quasi-aveugle à des ordres pourtant iniques.
Un must che tutti dovrebbero leggere. La realtà è più angosciante del thriller più spietato e c'è un mostro in ognuno di noi. Sono i famosi esperimenti di Milgram che mostrano come la maggioranza delle persone obbedisca a un ordine anche contrario alla sua etica se a chiederglielo è un'autorità fortemente riconosciuta.
Marco den Ouden
Milgram's account and analysis of the famous experiments he conducted at Yale University. It is truly amazing how far most people will go when they believe they are acting at the behest of an authority figure. They do not question the authority's edicts, even when their own eyes tell them there is something wrong. These experiments help us understand better what Hannah Arendt referred to as the banality of evil, an expression she coined while covering the Eichmann trial. Eichmann persisted in cl...more
Thom Dunn
It's fair to say that no one graduates from a good college without learning of Milgram's Behavioral Study of Obedience. Good.
Milgram's book came at a fortuitous time for me, a time when I was experiencing a paradigm shift towards an obsession with social determinism. I had to read the book as part of my University's Freshman Studies curriculum, but I found that it fit extremely nicely into my personal intellectual search to understand what I refer to as the "Problem of Civilization." I had learned that there was a problem (a very serious one, at that) and I had learned what that problem was and how it worked.

But I di...more
This is a powerful cautionary tale about the nature of the human sheep. I see this book as an impetus for those truly interested in their own true individuality to begin the challenging, even painful, task of examining themselves in order to see and even understand where it is within them. Especially where they don't expect it, in the unconscious accepted truths of some so-called authority that they are following but which are invalid and destructive either personally or socially.

This book was...more
Steven Peterson
This is a classic work. It would also be unlikely to be approved by human subjects' review processes these days. Almost anyone who has taken an introductory psychology course will be familiar with the outlines of the piece of research described by Stanley Milgram in this book.

If you don't recall the author's name, you might recall the experiment. This is where people recruited to participate in the study were instructed to administer electric "shocks" to a person "wired" to a "generator." Of cou...more
Jul 29, 2011 Dave added it
I think most people have at least heard of Stanley Milgram's famous experiment whereby he tested people's obedience to authority. The experiment is fiendishly clever. The subject is led to believe that they are the 'teacher' in an experiment about human memory. The 'student' is an actor. The 'experimenter' instructs the teacher to administer successively more powerful electric shocks to the student on each missed or wrong answer. Out of the thousands of people so tested, quite a few went all the...more
Starting in 1961 American psychologist Stanley Milgram started a series of experiments which were to become some of the most famous and revealing in history. After the Nuremberg Trials a lot of people were asking how the Nazis could have carried out the atrocities they did, and a common defense presented by those on trial was "I was following orders". It was hard to believe, however, that people could really commit such heinous acts simply because they were ordered to. Milgrams experiments showe...more
This is an absolutely fantastic book. I hesitate to give it 5 stars because I reserve 5 stars for my favorite books ever. But make no mistake, this book is fantastic.
I'm not usually interested in psychology related books and I hesitated reading this book, thinking it might be a great bore and I may not even finish it. But I was mistaken. I was pleasantly surprised by how readable it is and how endlessly entertaining it is. I highly recommend this book for general readers and social scientists al...more
Extremely insightful and highly worth reading. If you're a rebel or conformist, you'll be surprised at all the trappings of authority, and how many people (men and women) went to 450 volts three times in a row simply because a fellow in a lab coat said so.

I'll share this:

"The behavior revealed in the experiments reported here is normal human behavior but revealed under conditions that show with particular clarity the danger to human survival inherent in our make-up. And what is it we have seen?...more
Jun 06, 2012 Claire rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those into psychology, sociology, research fields in these areas, war atrocities
Reading about scientific experiments written up this was is so enjoyable for me! This books steps you through Milgram's classic studies - which are more numerous than I was aware of, in terms of variation. It's a good example of how acute and critical yet open thinking in research can bring about a deeper understanding of human behavior. He and whoever he was working with, clearly explored a good number of possible explanations for displays of obedience in the presence of an authority.

(view spoi...more
It took me a while until I got around to reading a summary of the actual experiments done by Milgram and others. Before I ever opened this book I read quite a bit of criticism (e.g. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cru...) which I leave for anyone interested to evaluate for themselves. It should be noted that any experiment that attracts as much attention as Milgram's did is bound to receive abundant criticism and Milgram unlike other pseudo scientific authors of today, responds to all the crit...more
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Amal Shoeib
I've actually watched the original video of Milgram's experiment' and I was impressed!
The participants were convinced that the experiment was done to prove a "false" theory that implies that teaching and learning process can be improved by punishment.The punishment includes an electric shock with varying intensities (gradually increasing intensity along the progress of the experiment). The learner (who was fully aware of the enactment didn't really receive shocks). The teacher who wasn't aware i...more
An oldie but goodie.

Milgram did the famous "Milgram Experiments" on obedience about 60 years ago, or more, but they are fascinating. For those of you who don't know, the Milgram experiments involved inviting unwitting people to come into a Yale laboratory to assist with an experiment that was allegedly about the effects of punishment on learning word pairs. In reality, the experiment was to see how far people would go in punishing other people whom they had never met. The "learner" (who was an...more
John Wiswell
Aug 18, 2007 John Wiswell rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Psychology readers, philosophy readers, history readers, cultural readers
Stanley Milgram's experiments changed American psychology, for better and for worse. The test subject was attached to electrodes and answered a series of questions. If he got them wrong, he was electrocuted. He was hurt worse the more questions he got wrong. The shocks were administered a second man, while a third observed, gave the questions and gave the orders for shocks. But this wasn't a study of negative reinforcement; the test subject wasn't the real subject at all. He was an actor, preten...more
This is a great followup to the Lucifer Effect, an account off the Stanford Prison Experiments, which I also recently read. Milgram gives a very readable and concise review of his famous experiments in which subjects were asked to administer painful shocks to strangers, ostensibly as part of a memory experiment. While the experimenters initially assumed that their subjects would refuse to go on as soon as the "learner" expressed discomfort, most continued despite hearing agonized screams, and ma...more
There were sections that I found very interesting and engaging. Namely, the sections detailing the different experiments and the subjects' reactions to the experiment and their subsequent thoughts on it.

The chapters that were not so interesting to me were the ones about the reasons behind the actions of the subjects. While necessary I got lost in the sentences and really couldn't engage with these chapters of the books. It took me quite awhile to read these compared to the other chapters. Howeve...more

The book Milgram published reporting his findings from his famed obedience experiments, in which subjects were forced into a conflict between an authority’s instructions and their own consciences.

Faced with the belief that they were inflicting pain on another person by means of electric shock, a majority of subjects nonetheless continued to obey the authority’s command to continue shocking the victim.

Milgram set-up variations of the original procedure to attempt to isolate some of the factors...more
May 09, 2011 Erin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Erin by: self
An extended documentation of Milgram's classic experiments structured much like a peer-reviewed journal article, but less academic and more elaborated. Brilliant idea, tight method, and eloquent theory-based conclusions. At times, repetitive => my only complaint.

I was most impressed by Milgram's use of psychological theory from disciplines other than his own (i.e., social psychology). His integration of cognitive and psychoanalytic theory into explanations for findings demonstrates that he w...more
Brian Ayres
Of all of the areas of disagreement in the West from a psychological standpoint, the one that always pops up in my psychology courses is the idea that our behavior is caused by free will or choice. I encourage anyone who doubts the influence of authority and our natural instinct to form and follow social units to read Milgram's study that lays out the conditions for obedience. This books lays out the 18 variations of his classic "shock" experiments at Yale. People who are willing to deliver dead...more
An interesting yet a disturbing read. It certainly explains a lot of the atrocities inflicted by man upon his fellow man in this world but you can't stop the depressing feeling that gets to you when you realize that the majority of people will obey any kind of authority no matter how vicious it is instinctively & only a few will be able to break free from the social hierarchy that justifies this authority. Our species still has a long way to go to evolve through this disadvantage. #sigh
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Stanley Milgram (August 15, 1933 – December 20, 1984) was a social psychologist at Yale University, Harvard University and the City University of New York. While at Harvard, he conducted the small-world experiment (the source of the six degrees of separation concept), and while at Yale, he conducted the Milgram experiment on obedience to authority. He also introduced the concept of familiar strang...more
More about Stanley Milgram...
The Individual In A Social World: Essays and Experiments Television and Antisocial Behavior: Field Experiments Expérience sur l'obéissance et la désobéissance à l'autorité Obedience to Authority: Current Perspectives on the Milgram Paradigm

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“Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.” 17 likes
“But the culture has failed, almost entirely, in inculcating internal controls on actions that have their origin in authority. For this reason, the latter constitutes a far greater danger to human survival.” 7 likes
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