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  • 00:00

    [MUSIC PLAYING][ShortCutstv][making life easier][DANGER-- SEVERE SHOCK][Aftershock-- Milgram, Obedience and Identity 1.The Banality of Evil]

  • 00:12

    STEVE TAYLOR: In the Second World War,the German government began a mass execution of civilians--men, women, and even children.11 million people, 6 million of them Jewish,died in these factories of death,and this was known as the Holocaust.When the extent of the slaughter wasrevealed at the end of the war, a horrified world

  • 00:33

    STEVE TAYLOR [continued]: distanced itself from it.This had to be the work of evil or insane tyrants.Normal people could never do anything like this.But then when Adolf Eichmann, oneof the architects of the Holocaust,was captured in Argentina and brought to trial in Jerusalemin 1961, a new interpretation emerged.[Eichmann Found by Security Services;To be Tried Here for Crimes Against Jews.]

  • 00:53

    ALEX HASLEM: What was really frightening about himwas not that he looked like a monsteror a sadist or a psychopath, but he looked so thoroughly normal.[Professor Alex Haslem]

  • 01:02

    STEVE REICHER: What you saw was this hunched-looking figure,balding, rather fastidious, carefully takingnotes about what was going on.He seemed to be the typical, inoffensive bureaucrat.[Professor Steve Reicher]

  • 01:14

    CLAIRE PARSONS: And that's exactly whatstruck political theorist Hannah Arendt, whowas covering the trial.[Hannah Arendt]Just how?Well, ordinary Eichmann seemed, somethingshe described in her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem,as the banality of evil.[The banality of evil]

  • 01:30

    STEVE REICHER: And she argued that hedid what he did not out of exceptional motivesor exceptional personality, but out of banal motives--the desire to do his job well, the desireto be a good bureaucrat.That's what she meant by the banality of evil.

  • 01:47

    CLAIRE PARSONS: Hannah Arendt was widelycriticized for this view.It seemed as if she was defending Eichmann,giving credibility to his I was only obeying orders defense.

  • 01:57

    STEVE TAYLOR: But around the same time at Yale University,a young psychologist called Stanley Milgram was beginningsome experiments that would literally shock the world,and seemed to provide scientific evidencefor the banality of evil.Participants came to the Psychology Department at Yaleand met someone they believed was another participant.

  • 02:16

    CLAIRE PARSONS: They drew lots to see who'dbe the teacher and the learner.Teachers would punish learners by giving them electric shockswhen they gave a wrong answer.

  • 02:24

    ALEX HASLEM: The more errors the learner makes,the more these punishments increase.And they have, in front of them, a shock machinewith 30 switches on it going up in 15 volt intervals.And every time the person makes an error,they're instructed to deliver a shock of greater magnitude--15 volts more.

  • 02:45

    STEVE TAYLOR: In reality, there were no shocks.The draw was contrived, and the alleged learnerbehind the screen was a confederate.But the participants clearly believed the shocks were real.Now, you're probably thinking, well,if I'd been a participant, I wouldn't have gone very faralong that shock machine.[Claire Parsons]

  • 03:03

    CLAIRE PARSONS: And when Milgram asked over 100 people,that's just what they all told him.Oh, no, I'd just do a few volts.And no one said they'd go all the way-- no way.And when psychiatrists were asked,they said that only a psychopath woulddeliver the full, lethal, triple-X 450 volts.But that's not what Milgram found.

  • 03:25

    STEVE TAYLOR: An incredible 65% of Milgram's participantscontinued giving shocks right the way through to the lethaltriple-X--450 volts.[Milgram's Results DANGER-- SEVERE SHOCK]

  • 03:35

    ALEX HASLEM: So here we had very dramatic evidencethat, essentially, a normal person wouldbe willing to administer what lookedlike a lethal shock to a complete stranger, simplybecause they were asked to do so in a cognitive scienceexperiment.[65% of subjects delievered "lethal" shock]

  • 03:53

    STEVE TAYLOR: In his 1974 book, Obedience to Authority, Milgramexplains his findings with somethinghe calls the agentic state.[Agentic state]

  • 04:01

    STEVE REICHER: The agentic state explanationargues that when people are in the face of authority,they almost automatically enter a different mental state.And it's a state where they see themselvesjust as an instrument of the agency, of the experimenter.All they're concerned with is to be a good instrument.

  • 04:22

    STEVE REICHER [continued]: [Agentic State]

  • 04:23

    ALEX HASLEM: You get this perfect marriagebetween Milgram's experimental evidenceand Arendt's anecdotal accounts of Eichmann.And again, I think that was a very powerful union,and really was unchallenged for the best part of 40 years.

  • 04:39

    STEVE TAYLOR: The problem is, this explanation justdoesn't seem to connect with what we actuallysee in Milgram's experiments.

  • 04:45

    STEVE REICHER: But what is truly interesting about thesestudies-- what gives them their tension,what makes them so dramatic when you see them--is that it's a multi-vocal situation.We are torn between these different voices.

  • 04:56

    CONFEDERATE: Let me out, let me out!

  • 04:59

    PARTICIPANT: I don't know.

  • 04:60

    EXPERIMENTER: Well, the experiment requires that you--

  • 05:01

    PARTICIPANT: Well, I mean, I know it does, sir.But I mean, he don't what he's getting in for.He's up to 195 volts!

  • 05:07

    STEVE REICHER: I think the key questionto understand Milgram's findings isto answer the question, which of these two voices is privileged?

  • 05:16

    CLAIRE PARSONS: And this is a question Milgramoriginally explored.In his own words, he worried it to deathby constantly changing the independent variable--the context.[Dr Steve Taylor]

  • 05:27

    STEVE TAYLOR: In the original baseline condition at Yale--the one everyone sees with THE learner hidden away behindthe screen and the experimenter standing over the teacher--it's the voice of the experimenterthat wins out most of the time over the protestsof the learner.

  • 05:40

    PARTICIPANT: Who's going to take the responsibility if anythinghappens to that gentleman?

  • 05:42

    EXPERIMENTER: I'm responsible for anything that happens here.Continue, please.

  • 05:46

    CLAIRE PARSONS: But in obedience to authority,Milgram describes 18 other variants,and there were many more.Involving, in all, almost 1,000 participants.[Milgram's Experiments]

  • 05:57

    STEVE TAYLOR: For example, when Milgram changedthe location of the experiment from Yale Universityto downtown Bridgeport, obedience dropped to 47.5%.When teacher and learner were in close proximity to each other,compliance fell to 40%.When the experimenter simply phoned in commandsor when someone else took over halfway through,

  • 06:18

    STEVE TAYLOR [continued]: obedience fell to 23% and 20%, respectively.And when there were two experimenterswho argued with each other, obedience fell to 10%.When they issued contradictory orders, it fell to 0%.And what this reminds us is that Milgram's experiments were notjust about obedience.They were also about disobedience--

  • 06:40

    STEVE TAYLOR [continued]: why people sometimes obey toxic orders and sometimes refuse.

  • 06:45

    CLAIRE PARSONS: And this is the questionthat Milgram was interested in originally.But in a way, he was a victim of his own early success.All the world wanted to know about with the obedience part--people giving 450 volts to strangers.And this was what Milgram was driven to try and explain,and failed.

  • 07:05

    STEVE REICHER: Many of Milgram's most fervent admirersaccept that the agentic state explanation doesn't reallystand up.It can't explain Milgram's own findings.

  • 07:17

    STEVE TAYLOR: But there may be some ideasfrom more recent social psychology thatcan help us here, and one of them is social identity.[Aftershock Milgram, Obedience and Identity Social Identity]One of the ways we develop a sense of who we areand how we should behave is through our membershipof groups--things we share with others--nationalities, ethnicities, the teams

  • 07:39

    STEVE TAYLOR [continued]: we support, the bands we like, and so on.These are called social identities.And recently, psychologists have beenlooking at how social identities may help explain obedience.

  • 07:51

    STEVE REICHER: We don't obey others blindly.We obey others when they think that they represent a groupor a cause that we believe in.

  • 08:00

    ALEX HASLEM: If we identify with a cause,then we will, indeed, act in waysthat are consonant with those beliefs and with that cause.But if we don't believe in the cause, we won't.There are two sources of potential identificationin the Milgram studies.You can identify with the experimenter and the science.

  • 08:19

    EXPERIMENTER: Go on, please.

  • 08:20

    PARTICIPANT: Please answer.375 volts.[BUZZER]

  • 08:27

    ALEX HASLEM: Or you can identify with the learnerand the general community of which they're representative.

  • 08:34

    CLAIRE PARSONS: And this can helpus understand the variations in obedience that Milgram found.In the original baseline condition,everything was scripted to encourage the participants'identification with the research project.It was done at the world-famous Yale University.The white-coated experimenter was authoritative,

  • 08:54

    CLAIRE PARSONS [continued]: and participants were told this wasa really important scientific projectto help improve learning.

  • 08:60

    PARTICIPANT: It says, dangerous, severe shock here.XX on the actual--

  • 09:03

    EXPERIMENTER: Continue, please.

  • 09:05

    CLAIRE PARSONS: And here, in spite of the learnersdemands to be let out--

  • 09:08

    CONFEDERATE: Let me out!Let me out!Let me out of here!

  • 09:11

    CLAIRE PARSONS: --and then the deathly silence that followed,most participants obeyed.

  • 09:16

    ALEX HASLEM: And it was because theythought they were helping in a progressive causethat the participants were willing to do what they did.And if you undermine that cause and their belief in it,then the obedience just gets blown away.

  • 09:32

    STEVE TAYLOR: And that's just whatwe saw when Milgram started undermining the researcher'scredibility.[Context, Identity and Obedience]When the location was changed from prestigious Yaleto downtown Bridgeport, when the experimenters were either notthere or left halfway through, when there weretwo experimenters who argued and whenthey issued contradictory instructions.

  • 09:54

    ALEX HASLEM: So actually, implicitly, identificationseems to be a latent variable there.It seems to us that that was a large part of the story.And of course, that was, then, something that wewere motivated to pursue.

  • 10:06

    STEVE REICHER: And we argue, therefore,it's not that people are unaware that they're doing wrong--it's not that they're unaware that they're hurting someone--in the end, they think the good of the scientific causeoutweighs the harm that is being done.

  • 10:22

    STEVE TAYLOR: So how might this idea of identityapply to the question that Milgram started with?The awful toxic obedience of the Holocaust?Well, as we've seen, Hannah Arendtsuggested it was because the organizers becameso absorbed in the details of their job,and that Adolf Eichmann, for example,never realized what he was doing.[Arendt: Eichmann "never realised what he was doing"]

  • 10:43

    STEVE TAYLOR [continued]: But a lot of new information has cometo light since that that questions his view.When he was hiding in Argentina under the assumed nameof Ricardo Clement, he gave a number of interviewsto a journalist called Willem Sassenon the logistics of the Holocaust and his part in it.[Willem Sassen]There were over 1,000 pages of transcript,and were also 29 hours of tape recordings

  • 11:05

    STEVE TAYLOR [continued]: that came to light many years after Eichmann's trial.And these recordings tell a different story from the oneEichmann was later to tell a court in Jerusalem.For example, he told his interviewer,I worked relentlessly to kindle the fire.I was not just a recipient of orders.[Eichmann: "I was not just a recipient of orders.I was an idealist."]I was an idealist.

  • 11:24

    ALEX HASLEM: And what's really frightening, actually,is not that that evil was banal, but that itwas actually committed, in a particular sense.And it followed from a process that we'vedescribed as one of engaged followership, which is to say,the Nazis did what they did not because they--if you like-- were blind to the fact that it was wrong,

  • 11:45

    ALEX HASLEM [continued]: but rather because they actually believed it was right.[Engaged followership]

  • 11:49

    STEVE TAYLOR: So from the point of view of social identitytheory, it seems those who willingly obeyed instructionsto transport Jewish people to death camps,flew aeroplanes into massive officeblocks, tortured suspect terrorists held without trial,put bombs in a busy city center, or gaveelectric shocks in a Yale laboratorymore than half a century ago all shared one thing in common.

  • 12:12

    STEVE TAYLOR [continued]: [Social identity theory]They identified with what they were doing.In spite of the harm to others, theybelieved it was the right thing to do.[DANGER-- SEVERE SHOCK][BUZZER]And that's the really frightening thingabout Milgram's experiments.[MUSIC PLAYING][Shortcutstv][]

  • 12:34

    STEVE TAYLOR [continued]: []

Video Info

Publisher: ShortCutstv

Publication Year: 2017

Video Type:Documentary

Methods: Archival research

Keywords: evil; identity (sociology); milgram's obedience to authority studies; obedience; obedience to authority; Social identity; Social identity theory; Social identity theory of leadership ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Milgram's studies on obedience to authority showed that participants were willing to cause harm if they believed it was the right thing to do.

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Aftershock: Milgram, Obedience and Identity

Milgram's studies on obedience to authority showed that participants were willing to cause harm if they believed it was the right thing to do.

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