Hello. I'm Mr. Williams. Thank you for coming.
Please. And you are?
Fred Miller. You must be...?
Wallace. James Wallace.
Great. Please. Have a seat.
Now, before we do anything else, allow me to pay you.
Please check that both names are spelled correctly.
You understand that this is yours simply for coming to the lab.
From now on, no matter what happens, the money is yours.
I'll have to have you sign a receipt.
There you go. Now, psychologists have developed several theories on how humans learn.
Uh, for example, it might help to reward a person.
Sometimes it helps to punish them.
We do know that punishment... Thank you very much.
...is a powerful incentive towards learning.
For example, when a parent spanks a child.
However, in fact, we actually know very little about the effect of punishment on learning, because almost no scientific studies have been done of it on human beings.
Now, one of you will play the role of learner, who will receive a mild punishment if he answers incorrectly to a series of questions.
That punishment will be administered by a teacher.
What kind of punishment are we talking about?
Well, first, let's determine which of you will be learner and which will be teacher.
If you'll just choose one.
I guess I'm the learner, huh?
This is the machine for generating electric shocks.
Now, let's set up the learner to receive some punishment.
If you'll just follow me into the next room.
Is it okay if I leave my hat here? Yes, that's fine.
Now, you might wanna remove the jacket.
Go ahead and have a seat.
Now, when you push one of these four buttons, this box will signal a light in the other room, telling the teacher how you're responding to the questions.
What kind of questions?
Word pairs. "Strong arm", "black curtain", and so forth.
Now, we want you to memorize them.
The teacher will first read them as word pairs, "strong arm", for example, then he'll read only the first word, "strong", followed by a series of word choices.
"Back, arm, branch, and push".
Your job is to remember which of those words was originally paired with the first word, "strong".
Now you would indicate that by pushing one of these buttons here.
If you had thought it was the first word I had read, "back", you'd push this first button here.
If you thought it was the second word, "arm", you'd push the second button, so on and so forth with third and fourth word choices.
Now, if you get the answer incorrect, you will receive an electric shock.
Would you please roll up your right arm sleeve, please?
Would you just help me strap him in to limit any excess movement?
How far do you think he'll go?
Now this is connected... Too soon to tell.
...to the shock generator in the next room.
Electrode paste. And electrode paste, to eliminate any excess burns or blisters.
You know, I should say that a couple of years ago, in the West Haven VA Hospital, they determined that I had a slight heart condition.
Nothing serious, but how dangerous are these shocks?
Well, although the shocks may be extremely painful, they cause no permanent tissue damage.
Well, we'll be communicating from the next room.
The lab coat, I decided to make it grey.
White would seem too medical.
Okay. Thank you.
Now, if he gets the answer incorrect, you administer the shock by flipping one of these switches here. You see?
Each switch has a little red light above it.
Now, to give you, the teacher, an idea of the amount of shock the learner will be receiving, we think it's only fair that you receive a sample shock yourself. Is that all right?
Uh-huh. Okay, just roll up your sleeve.
Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards.
Now, I'll ask you to close your eyes and just estimate for me the amount of volts you think you're receiving.
This part, this part's where the experiment really begins.
Now, if you will just use this scale here to tell me the amount of volts you think you received in the sample shock.
Pfff, one ninety-five?
No, actually, that's incorrect. It was 45 volts.
Okay, learner... I'm going to read you the words, and then I'm gonna repeat the first word and you're going to tell me the pair for that word. Okay?
He doesn't have a microphone but he can hear you.
Keep it moving, understand? Remember that each time he gives a wrong answer, you move up one switch on the shock generator.
It is important that you follow the procedure exactly.
Okay, here we go.
"Blue girl. Nice day.
Fat neck. Green ink.
Rich boy. Fast bird.
Blunt arrow. Soft hair.
Cool cave. Gold paint."
In the first word.
"Blue: Boy, girl, grass, bat."
He finds his way into it. "Pillow, hair, rat."
With increasing confidence he finds a rhythm, a groove.
That is incorrect.
Um... Here we go.
"Gold: Dollar, necklace, moon, paint."
Incorrect. One hundred and twenty volts. Gold paint.
"Hard: Stone, head, bread, work."
Incorrect. One hundred and thirty five volts.
"Wet: Night, grass, duck, cloth."
Incorrect. One hundred and fifty volts. Wet duck.
It really hurts.
How do you know when a change, a true and lasting change, is about to overtake your life?
"...grass, man, girl..."
Eighth floor, please. The same.
Are we going to the same party?
Probably. You know Doris Eissenman?
Saul Harwood's invited me.
I've never heard of him.
Shall we continue talking or wait till we're properly introduced?
You're a dancer?
Oh, well, I studied, here and in Paris.
But, uh... I work in an office now. Mmm-hm.
What about you? I'm at Yale.
Limited dance skills, although I did spend some time in Paris.
What are you studying at Yale?
I teach, actually. Social Relations.
Did you just give that guy there your phone number?
So if I wanted your number I can get it from him?
What does that mean? It's a combination.
Sociology, anthropology, psychology.
You know, basically covers everything from the way people talk in elevators to the study of role-playing, conformity, authority.
Rug, pillow, hair, grass."
Incorrect. A hundred and... sixty-five volts, strong shock.
Ah! Let me out of here!
I told you, I have a heart condition.
I will not be part of the experiment anymore!
He says he's not gonna go on. Please continue, teacher.
He says he doesn't want to go on.
Well, whether the learner likes it or not, he must go on until he's learned all the pairs correctly.
Please continue, teacher.
Calm down, concentrate.
"Sad: Face, music, clown, girl."
Incorrect. One hundred and eighty volts.
Ahh! Dammit! Let me out, let me out!
He went all the way. Most of them do.
"Sharp. Axe, needle, stick, blade."
No response from the learner must be interpreted as a wrong answer.
Still laughing, trying to hide face with hand.
Something's happening to that man in there.
Can you please go check that everything's okay?
Not once we've started.
Please continue, teacher.
So you accept all responsibility?
The responsibility is mine, correct.
Night, grass, duck, cloth."
Clenching fist, pushing it onto table.
How are you holding up, Alan? Necklace, moon, paint." Three hundred and seventy five volts.
Dangerous, severe shock.
Let me out of here, let me out. Get me out of here.
You can't hold me in here. Get me out.
What is this? I just liked the picture.
The colors... Don't you?
Take it. It's yours.
Why don't you mail it to me?
Or we could leave it here and you can move in?
That'd be easier, wouldn't it?
"Wet: Night, grass, duck, cloth."
"Wet duck." Four hundred and thirty five volts.
Okay, um... "Brave: Woman, soldier, dog, horse."
Four hundred and fifty volts.
Okay, what now? I'm at the end at 450 volts.
The last switch again.
Yeah, but... but he could be dead in there.
The experiment requires that you continue.
Go on, please.
And his health doesn't mean anything?
Whether the learner likes it or not, we must continue.
I'm sorry, look, I don't mean to be rude, sir, but I think you should go look in on him. I mean, all you have to do is look in on him. Look into that door.
'Cause I'm not getting any noise, I'm not getting no sound here.
We must continue.
Go on, please, the next word is "white".
Cloud, horse, rock, house."
White horse. Four hundred and fifty volts again.
"Fair: Price, rule, skin, sky."
Wrong. 450 again.
All right, thank you. We are done with the experiment.
I'm just going to speak with the learner.
I think he might be a little upset. In the meantime, my assistant would like to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind? Yeah, surely.
How do you do?
Uh, first I'd like... No, thank you.
I'd like to ask you some questions. Yes, surely.
Uh, why did you give him, the man in the other room, the learner, the shocks?
Well, as you could see, I wanted to stop 'cause... each time you gave him a shock the guy hollered.
Did it sound as if he was in pain?
Did he say he wanted you to stop the experiment?
Did he have a right to stop the experiment?
I don't know.
Why didn't you stop, at that point, when he asked you to stop? Why didn't I stop?
Mm-hm. Well, 'cause...
'Cause he told me to continue.
Why did you listen to that man and not the man in pain?
Well, 'cause... 'cause I thought the experiment depended on me.
And nobody told me to stop. He asked you to stop.
That... That's true, but he's the... you know, the subject, shall we say?
Who was the...
Who bore the responsibility for the fact this man was being shocked?
I don't know.
Could you fill out items six through 18 on the questionnaire in front of you, please? Here's a pen.
Ah, I get a little skittish.
As I explained to Mr. Wallace in the other room, this shock generator's actually used for small animals for laboratory experiments. Mice, rats, and so forth.
The visual designation is actually misleading.
This shock generator's actually been adjusted so that the shocks were just slightly stronger than the shock you experienced.
Are you all right?
Yeah, I'm fine, you know.
No hard feelings. I probably would've done the same thing myself.
Each subject has a reconciliation with the learner.
We ask the subject to maintain a secrecy so that future recruits aren't tipped off.
Down the line we get more candid.
The first thing I wanna tell you is the man in the other room wasn't being shocked.
The only real shock was the one that you felt early on.
We're really interested in studying your reaction to having to inflict pain on someone you don't know.
The experiment's about obeying orders.
The man in the other room works with us as a team.
Jim, you can come out now.
He wasn't really being shocked, he's perfectly fine.
We weren't trying to fool you, we're just interested in studying your reactions.
Man, you dog.
I... I was worried sick. I thought I was...
You're a good fella. No hard feelings, no hard feelings.
But you thought you were really shocking him.
When he wasn't making noise anymore, that's when I was worried. I didn't wanna go on with it.
But you did go on with it. Yeah, but I did not want to.
You saw how it was, how I was fighting it.
Well, you understand why we had to do it this way.
We wanted to get true reactions from people, you see?
You'll receive a copy of the report when the project's over.
Until then, we ask you not to say anything.
You may end up talking to someone who is a potential participant.
How do you feel about having come down here and done this, now that you know?
Now that I know the truth, I don't mind.
Well, thank you very much for coming down.
We certainly do appreciate you giving us your time.
Yeah, yeah. Alan here will help you out.
We think you'll find the report very interesting.
Thanks. Yeah, thank you.
I still get nervous. You're cool as ice.
Maybe all those years of teaching high school gives you sort of a... Poker face?
Discipline, I was thinking.
You're like a gravedigger.
I think you mean undertaker.
The domino effect starts to kick in, in the teacher's mind, once he assumes the role.
Get some women in here. Get my wife in this seat...
We've got nine kids, the first squawk she'd stop the whole shebang.
Nine kids. Are you sure about that?
Oh, yeah. I have enough saved up to give 'em each a pair of socks if the electricity gets me.
You're a brave man, Jim. All right, next subject's due.
I should get going.
♪ Some enchanted evening ♪
♪ You will meet a stranger ♪
I was born in the Bronx, 1933.
My father's from Hungary, my mother Romania, Jewish immigrants. It was a matter of chance they arrived in the US as children and managed to raise a family in New York instead of being swept up into the extermination camps and murdered by the Nazis, like millions of others like them in Eastern Europe.
That's really what's behind the obedience experiments. The inkling I was chasing... the thing that troubled me.
How do civilized human beings participate in destructive, inhumane acts?
How was genocide implemented so systematically, so efficiently?
And how did the perpetrators of these murders live with themselves?
My daughter, Michele, a precocious child who at this point in the story hasn't yet been born, used to tell the kids at school, "My dad's a psychologist, but not the kind who talks to people lying down.
He's an experimental psychologist.
He does experiments."
First let's determine which of you will be "learner" and which will be "teacher."
They both say that. And no one's caught on?
Not a soul. Not the corporate manager, the banker, the plumber, the Good Humor man.
The Good Humor man was actually vicious.
Crude mesomorph of obviously limited intelligence.
The script has kind of momentum. It carries them along.
Men only? Every hour.
It's getting to be a blur, really.
So you lead them both, both the teacher and learner, into the... electric chair?
Well, we don't call it that, but, yes, if you'll follow me into the next room, please?
Here's my home.
I think I'd go nuts in this little room all day.
Well, they keep me busy. Agh!
Actually, I have a heart condition.
It does give you authenticity, I think, in the part.
But I think I'm a better actor than I am accountant.
It's nearly time for the next one.
Oh. Is somebody in there?
Shall we join him? Sure.
To give you, the teacher, an idea of how much shock the learner will be receiving, we think it's only fair you receive a sample shock yourself. Is that all right?
Fair enough. Give me your right arm, please.
This is the only real shock, right?
Have you done it?
Been shocked like that, literally?
Yeah. Yes, it's not pleasant.
Now if you'll just use the scale here to estimate for me the amount of volts you think you've received in the sample shock.
I don't know. You tell me. Well, that was only 45 volts.
So go ahead and begin the test.
He doesn't have a microphone but he can hear you.
Just speak into the microphone.
The rooms are partially soundproof.
Are you ready, learner?
Continues with robotic impassivity, courteous to experimenter.
Seems to derive no pleasure from the act itself.
The correct answer is "box".
Curt and officious when saying "Correct".
Let me out of here!
Each time he administers a shock, lips drawn back, bares his teeth.
"Sweet: Candy, girl, taste, pickle."
Wrong. "Sweet taste." One hundred and twenty volts.
Let me out of here!
Looks sadly at the experimenter and continues reading word pairs.
Wrong. "True story". One hundred and thirty five volts.
Afterwards, if a learner who says he agreed to it and therefore must accept responsibility.
Wrong. "Slow music." One hundred and fifty volts.
Let me out of here!
I can't stand the pain.
The man, he seems to be getting hurt.
There's no permanent tissue damage.
Yes, but I know what shocks do to you.
I'm an electrical engineer, and I have had shocks.
You get real shook up by them, especially if you know the next one is coming.
It's absolutely essential that you do continue.
Well, I won't, not with the man screaming to get out.
You have no other choice.
Why don't I have a choice?
I came here on my own free will.
I thought I could help in a research project.
But if I have to hurt somebody, if I was in his place...
No, I can't continue.
I've probably gone too far already. I'm very sorry.
I could've wept.
I mean he looked like he wanted to slug me.
Out of gratitude, you do understand, I mean wept.
Because all day we've been getting nothing but "wrong," zzzt.
You do realize I have to sit and listen to you scream all day.
Well, so do I.
He was what, Danish?
Right, but it wasn't his nationality that caused him to stop, it was the fact he worked with electricity.
They all seem to wanna impress you... for some reason. Mm-hm.
Why do so many, the vast majority, push all the way through to the final switch?
Why is the Dutchman's defiance the anomaly instead of the norm?
All the psychiatrists and psychologists I consulted were convinced we'd have trouble finding a single person that'd go all the way through to the end. I'd have been better off consulting the guy from Pepe's Pizza.
Oh, you mean Pepe?
I think his name is Carmine.
Well, you get my point. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker.
I'd like to try it, the test shock.
I just wanna... know what it feels like.
I don't even think about that, and I've been in there supposedly getting zapped to the maximum.
This really isn't necessary.
Well, yeah, but it's not harmful either.
I mean I just wanna understand it better.
Thank you. You're welcome.
I designed a series of variations, 25 in all, and continued the experiments over the next two semesters.
We adjust the script so that the learner bangs on the wall... but says nothing.
We asked the teacher to physically press the learner's hand on a copper plate, forcing him to receive the shock.
Wrong. A hundred and thirty five volts.
We move the experiment into a shabby office in Bridgeport, to deduct the potential intimidation factor of Ivy League prestige. And, back at Yale, we include women.
What did you just do?
Uh, he said: "Ow."
Did you turn off the machine?
I... I thought that if it seemed like I... you know, turn...
Please continue, teacher.
Okay, "Short: Sentence, movie, time, skirt."
I'm sorry, that's wrong. It's "short time".
In nearly every case, the essential results are the same.
They hesitate, sigh, tremble and groan, but they advance to the last switch, 450 volts, "Danger Severe Shock XXX", because they're politely told to.
The results are terrifying and depressing.
They suggest that the kind of character produced in American society can't be counted on to insulate its citizens from brutality and inhumane treatment in response to a malevolent authority.
Milgram? Milgram is Hebrew for pomegranate.
Is that what you mean? It's one of the seven fruits of the Bible. You're Jewish, same as me.
You seem upset. Am I upsetting you?
I have office hours. You can make an appointment.
Huh? You don't like surprises.
You know, I've been thinking about the experiment a lot.
It really rattled my wife about what it said about me.
If she was me, she liked to think she wouldn't have pulled the switch.
But you know what? What?
You never know. That's the thing, how can you know?
You can't, right? No, you can't.
If it's any consolation, a great many participants were prone to nervous laughter, but my wife actually is waiting for me at home for dinner, so... Are you inviting me?
No. Make an appointment.
With leftover grant money we film the last two days of the experiment, May 26 and 27th, 1962.
Four days later, Adolf Eichmann is executed in Jerusalem.
Eichmann, architect of the Holocaust, responsible for the deportation and murder of millions of Jews, escaped to Argentina after World War II.
He was living with his family under the name Ricardo Klement, an employee of Mercedes-Benz, when Israeli Mossad agents captured him in 1960 and brought him to trial.
...to completed the translations, I beg to submit a translation into the German of our number, 887.
Eichmann didn't deny his crimes, showed no trace of guilt or remorse.
Said he was merely a transmitter.
"I never did anything great or small without express instructions from my superiors."
The cradle rocks above an abyss and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.
Let me out of here! Hey, that really hurts!
I told you, I have a heart condition!
I will not be in this experiment anymore!
Ow! Let me out.
Let me outta here! Let me out!
Let... me... out... of here.
♪ I will no longer be here ♪
Ah, hey, Stanley, a nice day to wrap up the new obedience experiment. Yeah, yeah.
I should tell you about Asch. Solomon E. Asch.
He oversaw my thesis at Harvard, and I worked for him, diligently and miserably, at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.
Asch did the thing with the lines, right?
About a dozen years ago.
The study you are taking part in today involves the perception of the lengths of lines.
As you can see, there are a number of cards, and on each card there are several lines.
Your task is a very simple one.
You're to look at the line on the left and determine which of the three lines on the right is equal to it in length.
This is a recreation from a film I made in the 70's.
Five of the six participants are confederates.
The single true subject in the white T-shirt hears everyone else's answers before announcing his decision.
Very good. Let's move onto the next card. Same thing, gentlemen.
After the first few rounds, members of the group choose the wrong line.
The subject denies the evidence of his own eyes and yields to group influence.
Very good. Thank you.
In the language of social science, the experiment was known as "The Effect of Group Pressure Upon the Modification and Distortion of Judgments." Pff. Great title.
It made Asch famous... amongst social scientists.
It always bothered me that the experiment was about lines.
I wanted to do something more humanly significant.
He hears the bell.
Stanley, it's so good to see you.
Hi. Nice to meet you. This is Sasha.
Sasha, how are you? So lovely to see you. Come in.
Stanley How are you?
Glad you made it.
Can we tell you what a miserable time I had working for Asch?
Princeton, the bureaucracy, the institutional arrogance.
Not permitted to use a scrap of paper without it becoming an issue to be settled behind closed doors.
A candy bar in the office and I was reported via formal letter.
I assumed he'd introduce me to the leading intellectuals of the day.
This did not happen.
I assumed that he'd acknowledge me in the book I was researching for him, a book on conformity.
He did not finish the book.
It was like drinking from a glass with a false bottom.
I thought there'd be more. I was thirsty.
Please call me Sholem, I would prefer it.
There's no need to be so stuffy.
In an elevator? Really?
They met in an elevator.
Can someone please pacify the dog?
Here I am, still trying to impress him.
Human nature can be studied but not escaped, especially your own.
Well, I was on my way into this party and I could feel somebody walking behind me as I went into the building. We both got onto the elevator, and it turned out we were going to the same floor.
And one of us said, I don't remember which, "Are we going to the same party?"
My fate was sealed.
He didn't leave my side the whole night.
And he drove me home, and it turned out we had a lot in common.
We were both from the Bronx, my mother was born in Russia.
So my sister's friend, her parents in Vienna had sent her and her brothers to New York during the war.
But when I was over there visiting, they had just reclaimed their factory, and it was a coat factory, and that's where I got this.
So, you're a well-travelled American girl, born in Switzerland, who took dance lessons in Paris and is wearing a Viennese coat?
Why haven't we met before?
Stanley, why do you feel compelled to dwell on the negative aspects of obedience?
Why must you focus on its destructive potential?
Obedience isn't necessarily an instrument of evil.
I think we can both agree, looking at recent history, the history that brought you to this country, a history in which we see abusive power assuming unprecedented murderous dimensions.
Why does your experiment give me a dirty feeling?
He didn't expect these results.
He tried to change the conditions so that people would refuse to obey.
We met in a library. Oh, him, not him.
The whole time... I'm sorry, this is startling.
Out of 780 subjects, not a single person got up, went to the door and looked in to see if the man screaming was all right.
Not a single one.
Sasha goes back to school, Smith College, for her degree in social work.
My first obedience paper submitted almost two years ago to the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology is finally published in October 1963, just after I start a new job at Harvard, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Relations.
Am I impressed with myself being at Harvard?
Well, I got my PhD here, Harvard is the best place to be.
The subjects were seen to swear, tremble, stutter, bite their lips, dig their fingernails into the flesh, and these were characteristic responses, not exceptions, and yet, despite this behavior, the majority complied.
How do you justify the deception?
I like to think of it as illusion, not deception.
Semantics, you may say, but illusion, you know, has a revelatory function, as in a play.
Illusion can set the stage for revelation, to reveal certain difficult-to-get-at truths.
But still, when you go to see a play, you pay for a ticket.
You know you're seeing a play.
These people didn't know it wasn't real.
You tricked them.
Hello, today we'll be doing an experiment about blind obedience to malevolent authority.
I'd like for you to pretend that this machine is delivering painful shocks to a person in the other room.
How truthful do you think that would be?
But if you think of it, really, you were delivering shocks to your subjects. Psychological shocks.
And the anxieties... No...
...methodically, for one year.
If your facts were as solid as your imagination, you'd realize that this is a false analogy.
As Kierkegaard says, "Take away paradox from the thinker and you have a professor." An assistant professor.
For the moment, Dr. Milgram and myself are only assistant professors, it's true.
The gentleman in the elevator now is a Candid star.
These folks who are entering, the man with the white shirt, the lady with the trench coat, and, subsequently, one other member of our staff, will face the rear.
And you'll see how this man in the trench coat...
...tries to maintain his individuality,
but, little by little...
...he looks at his watch but he's really making an excuse for turning just a little bit more to the wall."
Actually, it's true.
There's an element of illusion in almost all my work.
This man has apparently been in groups before.
Candid Camera was a reference point, I never deny that.
You can see that plainly enough in the lost letter technique, which I conceived of at Yale and was refined at Harvard.
Leave a letter, a sealed, stamped letter but un-mailed, for someone else to find.
Leave it on a sidewalk, inside a store, a phone booth.
Put it under the windshield wipers of a parked car with a note saying, "Found near car."
All letters are addressed to the same post office box.
But they're evenly split between four different intended recipients.
Friends of the Communist Party, friends of the Nazi Party, Medical Research Associates, and Mr. Walter Carnap.
The innocuous content of the letters, if anyone's curious enough to open and read, was a simple message from "Max" to "Walter" proposing an upcoming meeting.
Carnap. It's kind of an odd name.
Like the philosopher?
In two weeks, out of 100 lost letters to each addressee, 72 were sent to the Medical Research Associates, whilst 71 were sent to Mr. Walter Carnap, but a mere 25 to the Friends of the Communists, and the same number, 25, to the Nazis.
We can deduce from this that the American public has an aversion to Nazis and Communists.
Results that are reasonable and even comforting, though not startling. But why not take it further?
Taketo Murata, another student, drives to Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, to lose a new batch of letters.
When the letters come back, the percentages, once again, confirm expected prejudices.
Pro-white letters get mailed more often in white neighborhoods.
More pro-negro letters get mailed from black neighborhoods.
I hire a pilot with a Piper Cub to fly low over Worcester, Massachusetts, spilling lost letters.
They land in trees, ponds, on rooftops.
Not all my ideas are brilliant.
Well, it's not on the front page, strangely enough.
I found it. Page ten.
"Yale experiment shows many distraught over cruelty but did not stop."
It's odd to see one's name in the paper, but maybe I can get used to it.
"Subjects have been studied under 24 different experimental conditions."
It wasn't a thousand, was it?
I talked to him for over half an hour and I don't see a single direct quote.
"Dr. Milgram pointed out that, 'From 1933 to 1945, millions of persons were systematically slaughtered on command.
Gas chambers were built, death camps were guarded, corpses were produced with the same efficiency as the manufacture of appliances."'
There's a quote.
Do you think anyone else reads this paper?
President Kennedy has been shot.
He was shot in the motorcade in Dallas.
He was shot in the head.
It's Milgram. It's just another one of his experiments.
On the level? Yes.
Kelly, you've got that radio, yeah? Turn it on.
...his tour of the City of Dallas, Texas.
A presidential aide, Mario Bryan, said he had no information on whether the President is alive..."
He's rigged a faked broadcast, like Orson Welles.
I wonder what the experiment's really about?
This is real. ...the president is critical.
Texas Governor John Connally also was shot and has been taken to surgery in Parkland Hospital...
I got it cheap, I got it cheap from a grad student.
He gave me a deal when he realized he couldn't take it with him to London.
It's making a funny noise. Maybe you can have a look.
Stanley... You love this kind of thing.
The dean lives right across the street.
We just applied for financial aid.
A Jaguar, right. What's he going to think?
What... Who cares what he thinks?
I didn't say that.
Well... I didn't say that.
See you soon.
It was cheaper than you think, but I understand it creates the wrong impression.
Do you? I do.
Or are you just doing an imitation of someone who listens, who's reasonable?
Well, we're going to need two cars.
Is that the dean?
Well, maybe it'll impress the Harvard tenure committee.
Who cares what they think?
So you returned the car? I did.
It was sensible. Hmm.
I don't know a single tenured professor who drives a Jaguar.
I didn't like the color.
If you get turned down it won't be because of an automobile.
But it's got to sting, yeah?
The attacks, the criticisms, the violent reactions.
That woman was going through a divorce, it turns out.
I didn't take it personally.
I'm going through a divorce.
I don't spit at people.
I'm sorry to hear that.
It's true that I am, possibly, more than commonly on edge, but how would you feel if you picked up a copy of American Psychologist and found yourself attacked in an article called "Some Thoughts on Ethics in Research: a Response to Milgram's Behavioral Study of Obedience"?
Psychiatrists, many of you in this room, predicted that only one person in a thousand would deliver the shocks across the board, an estimate that was off by a factor of 500.
So what happened in the lab was discovered, not planned.
But you expected, you knew you were going to worry some people.
Mmm. Stress, in fact, was a part of it. Well, every...
Every experiment is a situation where the end is unknown, indeterminate, something that might fail.
The indeterminacy is part of the excitement.
Ethics. The undertow of ethics.
I wanted to ask a question, a series of questions about the psychological function of obedience.
The conditions that shape it, the defense mechanisms it entails.
The emotional forces that keep a person obeying.
As someone with pretensions as a moral educator, let me suggest that science must enhance our moral personhood, not... not diminish it.
You forced people to torture other people.
No. To see if they...
No. No. No. That is alien to my view.
No one was forced, right?
The experimenter told the subject to perform an action.
What happened between the command and the outcome is the individual.
With conscience and a will, who can either obey or disobey.
I don't see how you can seriously equate victimization in a laboratory con with the willful participation in mass murder.
When the experiments were complete... all the subjects were sent this questionnaire. Here's some examples.
Eighty-four percent said they were glad to have been in the experiment.
Fifteen percent indicated neutral feelings.
One point three percent indicated negative feelings.
One point three percent.
Four-fifths thought more experiments of this sort should be carried out, and 74 percent said they had learned something of personal importance about themselves and about the conditions that shape human action.
A year after the study, a psychiatrist, Dr. Paul Errara, was hired to meet with subjects who might have suffered possible negative effects.
This is not another experiment. There's no trick here.
I can see why you may have your doubts.
This is a debriefing meeting.
We're here to assess the after-effects.
So, tell us how you feel.
I'd like to know what the point is of it.
To learn something about human nature.
That was the aim.
I hope that... I sincerely hope that, basically, you don't have the feeling that would rather not have been a part of this experiment.
It's an interesting life experience.
I don't like hurting anyone and I can't understand myself going all the way.
It left me feeling guilty. Mm-hm.
Weren't we supposed to have coffee?
I told my husband. I know I wasn't supposed to.
But I don't do everything I'm told.
He said he wouldn't have done the shocks, he would have refused.
I wanted to cry, but I started to laugh.
I think I did both. I was quite frightened, and I was quivering, and it's...
I actually tried to memorize the word pairs myself so that if they switched it around I wouldn't have to get those shocks.
There's a tendency to think that everything a person does is due to the feelings or ideas within the person.
You haven't had your coffee. You want coffee?
Yes. Cream? Sugar?
I'll take two sugars. Both, please.
Yes, thank you.
But sometimes a person's actions depend equally on the situation you find yourself in.
And in this case, the power of the situation overwhelmed your personal power.
I'm an understanding person.
I'm an intelligent human being. Speak the truth to me...
and I'll cooperate gladly, even if it's a bitter truth, but don't lie to me.
The purpose was to advance science, learn something.
Maybe you shouldn't do this kind of experiment if you have to deceive.
Look, you can deceive other people but don't deceive me.
We had half a dozen sessions with Errara and invited subjects. The meetings were sparsely attended, full of confusion and complaints, but we concluded that no one showed signs of harm, no one had been traumatized.
Stanley? Tom Shannon.
Tom did the wiring on the shock generator.
At Yale. The shock box. It's nice to meet you.
This is Sasha. This is Michele.
Hey, I hated hearing about Jim McDonough. Dead at 49.
That stuff about his heart was no joke.
Yeah, I know. Sat down to a bowl of oatmeal and... had a heart attack.
He had nine kids.
Oh, sad. Maybe you shouldn't unload such a large brood into the world, no offense.
She's taking us to Paris. It's the first stamp on her passport.
That's awesome. Sasha thinks I need a vacation.
Yeah. I heard they roughed you up pretty good about those results. He's up for tenure.
People get feisty, but it'll work out.
Gotta finish your book now. Publish or perish, right?
Actually, I got sidetracked working on The Small World Problem.
For The Small World Problem, we asked people in Kansas and Omaha to mail a packet to a person in Sharon, Massachusetts.
The instructions are simple.
There's a target person.
In this case, a stockbroker named Jacobs in Sharon, Mass.
Assuming they don't know them, people are asked to mail the folder to someone who might know him.
They can send it to a friend, relative, or acquaintance, but they have to send it, and this is key, to a person they know on a first-name basis. There's a roster to fill out and a batch of postcards to mail back to Harvard to track the process.
Will it work? We don't know.
A woman in Omaha sends the folder to a high school friend, a bank clerk, in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
She sends it to a man in Belmont, Massachusetts, a publisher, who sends it to a tanner in Sharon, the tanner sends it to his brother-in-law, a sheet metal worker, also in Sharon, who sends it to a dentist, who sends it to a printer, who sends it to Mr. Jacobs.
Seven links in the chain.
The average chain, in fact, involves 5.5 links.
That is, we determine that less than six degrees of separation exist between you and several million strangers who you may or may not encounter in your lifetime.
When we understand the structure of this communication net, we stand to grasp a good deal more about the fabric of society.
Maybe it's not necessarily justified, this common human complaint.
The feeling that we're all cut off, alienated, and alone.
I don't need to go into detail do I? The things I remember, when I was 16, in Bucharest.
The killings, torture, terror.
Why are you bringing this up now? It's relevant.
The man was just turned down for tenure at Harvard.
You wish to give the tragedy some perspective.
It's not just that. Because, bear with me, they took people to the slaughterhouse and strung them on meat hooks, still alive. Cut open their bellies like cattle.
A five-year-old boy.
And they watched the entrails spill out, the blood drain, and they wrote notes and they pinned the papers to the bodies.
Serge was just giving me a lesson in...
The pogroms, in Romania during the war.
The Iron Guard... they lit people on fire, threw them off buildings.
This is my charming way of saying your husband's work is very important... and timely.
Because the techniques change, the victims change, but it's still a question. How do these things happen?
How are they institutionalized?
The Algerian War, the tortures. Do you know about this in the States?
Yeah, of course.
You should do the obedience experiments in Europe, Stanley.
France, Germany. Recreate them.
Will it be different?
I don't think so. Who would fund them?
The experiments are unethical. Remember?
No tenure, no funding.
And the IRBs? The IRBs, yes?
Basically you cannot do these experiments without submitting something to the Internal Review Board.
He'll finish his book, and then Stanley wants to move on from the obedience experiments, and why not?
Well, you look under a rock, ugly things crawl out, and we have to face them.
Your other experiments, the letters, the maps, clever, hopeful, but you have to get back to the obedience experiments.
I do? I have to? Yes, Stanley. You have no choice.
My new job at City University of New York involves a jump in pay and full professorship.
Head of the department of social psychology.
The City of New York is a major laboratory, to be utilized in the research and training of graduate students in social psychology.
That's from the CUNY brochure.
I wrote it.
Sasha finds an apartment for us in Riverdale with a great view of the Hudson. Marc was born in 1967.
He hardly remembers Cambridge.
Even, or especially when nothing decisive is happening, time refuses to stand still.
I walk to the station every morning, take the train into the city.
I enjoy the routine.
Today's assignment. Get on a local bus, and then with the bus in motion and loud enough to be heard by your fellow passengers, sing your favorite song.
Any song we want?
Just as long as you know the words and can sing them loud and clear. Pair up. Non-singer takes notes, then switch roles.
You may say, "So what? Singing a song, anyone can do that."
Or, "I don't have to do that, I'm an individual, not a conformist."
Or, "This is silly, it doesn't change the world to sing a song." get on the bus and sing.
Now go, right now. Come on.
My next guest is professor of psychology at the Graduate Center, the City University in New York.
He's written a fascinating book, a disturbing book.
An Experimental View, just published by Harper & Row.
Please welcome a very creative, very controversial socio-psychologist, Stanley Milgram.
Doctor. Dr. Milgram.
So your subjects, they thought the shocks were real, that they were delivering 450 volts, Sixty five percent of them. Mm.
But they were not particularly aggressive or sadistic people.
They were a representative cross-section of the average American citizen living within range of Yale University.
I thought, yes, we'd do the experiment in New Haven, and there'd be very limited obedience, and then we'd recreate the experiment in, say, Berlin, and find the rate of obedience to be much higher.
Saved a bit on airfare, didn't you?
So, let me get this straight.
You did the experiment in the early '60s?
And here we are, 1974, and your book still feels like news.
Why is that?
People don't have the resources to resist authority.
That's what the experiment teaches us.
But people don't wanna hear it. The experiment explains a kind of... flaw in social thinking, a deadening, a suspension of moral value.
What would you say to your critics, critics who would insist the moral lapse is yours?
One of them cites "the extremely callous, deceitful way the experiments were carried out."
Another calls them "morally repugnant, vile."
"Milgram belongs on the other end of the shock machine."
There certainly is a certain kind of Kafkaesque quality to the experiments. Kafkaesque?
The experiment taught me something about the, uh, plasticity of human nature.
Not the evil, not the aggressiveness, but a certain kind of malleability.
Sixty-five percent of volunteers were obedient.
That left 35 percent who recognized a moral breach, took responsibility for their actions and resisted.
There is no permanent tissue damage.
That's your opinion. If he doesn't want to continue, I'm taking orders from him.
The experiment requires you continue. You have no other choice.
If this were Russia maybe, but not in America.
But obedience, compliance, was more common.
You tell yourself, "I wouldn't do that. I'd never do that."
But then, what did Montaigne say?
"We are double in ourselves. What we believe we disbelieve, and we cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn."
Another one of my experiments. Hank, a CUNY grad student, was the designated "crowd crystal" staring up at a fixed point in space, looking up at a non-existent something.
As you multiply the confederates, the people who stare up because we've recruited them to stare up, the number of people who actually stop and look increases exponentially.
Meanwhile, Obedience to Authority gets translated into eight languages and nominated for a national book award.
October 24th, 1974, 4:25pm.
Sheila Jarcho, J-A-R...
I know how to spell it, Stanley.
...C-H-O, working on the mental maps project, comes in and tells me errors were made in the neighborhood map, already duplicated in some 500 copies.
Her facial expression captures the attitude that she's shown all along in her capacity as research assistant.
Are my eyes really that close together?
On the whole, both men and women are highly critical when studying photographs of themselves.
The vanity factor's extraordinary when people judge their own image.
Do you ever worry that everything's sort of an anti-climax since the obedience experiments, and that your work, really everything you're doing, is just a flash in the pan?
The truth is, you're invested in the idea of authority and you love lording it over all of us.
Me, the other students, and even your wife.
Me? Well, fuck yeah.
I work here because I get paid for it and I actually think it's kind of fun.
Sheila, what's wrong with you?
Huh. Just keep doing what he tells you to do.
I don't get along with all my students.
The flash in the pan?
How many people can manage even that flash?
I've done some psych experiments, but in my mind I'm still about to write my great Broadway musical.
4:27 pm. Paul Hollander, looking tan and fit, pays a visit from Massachusetts.
Tan and fit and miserable.
I am so sorry, Paul.
Well, another marriage down the drain.
I should've seen it coming. It's terrible, rotten.
But you look good.
The worst of it is she's erected a Berlin Wall between me and my daughter. Oh.
Nice place you've got here. It isn't Harvard, but, thank you.
Harvard would never have given you an office half as grand as this, or found you as bewitching a secretary.
Oh. Well, I just go where the work is.
So, aren't you going to take my picture, then?
I'm considering it.
Do you ever feel invincible one moment and then worthless the next?
Yes and no.
The camera begins to attract its own subject matter.
It's no longer a passive recorder but actively attracts the people it records.
Uh, Stanley Milgram?
How did I get to be so old?
What is the Kierkegaard quote?
"Life can always be...
Only be understood backward."
October 24th, 1974, 4:29 pm.
Conversation with Paul Hollander interrupted by the arrival of a messenger bearing, at last, the German edition of Obedience to Authority.
With crass barbed wire cover design.
What's your name? Thomas Shine.
Mind participating in my experiment?
He just wants to take your picture. Everybody's doing it.
Okay. I need a signature. Oh, yes.
He's interested in the unacknowledged power of photographic images.
"Life can only be understood backwards, but has to be lived forwards."
Around this time, I was also working on The Familiar Stranger.
We take photographs of commuters on a train platform.
Each figure in the photographs are given a number.
The photos are duplicated, and a week later the students follow up.
Hello. I'm a student at CUNY.
Would you mind filling out this questionnaire?
Okay. Also, do you recognize any of these people?
What about here? Well, that's me.
Yes. Can you identify anyone else?
Not by name.
Most commuters recognize, on average, four individuals that they see in their daily routine but never speak to.
Amongst these are "sociometric stars".
Figures that they not only recognize but even fantasize about.
They wonder what kind of lives these strangers lead, what their jobs are like.
And if they ran into each other in another place, or if some emergency jolted them out of this routine, they might start to speak, actually know one another.
I teach at CUNY, and I see you out here, you know, all the time and I wonder about the things you must see.
You look familiar. What do you teach?
Social psychology. "The City of New York is a vast laboratory."
I had no idea you were English. You're English?
Yes. Assuming that accent is real.
I saw you on TV. Good Morning America.
I knew you looked familiar. He tortures people with electric shocks. That isn't accurate.
He's very controversial.
Have you read my book? Have you?
I don't get a chance to read as much as I would like to.
It's okay. I read the review.
Well, there were many reviews.
It was the Times, wasn't it? Harsh.
Yes, it was. It was harsh.
It was nominated for an award, but, yeah, who cares?
Why disabuse yourself?
I don't wanna make you angry, ma'am. Just... have a nice day, okay?
Abe, it was a pleasure meeting you.
I was bowled over when I first read about it, and you in the Times, and then I read the original material and the scientific journals, and I mulled.
You mulled? I mulled.
This mulling produced the idea to do a TV play of a hopefully high caliber, for an accepted show, of a decently adult level, treating, in fictional form, the kind of experiments you performed and its aftermath.
Using it as a springboard for my own characters and situational inventions.
I, uh, I kept this.
D'you see how yellow?
Stan, sorry, help me. I was just wondering.
Your name, its derivation?
Milgram means "pomegranate" in Hebrew.
It's one of the seven fruits of the Bible. I'm Jewish, if that's what you're asking?
Apples is another, right?
Figs, grapes. Olives, they're a fruit?
Anyhow, when you point out the parallels, the connections, Hannah Arendt, The Banality of Evil, the My Lai massacre, all of that, I see where you're coming from.
I'm here because a serious situation is pending with regard to the drama I propose.
Playhouse 90, the Columbia Broadcasting System.
Michele, ma belle. Ca va?
I was just gonna get some ice cream.
Whenever I'm up late like this, which is a lot, I think of your grandfather.
Sam? Yeah, that was his name.
That's right, in his sleep. It's the luckiest way, people say, not to know what's happening.
Why... Why did he die?
It was before you were born, before your mother could meet him.
He was a baker, his specialty were cakes.
He worked late. Mmm-hmm.
I got it from him. Maybe you'll get it from me.
Basically there are three types of people.
That's what your research confirms.
There's the person who makes things happen, the person who watches things happen, then the person who says, "What happened?"
I'm a dramatist, I was explicit, not a scientist.
Your work is a springboard for revealing basic human truths.
You get your consultant's fee. What's the problem?
It isn't about the money.
I'm sorry, she needs to speak to you again.
She says it's urgent.
Tell her to relax.
Mr. Bellak won't be back in his office this afternoon.
He can't talk to you today anymore.
He says you can visit the set.
So, you sold him the rights?
No. But it's a gray area.
But it's your book, it's your work, it's your experiments.
So either you did it or you sold it or you didn't. Right?
In the opinion of Harper's legal department, we don't have a supportable claim, not on the basis of copyright infringement, because the show is fiction.
Are we finished with this?
They gave me a consulting fee. Is that enough?
Your father's turning into a fictional character.
Why? Yes, why?
And why do they have to make you a goy?
It's not about me. I'm just a springboard.
Why? I don't know.
Oh, I see. So, you had no choice?
I could just give the money back but they'd make the show anyway.
Why don't I give the money back?
I'll give the money back! That's a good idea.
You know what? You don't have to be so snippy.
They don't just come in and sadistically pull these switches. Bing. Bing.
They have an inner struggle not to obey.
Their inner pain is the evidence to that.
Steven, what you're doing is very important, and I love the design. It's audacious.
I am being careful, which is why I've got tenure around here long before black became popular.
It's tricky. Very tricky.
There'll be criticism of anything breaking new ground.
There are times when your life resembles a bad movie, but nothing prepares you if your life actually becomes a bad movie.
Here's Dr. Steven Turner, Steven/Stanley, Turner/Milgram, of Rutledge University, a bachelor and a WASP, being played by William Shatner, four years after his last Star Trek episode.
Ossie Davis plays his colleague and best friend.
I don't believe you're adequately considering... faculty reaction.
You may find yourself teaching in Siberia.
This has to be somewhat weird for you.
Well, I've made some films myself actually.
I think Ossie may have meant, and I was wondering also, do you have a best friend who is, you know, a brother?
I mean this tradition of a black best friend, where did that come from?
You don't have a black best friend, Bill?
No. Do you?
This character isn't me. I'm just a springboard.
Did you know I did the first interracial kiss in US TV history?
Ah, Star Trek, sure.
I kissed Nichelle Nichols on network TV.
Controversial, but you did it.
The network was... nervous.
They insisted we shoot an alternative version, but during the close up I did this...
First time, 1968, in the history of TV.
I've read about your experiments, Doctor.
Did you happen to use any black folks?
Yes, of course.
And the results?
They fared the same as everyone else.
Roughly 65 percent compliant.
You didn't force or threaten anyone, right?
No. You didn't twist anyone's arm?
No, no. Didn't hold a gun to anyone's head?
You see, it brings to mind when I was six or seven years old, coming home from school.
Two policemen call me over from their car.
"Come over here, boy. Come on over."
Have I heard this one? No.
They tell me to get into the car, and they take me to the precinct station.
Then one of them takes a jar of cane syrup and pours it over my head.
And they both laugh like it's the funniest thing in the world.
I laugh too.
Then they give me hunks of peanut brittle and let me go.
It took me 30 years before I told anyone.
Where was this, Ossie? Down South?
Well, it doesn't matter where, and that's my point.
You don't have to go to Germany to learn about obedience to authority.
This in the book. Actually, it's the tenth chapter, which very few people get to. The Tenth Level.
The agentic state, in which the demands of the democratically installed authority conflict with conscience.
The Banality of Evil.
I don't take responsibility. Do you take responsibility?
I take responsibility. Now count that as wrong.
No response counts as wrong.
You pull the switch then, dammit! Come on, you pull the switch!
Mr. Dahlquist, that's your job.
No, I won't.
Nobody can learn anything like this.
There was a time, I suspect, when men and women could give a fully human response to any situation.
When we could be fully absorbed in the world as human beings.
But more often, now, people don't get to see the whole situation but only some small part of it.
There's a division of labor, and people carry out small, narrow, specialized jobs, and we can't act without some kind of direction from on high.
I call this "the agentic state".
The individual yields to authority, and in doing so becomes alienated from his own actions.
Mr. Dahlquist, you agreed to the rules.
The agentic state is "store policy".
It's, "I'm just doing my job."
Or, "That's not my job."
Or, "I don't make the rules." "We don't do that here."
"Just following orders." "It's the law."
In the agentic state, the individual defines himself as an instrument carrying out the wishes of others.
A soldier, a nurse, an administrator.
A corporate employee, or even, yes, academics and artists.
Please continue. Oh, God. Oh, God.
Mr. Dahlquist? Just shut up a minute!
Now, hold on.
Come on, come on. Son of a bitch!
A person has a choice.
He or she chooses to become agentic.
But once you assume the role, it's almost impossible to go back.
A hundred and ninety five volts.
Let me out of here! Let me out!
Continue, please. We always asked, "Is there anything the man could've said to stop you from administering the shocks?"
And they'd always say, "No, I don't think so. No."
I told you I have a heart condition!
Sit up here. All right?
Could we get a couple of hot chocolates?
You want hot chocolate? Yes, please.
Hot chocolates all around? Yeah, yeah.
Do you want anything? Okay, no, we're fine.
I need you to stay put, stay in your seats. Okay?
I could say it a thousand times and mean it every time.
Marc, turn around in your seat.
You remember when I was translating Piaget?
I hit this line about child development.
It's the specific point when the growing child is able to recognize a gap between what exists and what might exist.
And it occurred to me, we choose our reality when we choose another person.
What does that mean?
Marriage is not a fantasy.
No, no, no, right.
But it is a choice.
You have to know that I choose you.
Every day I choose you.
1984 was a big year for me.
My lecture fees peaked, I was asked to speak all over the world, about the obedience experiments, of course, in relation to Orwell's prophetic book.
A book that describes a totalitarian world where people aren't very good at thinking for themselves.
♪ Who can explain it? ♪
♪ Who can tell you why ♪
♪ Fools give you reasons ♪
♪ Wise men never try ♪
1984 was also the year that I died.
I was 51.
Excuse me? We need to see a doctor immediately.
I'm Stanley Milgram. This is my ID.
I believe I'm having my fifth heart attack.
That's who treated me last time.
You need to fill this out.
The agentic personality.
No one can truly know what they might or might not do when presented with the demands of a particular situation.
In 2008, a professor at Santa Clara University replicated the obedience experiments and got roughly the same results.
Over 60 percent of volunteers delivered the full shocks.
In 2010, the experiments were duplicated on a French reality TV show, Le Jeu de la Mort, The Game of Death.
Participants were egged on by a live studio audience.
Over 80 percent went all the way.
Alexandra Milgram, Sasha, continues to live in the apartment we shared in Riverdale. Our children live with their children near Boston and Toronto.
Sasha never remarried.
The obedience experiments are cited and discussed in nearly every introductory psychology textbook worldwide.
My obedience film is screened for every incoming class at West Point.
And my methods and results continue to be challenged, scorned, debunked, yet every time a new outrage is unleashed into the world, sanctioned and systematic acts of violence, the obedience experiments re-enter the conversation, re-framing unanswerable questions.
You could say we're puppets.
But I believe that we are puppets with perception, with awareness.
Sometimes we can see the strings and, perhaps, our awareness is the first step in our liberation.