Stanley Milgram

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Stanley Milgram (August 15, 1933 - December 20, 1984) was a Yale University psychologist who conducted the Small world experiment (the source of the six degrees of separation concept) and the Milgram experiment on obedience to authority.

Although considered one of the most important psychologists of the 20th century, he never took a psychology course as an undergraduate at Queens College, New York, where he earned his Bachelor's degree in Political Science in 1954. He applied to a Ph.D. program in social psychology at Harvard University and was initially rejected due to lack of psychology background. He was accepted in 1954 after taking six courses in psychology, and graduated with the Ph.D. in 1960. Milgram's mentor at Harvard was psychologist Solomon Asch.

In 1984, Milgram passed away at the age of 51 in the city of his birth, New York. He died of a heart attack.

In 2004, a biography of Milgram was published under the title The Man Who Shocked the World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram, by Thomas Blass.


Obedience to authority

In 1963, he published the results of his Milgram experiments in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology in the article Behavioral study of obedience. In the ensuing controversy that erupted, the APA suspended his membership in 1964 due to questions about the ethics of his work. Ten years later, in 1974, Milgram published Obedience to Authority and was awarded the annual social psychology award by the AAAS (mostly for his work over the social aspects of obedience). He used his models to explain the My Lai massacre (including authority training in the military, depersonalizing the "enemy" through race and cultural differences, etc.). In 1976, CBS presented a movie about obedience experiments: The Tenth Level with William Shatner as Stephen Hunter, a Milgram-like scientist. Milgram was a consultant for the film.

A French political thriller, entitled I... comme Icare ("I... as In Icarus"), involves a key scene where Milgram's experiment on obedience to authority is brillantly explained and shown. It may add up to some conspiracy theories regarding JFK's assassination, since the plot of this film is largely an obvious subtext to the assassination of the Kennedy brothers.

Some commentators have suggested that the documented abuses by US military personnel at Abu Ghraib, and the reported abuses at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Bhagram Airbase, further vindicate Milgram's work.

Small world

Main article: Small world phenomenon

The six degrees of separation concept originates from Milgram's "small world experiment" in 1967 that tracked chains of acquaintances in the US. In the experiment, Milgram sent several letters to random people, asking them to forward a letter, by hand, to someone specific.

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