The Man Who Astonished the World: Responses to Stanley Milgram’s Experiments

The Man Who Shocked the World: Stanley Milgram (Photo Credit: Peter C. Baker)

Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Experiment

Stanley Milgram is well known today for his controversial experiment on obedience. During the 1960s, while he was a professor at Yale, Milgram conducted a series of experiments on obedience. His findings were shocking: most people, Milgram found, will obey authority figures when instructed to harm others, even if such actions were contrary to their own, personal beliefs. Milgram’s experiment had enormous implications for understanding how so many people could come to take part in the mass murder of Jews and other ethnic minorities in Nazi Germany. However, Milgram’s experiments were questionable from an ethical perspective and they were criticized heavily at the time and since then by social psychologists and other scholars. This paper will discuss Milgram’s experiments and the criticisms that it drew. Because Milgram’s experiments have been central to the study of genocide, it is important to understand the objections that people have raise to them as well as the way that they have been and continue to be justified.

The Forgotten Faces: The People

couple                                  -This photo was taken from the USHMM gallery and its sources are unknown. This is a Romani man and woman sitting with their caravan.

Gypsies are believed to have arrived in Europe from northern India in the 1400s. They were called Gypsies because Europeans thought they came from Egypt. This ethnic minority is made up of distinct groups called “tribes” or “nations.” Most of the Gypsies in German-occupied Europe belonged to the Sinti and Roma tribes. The Sinti generally predominated in Germany and western Europe, and the Roma in Austria, eastern Europe, and the Balkans. When they first arrived in Europe, they were depicted as a dirty people due to their darkened and sun tarnished skin along with their tattered clothing. They also spoke a language unlike any other. I believe this is where the portrayal of their people as beggars and thieves begun. From this point on the negative attitude of The Roma people remained. This led to two distinct perceptions: one being the image as a distinct ethnic group, and the other as a mob of mixed origins. After setting in Europe, many Romani worked as skilled craftsmen, merchants, singers, performers, and fortune tellers. Because of their secretive and unique way of life, many people began to view them as sorcerers or alien-like beings.