You may have seen the black-and-white footage, shot on the Yale University campus in May 1962. A middle-aged man sits at an electrical console, posing memory-recall questions to someone strapped into a chair in the next room and administering electric shocks for each wrong answer. As the shocks get worse and worse—150 volts, 165 volts, 180 volts—the victim complains, shouting that he has a heart condition and demanding to be let out. The man at the console protests to the researcher offscreen, but the researcher offers to take responsibility and orders him to continue. Again and again the man reluctantly raises the voltage—420 volts, 435 volts, 450 volts—even after his victim has fallen ominously silent. Subjects in the experiment, conducted over several months by social psychologist Stanley Milgram, were told it was a study of how punishment affects learning, but the whole electroshock drama was a hoax, the victim an actor. What Milgram really wanted to learn was how people can be conditioned to commit barbarous acts. Continue reading >>