Thursday, September 18, 2008

More About Milgram

Here are two depictions of the Milgram study. If you've followed the posts here for some time, you may remember a video wherein Philip Zimbardo explains the Milgram study in a lecture he gave at MIT. (Note that the video contains objectionable and offensive material at time mark 21:00 through 24:00 in the video. The photos of Abu Ghraib are disturbing, and Zimbardo uses some related language during this section of the lecture.)

But if you don't have an hour to spare [to watch Hassan's video that posted here a few days ago], you can watch these shorter videos that discuss the Milgram experiment. It demonstrates how people respond and naturally comply with the direction they receive from authority figures. The results of the study are deeply disturbing, surprising even those who speculated about the results of the study before they were conducted and reproduced in different countries.

What's my point? People tend to follow direction from authority figures, even when things fail to make sense or when people suffer as a consequence of their obedience. It is a very human trait. Manipulators, religious leaders and authority figures exploit this human trait to obtain compliance, sometimes for the wrong reasons.

Another point that may not be so obvious in the Derren Brown video is that manipulators use a screening process. Stage hypnotists test the audience before they select subjects, obviously selecting those who demonstrate that they are receptive to suggestion. That's something to bear in mind. A manipulator always selects a "mark" that will comply with his suggestions.