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Stanley Milgram
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Doctor
    (August 15, 1933-December 20, 1984)
    Born in New York City, New York
    Social psychologist
    Best known for his 'obedience to authority' and 'small world' experiments
    In the obedience experiments, participants were ordered by an authority figure to deliver electrical shocks to a student (actually a confederate of the experimenter, who did not actually receive any shocks)
    In the small world experiment, people in Omaha were asked to send a package to a target in Boston; if they did not know the target directly, they were to send the package to an acquaintance that they thought had a better chance of knowing the target
    Harvard initially rejected his application to the PhD program in psychology since he had taken no psychology classes as an undergraduate.
    The American Psychological Association put his membership application on hold because of questions about the ethics of his research.
    He was denied tenure at Harvard partly over the controversy generated by his research.
    His finding that 65% of ordinary people were willing to give out potentially fatal electric shocks because someone ordered them to do it is pretty depressing.
    His 'small world' study has been dismissed as too flawed experimentally to derive meaningful results from.
    His 'small world' study inspired the phrase 'six degrees of separation' and thus 'six degress of Kevin Bacon.'
    His obedience experiments were inspired by the trial of Adolf Eichmann.
    One of the participants in his obedience studies wrote to him that because of the experiment, he had decided to apply for conscientious objector status upon being drafted.
    His obedience experiments are studied in a mandatory psychology class at the US Military Academy, with a West Point instructor noting, 'One of the desired outcomes is that our future military leaders will be fully cognizant not only of their authority, but also of their responsibility to make decisions that are morally sound.'
    He inspired Peter Gabriel's song 'We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37).'

Credit: C. Fishel


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