Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Man who Shocked the World

Commented on:
Brad Twitty

While I've heard of the experiment performed by Stanely Milgram, I had not really known much about this man until I read this book. "The Man Who Shocked the World" was an excellent biography of a man who had some really interesting ideas. I thought the book was a good read overall. The parts about the experiments and his ideas were well laid out and provided adequate details about his ideas, theories and implementation. The results were interesting to see, while surprising to some. I’ll admit that at first, even I would think that the subjects of the experiment would not go as far as some did, and even then, with some variations of the experiment, some of the actions of the test subjects surprised me even more. In particular is the one variation where the subject actually had to physically force the learner’s hand onto a metal plate to receive the shocking for punishment. To go that far simply under the instructions of a stranger in a lab coat seemed a little extreme to me. However, while I may say that, I cannot really say as to whether I would have done the same under similar circumstances. While the main focus of his career was the obedience project, I was also interested in his other experiment about the small world phenomenon. This experiment seemed very accessible to anyone who is interested and has people that are actually willing to participate. It really doesn’t take too much work from each person, but simply to pass it on to someone they think will help connect the source to the destination. If possible, I wouldn’t mind trying this out myself one day. With the available technology today, it’s possible to reach someone much easier than before, provided that the given target has the necessary ‘tools’. Although this will limit the experiment somewhat, as opposed to conventional mailing or actually going in person, but the basic idea still stands. Now that I have read the book, I guess I wouldn’t be such a good subject in any future obedience experiments that use shock boxes……or would I??


  1. "It really doesn’t take too much work from each person, but simply to pass it on to someone they think will help connect the source to the destination." I agree, I think that this is the genius behind that experiment. While participants are not rewarded for participating, they have little reason not too, I would almost think it would be fun to help it along. It is a social game, genius.

  2. I found his separation experiment very interesting as well. The lady that actually used herself to be passed on took the experiment a step further. Given todays technology, with the internet and the social networking frenzy, I am sure that the degrees of separation is significantly less now.

  3. My favorite experiment was the the one testing the small world phenomena. It would definitely be interesting to see if things have changed since he last did the study. Personally, I would have probably been unmotivated to make an extra trip to the post office for a couple of stamps. In my opinion, it would probably be more convenient using the technology we have access to! It's just a click of a button. Who wouldn't do that? Then again, all people in the world don't necessarily have access to or use the internet regularly. Who knows?

  4. I think a lot of us had misgivings on the exact tact that Milgram took in completing the Obidience Experiment, but in the end it did provide a lot of interesting results--a lot we couldn't get today for that same very reason of the ethics boards.

    My favorite experiment of his was also the small world. Incredibly this fits. And somehow it validates pop culture's inane "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." Maybe that's an unwanted by-product for some.