The purpose of this website is to be a source of accurate information about the life and work of one of the most outstanding social scientists of our time, the social psychologist Stanley Milgram. His untimely death at the age of 51 on December 20, 1984, ended a life of scientific inventiveness and controversy. But his research and writings continue to influence contemporary culture and thought.
Controversy surrounded Stanley Milgram for much of his professional life as a result of a series of experiments on obedience to authority which he conducted at Yale University in 1961-1962. He found, surprisingly, that 65% of his subjects, ordinary residents of New Haven, were willing to give apparently harmful electric shocks-up to 450 volts-to a pitifully protesting victim, simply because a scientific authority commanded them to, and in spite of the fact that the victim did not do anything to deserve such punishment. The victim was, in reality, a good actor who did not actually receive shocks, and this fact was revealed to the subjects at the end of the experiment. But, during the experiment itself, the experience was a powerfully real and gripping one for most participants.
Milgram's career also produced other creative, though less controversial, research; such as, the small-world method (the source of "Six Degrees of Separation"), the lost-letter technique, mental maps of cities, cyranoids, the familiar stranger, and an experiment testing the effects of televised antisocial behavior which, though conducted 30 years ago, remains unique to the present day.
ilgram published many journal articles and several books. Here are his two most important books. You should be able to find them in most university libraries. These are still in print and, therefore, can be purchased. They are both in paperback.
Stanley Milgram (2004). Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View. New York: HarperCollins.
This book was originally published as a hardback in 1974 and then reprinted in 1983 as a paperback. This 2004 edition (also paperback) was brought out as a 30th anniversary edition, with a newly added Foreword by Jerome S. Bruner, Milgram’s former teacher and colleague at Harvard. There is also a British edition of the same book published by Pinter & Martin.
This is a very readable account of his obedience experiments, his explanation of his findings, and some of the controversy that surrounded them. Its literary merits received recognition by being a finalist for a National Book Award. Also, it has had a worldwide audience-it has been translated into 11 languages: French, German, Japanese, Indonesian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Dutch, Danish, Italian and Serbo-Croatian.
Stanley Milgram (1992) (edited by John Sabini and Maury Silver). The Individual in a Social World: Essays and Experiments. Second Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.
This is a collection of most of Milgram's writings which first appeared in various magazines and journals. It is the definitive source for learning about the variety and wide scope of his innovative ideas.
Milgram's very first account of the findings of his obedience studies appeared in the following article. Although the article appeared in a professional journal, it is remarkably jargon-free and very readable-a hallmark of all of Milgram's writings:
Stanley Milgram (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol. 67, pp. 371-378.
An overview and analysis of all of Milgram's research (not just on obedience to authority), as well as the most complete bibliography of his writings, can be found in the following chapter:
Thomas Blass (1992). The social psychology of Stanley Milgram. In M.P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 25. San Diego: Academic Press, pp. 277-328.
Both of these can be found in most university libraries.
Although Milgram conducted his obedience research in 1961-1962, it continues to inspire valuable research and analysis. I recently edited a book which demonstrates the vibrancy of that research by presenting some of its most important contemporary uses and applications. Among the chapters is one written by Milgram's widow, Alexandra Milgram. Three of the chapters are by former students of Milgram. There is also a state-of-the-art chapter by Zimbardo and colleagues about his famous prison simulation. T he book is:
Blass, T. (Ed.) (2000). Obedience to authority: Current perspectives on the Milgram paradigm. Published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.