Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Obedience to Authority” as Want to Read:
Obedience to Authority
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Obedience to Authority

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  3,209 ratings  ·  169 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Obedience to Authority, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Obedience to Authority

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,209 ratings  ·  169 reviews

More filters
Sort order
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
Jul 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
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
Rich V
Jun 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Michael Perkins
Jun 13, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately the experiments for which both Milgram and Zimbardo made their names have turned out to be utter frauds....

more on the fake Stanford experiment in this short review....
J.M. Hushour
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"The problem is not 'authoritatianism' as a mode of political organization or a set of psychological attitudes but authority itself."

An outstanding, chilling, and sometimes strangely optimistic account of Milgram's famous experiments in the 1960s dealing with authority.
The experiment was simple: the test subject "tested" a learner, actually an actor, on word pairs. If the learner got them wrong, the subject gave him increasingly painful electric shocks. The purpose was to see how subjects intera
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book on the famous/infamous series of experiments conducted at and near Yale in the early 60's (book published in 1974). As for many, I was exposed to Milgram in a college survey course but still had no idea of the 20-odd variations on his study alone, not counting replications around the world. The book is clear, concise, and well-written and with conclusions that are both revelatory and disturbing -- not least by engendering thoughts of what I might have done as a study subject.

Mar 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
The movie "Experimenter" is an excellent film about Stanley Milgram and the experiment documented in this book. I saw the film first, and now that I've read the book I like what they did with the film even more: the two really compliment each other if you're interested in the topic. If not, the film will be more accessible and interesting.

The question was: if random subjects are asked by an authority figure to harm a stranger for the sake of "science," will they go through with it? Yes, sadly,
Oct 08, 2016 added it
Deyth Banger
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"February 11, 2019 – Finished Reading
January 26, 2019 – page 102
January 16, 2019 – page 98
January 12, 2019 – page 87
January 11, 2019 – page 60
January 7, 2019 – page 45
17.58% "Just showing how far a weak mind goes..."
January 6, 2019 – page 30
August 26, 2018 – page 27
June 1, 2018 – page 24
9.38% "And people belief in what it's said to them... people so easy can get manipulated...


We just needs few
January 5, 2018 – page 17
January 5,
El (book.monkey)
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
I really wish I had read this book last year when I first started learning about Milgram's work for my Psychology A Level. It gave me a truly deep understanding of his agent theory and over all the studies. If you are about to do an A Level in the UK in psychology and have a bit of extra time I would highly recommend reading this book!
Jorgen Peterson
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book. I'll send it to you Saum.
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, psychology
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. 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
Lei Kit
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
A very uplifting book that warmly reminds us that we’re basically no different from Nazi: the authority says jump, we jump, they say kill, we kill, and it has very little to do with our morality and conscience - these things mean very little in the face of the authority, and rightly so, because for a society to function properly we each have to submit ourselves to our superordinates, our superordinates to their super-superordinates, etc. And to achieve this our morality and conscience would almo ...more
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Though severly restricted by antiquated research paradigms (i.e. blind spots) of the time of the experiment (predominately male, white study participants as just one example) this study and Milgram's detailed and mostly nuanced discussion of the results is still well worth reading.

The famous take away and dominant narrative of the experiment can be summed up in this quote "With numbing regularity, good people were seen to knuckle under to the demands of authority and perform actions that were ca
Michele Brack
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, books-i-own
#40 A book you bought on a trip

"Nothing is more dangerous to human survival than malevolent authority combined with the dehumanizing effects of buffers." (p 157)

I saw this movie about a year ago and I immediately (though, admittedly in a very inebriated state) bought the book and decided to read it. It is FASCINATING!

It really makes you think about the role that authority plays in our everyday lives. There is this section where they talk about the autonomous state and the agentic state and it j
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"The virtues of loyalty, discipline, and self-sacrifice that we value so highly in the individual are the very properties that create destructive engines of war and bind men to malevolent systems of authority."

The Milgram experiments revealed alarming human traits. Hard to believe, difficult to accept, but truly enlightening. The book lays out the data collected and what was learned. It's not a difficult read. It was very enjoyable actually. From the worst atrocities, to your everyday life, this
Ahmed Al sanhani
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is really annoying knowing that we are more likely to commit horrible things and yet we don't shoulder the responsibility of our actions because we are basically ordered to do so. This reminds me of one of the verses in Holy Qur'an saying that individuals are fully responsible of their own every action regardless of the authority over them. And what's more annoying is that disobeying authority is hard. To me, being aware of this at least will help me to avoid being in a position requiring me ...more
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
I thought I knew all about this experiment from reading other sources, but of course I was wrong. Milgram carried out something like 16 variations of the experiment, and he thought really hard and insightfully about it. He doesn't just quote Freud, Kohlberg, Asch and other psychologists of his time, but also philosophers like Hannah Arendt.

I will say the first half (describing the experiments) is more worth reading than the second half (discussion), which I skimmed.
Nicholas Smith
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Milgram's experiments into obedience remain some of the most enlightening and disturbing in the history of psychology. This book which opens up the process and the wide variety of tests carried out, reinforce the core message that evil is frequently carried out by ordinary people, who can be manipulated by those with the appearance of authority. This is a timeless book and worth anyone's time reading.
Tadas Talaikis
Mar 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social, psychology, best
Revolutionary experiment, showing us more of reality on human behavior. Everyone should know it, because time goes and nothing changes, every time appears the "superleader" promising fantastic holly lands and those p-zombies are going on. Human morals are contradictory since the start of life: "don't beat smaller children" at one hand, and "do as I say!" at another.
John Rapp
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Grim exploration of our simple-mindedness, willful blindness, and thinly-veiled capacity for evil. “It is not so much the kind of person a man is, but the situation in which he finds himself, that determines how he will act.”
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Easy to read, yet devastating. A book with details on scientific experiments and reflections on the dangers not of human's corruption and anger, but in our shocking ease to abdicate our morals to malevolent authorities, institutions and ideologies.
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.
Jacob Witmer
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the book that all libertarians (and potential libertarians, or "consistently pro-freedom individuals") should read, if they want to understand how and why government, the law, and society are broken. I don't recommend the more popular (in libertarian circles) "Human Action" by Mises for this purpose, (even though that is a fine book as well).

This book was expressly written to investigate why the Jewish holocaust happened; how the German citizenry could "go along
Sharon Lin
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
James Hall
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This book begins with a detailed explanation of Milgram's experiment. It goes through each condition in which subjects were placed to determine whether or not they would obey the authority present. There are helpful tables that break down the behavior of each subject and the conditions in which he/she participated. This part is pretty boring, but if you can get through it and manage to stay engaged, it gets really good during the analysis portion.

Milgram explains how we behave in these circumst
Royce Ratterman
Jan 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This experimental research was carried out and completed at Yale University in the Department of Psychology during 1962-63. "A person coming to our laboratory will be ordered to act against another individual in increasingly severe fashion. Accordingly, the pressures for disobedience will build up. At a point not known beforehand, the subject may refuse to carry out this command, withdrawing from the experiment. Behavior prior to this rupture is termed obedience. The point of rupture is the act ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Man Who Shocked The World: The Life And Legacy Of Stanley Milgram
  • The Psychology of Attitude Change and Social Influence
  • Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty
  • The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind
  • Out of Character: Surprising Truths About the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us
  • Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past
  • The Branded Mind: What Neuroscience Really Tells Us about the Puzzle of the Brain and the Brand
  • Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century
  • Beyond Culture
  • Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind
  • The Person and the Situation: Perspectives of Social Psychology
  • Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment
  • Beyond Freedom and Dignity
  • The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making
  • Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf
  • Mindfulness
  • The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (Esalen Book)
  • Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior
See similar books…
Dr. Stanley Milgram (Ph.D., Harvard University, Social Psychology, 1960) spent most of his career as a professor of psychology at City University of New York Graduate Center. While at Harvard, he conducted the small-world experiment (the source of the "six degrees of separation" concept); at Yale, he conducted the "Milgram experiment" on obedience to authority. He also introduced the concept of "f ...more
“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.” 63 likes
“It is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act.” 35 likes
More quotes…