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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 5 December 1999
Rarely has a book had so much impact on me. What is really so frightening is that those experiments were real and they conclusively show that obedience to authority can quite possibly be the greatest of evils. After reading the book, the big question kept nagging me: Would I have been obedient in those situations? It shows how enormously important it is for each and every one of us to personally assess the impact of our actions, regardless of whether they are sanctioned by authority. I'd recommend this book to everyone.
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on 15 October 2005
As a subject, you are asked to attend at a Yale University laboratory in order to aid an experimenter examining the effects of punishment in the process of learning. Upon arriving at this laboratory you meet the experimenter and another subject like yourself. This other subject is to be the 'learner', you are to be the 'teacher'. Your task is to punish this person should they fail some simple memory tests. To do this you are instructed to administer electric shocks to this person, increasing them by 15 volts each time they make an error.
In this book, Milgram lucidly recounts his experiment, which is in fact designed to test the extent to which one person would hurt another in the name of science(the learner is actually an accomplice and never receives a real shock). His motivations for this seem to derive from his concern about historical atrocities, such as the holocost, and works to reveal how easily one might equit themselves of guilt and be obedient to some extenal authority. Due to the clarity with which Milgram recounts individual responses to the experiment, coupled with the startling results, this book is incrediably powerful and at times extremely moving.
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on 25 October 2007
This experiment shows that people go along too readily with an experimenter. How readily should we as readers go along with Milgram's claims? Before reaching the experiment, there's a front cover claim that this is "the unique experiment that challenged human nature" and a back cover quote that this is "one of the most significant books I have ever in more than two decades of reviewing". Then a glowing foreword then a preface in which Milgram already is already wondering if a connection exists to Nazis. So what mere mortal wouldn't already be convinced without even readng the experiment?

But we can think critically, can't we, even if we are not scientists or acclaimed writers. Otherwise, we may be as guilty of lack of responsibility as those who went ahead and shocked the learner despite his pleas. The volunteer teachers in Milgram's experiment trusted the experimenter. Are we to trust Milgram to spoon feed us his interpretations? Maybe he's right but don't concede that yet.

The volunteer can't be court-martialed, can't spend years in a prison. At most the volunteer who stopped might expect to be yelled at as he/she exited. Was the volunteer who continued acting out of obedience or because he/she gives undue respect to an apparent scientist? There seems to me a difference. In the military one is trained to obey a command from a superior no matter what the superior is like. In Milgram's experiment, he found himself that volunteers became more likely to stop when an ordinary person was in charge.

Milgram notes differences between his experiment and some military occurrences but focuses on the similarities. In doing so, he may have failed to investigate deeply the differences. Milgram himself reports that when two experimenters disagree on how to proceed, the volunteers stopped giving shocks. He interprets that as a conflict of authorities, but it can be understood by recognizing one of the experimenters was supplying information (that the shocks were indeed harmful. A judgment based on weighing inputs and not obedience may have been key.

If you read this or any other scientific book and just take the author's word for it, you may be over-esteeming authority in a rather similar way to how Milgram's volunteers over-esteemed the experimenter. When reading this book, imagine that you are unknowingly participating in a Milgram experiment to see how much you'll swallow if the author is said to be famous and the work a classic

Several chapters near the end of the book offer some speculation by Milgram as to why people "obey" to such an extent. One might accept Milgram's skill in setting up the experiments and collecting results without accepting his analysis of obedience. He appeals to "human nature", evolution and cybernetics. He invents the term "agentic state" and then discusses the acts he considered obedient in terms of this "agentic state". This is mentalism, the unscientific practice of creating fictions and locating them inside our heads. Mentalisms may be useful as a convenience for everyday conversation, but they add nothing to scientific inquiry except superfluous complication.

I'm not a social psychologist. I'm not a famous or capable author. But I'd suggest when you read this book, you'll get more out of it if you don't fall victim to Milgram's authoritative posturing. Those of Milgram's volunteers who didn't discount their own evaluation and stopped are the people I respect ... and I hope you do to. This book may be a classic, but please err by questioning it too much and not too little.
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on 22 September 2014
Sometimes author uses unnecessary phrases or words which are not in common every day language. That makes it harder for me to understand everything that he tries to convey trough his work. However as much as I could understand it is one of the best books that I have ever red. Why? Because he made an ingenious set of experiments that explore `obedience to authority`. His thoughts about results of those experiments are astonishing. Results themselves are so revealing. I can perceive Stanley Milgram`s genius.
If you want to know more about human behaviour then this is the book for you.
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on 23 April 2013
If you have ever wondered why people are so very obedient and work, and often so gullible, you MUST read this book. Milgram understand exactly what makes us tick. Surprisingly, money hardly comes into it, although this is how we invariably sell it to ourselves, as it is so much more attractive than accepting you bow to authority at the earliest possible time. True and startling what humans can do, with very little persuasion.
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on 22 December 2015
This is an excellent book! It has a nice forward by Zimbardo which is worth reading. The Milgram obedience experiment is well known, but the book clears up misconceptions and goes through the 19 variations not so commonly reported. Easy to read and fascinating. I am an A'Level Psychology teacher and have put this on my student's reading list.
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on 21 October 1999
Milgram's devastating insight into the human psyche dealt a hammer blow to established views of human behaviour.
Cunning experiments and the foresight to survey opinion extensively of the expected outcome of the experiments......*Nobody* saw what was going to happen...
Essential reading for all misanthropists!
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on 18 November 2012
Although Milgram conducted his experiments in the 1960s his words ring as true today as then. He initiated his research into how far ordinary people will go when given orders by a 'scientist' to deliver electric shocks to a 'subject'. Over 60% were willing to give the maximum 450 Volts and cause the subject to scream with pain. Of course there were no shocks and the subject was an accomplished actor, but the 'experimenter' did not know this. As long as the 'experimenter' thought that he/she did not have responsibilty for the outcome, most would continue to give the shocks to a high level. The darkest times of human history bear this out, but at a much more mundane level, anyone who has worked in a hierarchical institution whether a company or a school will know how most people will almost instinctively obey their seniors in the pecking order without question even when an obvious mistake has been made by the manager. We are not the independent and autonomous individuals we like to think we are.
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on 28 October 2012
I was drawn to this book when I was looking for a good book to read on psychology. My primary objective was to find a psychology book explaining in detail, feelings of inferiority in people and why they feel that way. This book grabbed my intention instead and I made up my mind to read it. I enjoyed reading it as it shed light on the workings of the human mind and how it can occasionally be controlled by authority. What I found difficult to understand was the author's suggestion that the vast majority of human beings are unlikely to harm others without the influence of authority. We have heard of people murdering, raping, torturing and maiming others with no involvement from authority. They have committed these atrocities completely of their own free will and often times own selfish interests. I believe that the human mind has a potential to carry out evil actions independent of authority and would do so regardless of the consequences.
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on 24 June 2014
This is an important insight into controversial research which shows that most of us don't behave as we think we could when influenced by authority figures.
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