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Milgram's Notorious Experiment

In a classic experiment, Stanley Milgram brought a randomly selected group of people into his laboratory at Yale.  There they were told that they were participating in research on human behavior.  He asked them to work a dial which was said to administer an electric shock to a person in another room.  Actually, the person in the other room was an actor.  Though the dial was phony, when it was turned, the actor would grimace as if he were being shocked.  To Milgram's surprise, 100% of the people administered what they thought to be an "intense" shock when told by the white-coated researcher to do so.

In another experiment by Milgram, even when the person in charge was not wearing an official looking white coat, even when the experiments were conducted in an old basement, even when Milgram offered every opportunity for the person to buck authority and to refuse to administer the shock, the majority of them still did as they were told.  Milgram concluded that "our culture has failed almost entirely in inculcating internal controls on actions that have their origin in authority."

We do what we are told.  Just following orders.

- William Willimon, from a sermon, "The Joy of Not Fitting In," August 22, 1993