Charting the psychology of evil, decades after 'shock' experiment
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of CNN
Posted: January 2nd, 2009
If someone told you to press a button to deliver a 450-volt electrical shock to an innocent person in the next room, would you do it? Common sense may say no, but decades of research suggests otherwise. In the early 1960s, [Stanley Milgram,] a young psychologist at Yale began what became one of the most widely recognized experiments in his field. In the first series, he found that about two-thirds of subjects were willing to inflict what they believed were increasingly painful shocks on an innocent person when the experimenter told them to do so, even when the victim screamed and pleaded. A new study to be published in the January issue of American Psychologist confirmed these results in an experiment that mimics many of Milgram's original conditions. This and other studies have corroborated the startling conclusion that the majority of people, when placed in certain kinds of situations, will follow orders, even if those orders entail harming another person. "It's situations that make ordinary people into evil monsters, and it's situations that make ordinary people into heroes," said Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford University and author of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. "Most heroes are everyday people who do a heroic deed once in their lifetime because they [happen] to be in a situation of evil or danger," he said.
Note: What's amazing about this is the willingness of many people responding to nothing more that verbal authority to deliver shocks up to 450 volts to victims who are writhing in pain, screaming and begging for them to stop. What would you do? For more, click here.