SST / HR  346   


Stuart Levine

M . . . .

3:00 pm -6:00 pm



Cross-listed: Human Rights  It has now been more than fifty years since the original work of Stanley Milgram at Yale University demonstrated the remarkable and widely unpredicted finding that large numbers of individuals in multiple samples of American men and women studied were willing to "punish" another person when ordered to do so by an experimenter; this in the context of a psychology experiment on learning and memory.  The prominence of the initial work and the continued salience of such study, including the pronounced ethical considerations and the necessary generalizability to societal and historical contexts cannot be over-stated.   As recently as five years ago a replication of the original study with only slight modifications was published (J. Burger, January 2009) and more recent studies reveals that “obedience” is very much prevalent in our society and in many others as well.  Also the ethical debate and ecological validity controversy have not lessened. But aside from the volume of investigations the current domain of the "Milgram study” is especially worthy of continuing interest; this because of historical events in the intervening years since1960.  The seminar will convey that the continuing study of obedience phenomena is vital for the betterment of institutions - even in a democratic society - and that social scientists must find a way to safely and ethically investigate the conditions that promote destructive obedience and learn the rudiments of how it can be minimized. This is an upper college seminar.  It is designed for moderated social studies majors and even those from other divisions of the college, who will require permission of the instructor to enroll. Criteria for membership are a willingness to read with care and then with conviction share the results of such reading and study. 

***NOTE – While that which I describe in this note is still in the planning stage I would inform all who may enroll in the seminar of the scheduling of “Sunday Evening” visitors to the group.  Such events may occur six or seven times over the course of the term and the contribution of these individuals is associated to the presentations by student members of our group on Monday afternoon of the week.  The visitors are “Milgram/Obedience to Authority” scholars and researchers who reside or work in our geographical area.  The seminar on such occasions will meet at 6:00 pm in the French Door Room of the Faculty Dining Room and will last about two hours.  I will arrange for a pasta bowl from the dining service.  The visitor will likely then attend our Monday seminar session to join me in the discussion of student presentations.  This year I will invite past students of the Obedience Seminar that are still enrolled at the college should they wish to attend one or more of these sessions.  Class size: 10