Stanley Milgram


Born: Aug 15, 1933 in New York City, NY
Died: Dec 20, 1984 (at age 51) in Manhattan, NY
Nationality: American
Fields: Psychology
Famous For: Milgram experiment

Stanley Milgram is a popular American psychologist who researched social influence as well as persuasion. Milgram’s 19 experiments in obedience are still the most regularly cited and contentious in the history of psychology.

Early Life

Stanley Milgram was born to Samuel and Adele Milgram on August 15, 1933, in New York. He went to James Monroe High School in New York. At the school, Milgram was a member of the Honor Society and later became the editor of the school’s newspaper, known as the Science Observer. He finished high school in three years and then attended Queens College to study political science. In 1954, he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science.

After receiving his degree in Political Science, Milgram shifted his focus to psychology. But when he applied to Harvard’s department of social relations Ph.D. program, his application was rejected as he did not take any psychology courses during his undergraduate years.

He was ultimately able to gain admission after taking six undergraduate courses in psychology. He obtained his Ph.D. in social psychology under psychologist Gordon Allport. Gordon was described as very supportive and encouraging to his students even when their standpoints differed from his.

The Milgram Experiment

During his studies at the university, Milgram did spend one year working as a researcher under Solomon Asch, who was very interested in conformity. His popular conformity experiment entailed having the participants judge the length of a line. The study inspired Milgram who went on to perform the same experiment that would make him popular. He started working at Yale in 1960 and began conducting his obedience experiments the following year. His experiment focused on the conflict between obedience and authority.

In his experiment, the participants were ordered to deliver maximum voltage shocks to another individual. The other individual was a co-conspirator in the experiment and he was simply pretending to be electrocuted. More than 60 percent of the participants wanted to deliver strong voltage shocks under the experimenter’s orders.

Although Milgram’s research raised ethical questions about the use of humans in psychology experiments, his outcome has been constantly replicated in further psychology experiments. Thomas Blass researched further on obedience and found that Stanley Milgram’s findings hold some truth in other experiments.

Milgram returned to teach at Harvard University in 1963, but he was not offered tenure mostly because of his infamous experiments.The City University of New York requested him to head their social psychology program. In 1974, he published a book entitled Obedience to Authority. He continued to teach at CUNY until his death in 1984.

Contribution to Psychology

As evidenced by Thomas Blass’s experiments, Milgram’s biggest contribution to psychology was through his obedience experiments. The 19 experiments that he conducted demonstrated how easily human beings can be manipulated to hurt one another.

His experiments are renowned today and have been mentioned in a number of introductory psychology textbooks. His work was only criticized because of using human subjects in the experiment. Among the reasons why the American Psychological Association set standards for working with human subjects was because of his work.