Stanley Milgram's famous
showed that most people will
set aside their moral
inhibitions if someone
wearing a white laboratory
coat tells them to inflict
horrible pain on a stranger.
A recent replication of the
The Milgram Experiments
Summary of Milgram
University of California
Milgram found that
education levels had a
big impact on behavior
Milgram found that people
who have confidence in their
own thinking ability are less
likely to obey someone just
because he is in a position of
Studies of evil in its early
Genocide and the
origins of evil
Why we need to talk about the Holocaust
Is it acceptable to discuss the roots of genocide and the banality of evil?
The Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law
Center say YES.
Medal of Freedom winner Gerda Weissmann Klein shares story at Cal State San Marcos
SAN MARCOS: Holocaust victim urges hope
By DEBORAH SULLIVAN BRENNAN
North County Times - The Californian
March 9, 2011
...A Southern Poverty Law Center curriculum utilizes [Gerda Weissmann Klein's]
experiences during the Holocaust as the basis for teaching students about the importance of
respect, responsibility, and the acceptance of differences. Three years ago, she and her
granddaughter also founded Citizenship Counts, an organization that teaches students to
value their American citizenship...
|San Diego Education Report
|San Diego Education Report
People Feel Less Moral Responsibility When Following Orders
By Mark Melin
February 19, 2016
Throughout history, there have been cases of people being ordered to do unspeakable
acts and then carrying out these acts. When they are finally brought to justice,
sometimes at a war crimes tribunal – the Holocaust being the most memorable – the
defense is they “were just following orders.” Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann
famously used this defense for himself and other low-level officers, saying they were
“forced to serve as mere instruments.” This shifting of responsibility for the deaths of
millions of Jews to his superiors, the “just following orders” defense, was ultimately
rejected in the post-World War II Nuremberg trials and has sense been a feature of
most common law. Such a legal defense has never worked when those responsible for
despicable acts were ultimately held responsible, but the question about how much
abdication of responsibility occurs when someone is “given orders” still lingers.
1963 research initially showed people feel less moral responsibility when following
orders, but was flawed
A new study from researchers at University College London and Université libre de
Bruxelles in Belgium confirms previous findings that when people are given orders they
feel less moral responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
“In particular, acting under orders caused participants to perceive a distance from
outcomes that they themselves caused,” co-author Patrick Haggard, a cognitive
neuroscientist at University College London, was quoted as saying in a PBS report.
“This [disconnect] suggests a reduced sense of agency (responsibility), as if the
participants’ actions under coercion began to feel more passive.”
The study confirms previous work from Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram. In
1963 he conducted a series of experiments to determine if “ordinary” people would
willfully inflict harm on other people if they were following orders from an authoritative
figure. His research determined that when given orders people accepted less personal
responsibility for their actions. His experiments showed 65 percent of volunteers, were
willing to press a button that delivered shocks up to 450 volts to an unseen person.
Although some of the subjects were relectuant, they nonetheless delivered the
New research has people actually inflicting pain and seeing their victim face to face,
validates previous research
Stanley’s initial research showing that people felt less responsibility for their actions
when ordered to engage in heinous acts work was initially criticized due to study control
variables and environmental inconsistencies.
To conduct his study, he had one researcher give orders to a subject to push a button
so as to inflict pain upon another human in the form of a fake electric shock. The
subject didn’t know the shock was fake, as a person in another room would emit a
scream and in one case complained of a heart condition, but the subjects continued to
push the shock button despite the pain it inflicted.
Current research from Haggard and his fellow European researchers dispensed with
the fake pain – and the potential for the subject to think the pain might not actually be
distributed. In a three person study, they sat the subject administrating the pain face to
face with the person receiving an actual 450 volt shock. An authority figure would both
give explicit instructions to inflict the pain and then turned away and let the subject
make their own decisions as to inflict pain or not.
Researchers measured the delay between the time an order was given and the time it
was carried out, the agency effect, as well as brain activity associated with the activity.
Their study confirmed Stanley’s initial work to various degrees, but it should not be
used as a method to abdicate people from moral responsibility.
“If people acting under orders really do feel reduced responsibility, this seems
important to understand. For a start, people who give orders should perhaps be held
more responsible for the actions and outcomes of those they coerce,” Haggard said.
Daniel Shinoff says NO. If you discuss the origins of genocidal behavior,
he says you are anti-Semitic. See Daniel Shinoff declaration.