Social psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of tests on behavior in relation to authority in the 1960s at Yale University. In 1974, his findings were published in his groundbreaking and famous book, Obedience to Authority. In college, I read this book and continue to think of it and the importance of these studies. In brief, Milgram found that the vast majority of people would continue to give what they believed were increasingly painful, perhaps even deadly, shocks to another person- even when the person pleaded for them to stop- if an authority figure pushed them to do so. Even when their own conscience intervened and they questioned the authority figure, they continually denied their own inner knowledge that this was wrong and pushed the button to inflict more pain. Recently, the Yale Alumni magazine revisited Milgram’s experiment and its continued relevancy- the article can be read online at http://www.yalealumnimagazine.com/issues/2007_01/milgram.html
Written by a friend and associate of Milgram’s, Philip Zimbardo connects this experiment with his forthcoming book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. Both Zimbardo’s and Milgram’s book can be found in OWL’s collection. Although I have not yet read Zimbardo’s book, I do feel that Obedience to Authority is one of those essential books that must be read. Once you read it, I promise, you will not forget it. I have a suspicion that Zimbardo’s book will also become an essential read particularly as we as a nation try to comprehend and solve the issues of violence facing us like the horrifying incident at Virginia Tech.
Obedience to Authority– Stanley Milgram 303.36 MIL
Obedience to Authority: Current Perspectives– edited by Thomas Blass 303.36 BLA
The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil– Philip Zimbardo 155.962
Collection Picks: Other books on the related subject in our collection:
People of the Lie: the Hope for Healing Human Evil– M. Scott Peck 616.89
Understanding Workplace Violence: A Guide for Managers and Employees– Michele Paludi 658.4 PAL
Ann Marie is the Library Director of OWL.