SST / PSY 251


Stuart Levine

M          3:00 pm-6:00 pm

LB3 302


Cross-listed: Human Rights; Psychology  It has now been more than fifty years since the original work of Stanley Milgram demonstrated the remarkable and very 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 stated but false context of a psychology experiment on learning and memory.  The prominence of the initial work and the continued salience of such study and accumulated findings in the domain of social psychology cannot be over-stated.   And it very much has not reached the stage of dormancy as the publication of studies, reviews and conferences on the topic of obedience to authority continue to appear in unabated fashion.  It is even the case that as recently as six years ago a replication of the original study, with only slight modifications, and with concordant resultswas published (J. Burger, January 2009).  Further revealing of prominence and remarkable is that fact that a new full-length movie version of the original study (a biopic) is about to be released.  In addition, a diligentsearch of current psychology or cross disciplinary archives uncovers further studies that provide evidence that obedienceand indeed destructive obedience is very much prevalent in our society and in many others as well and in a myriad of contexts. The domain of the "Milgram study” is especially worthy of continuing interest.  This because of the vastness of both criticism and praise of the original work but also because of historical and significant events in the intervening years between 1960sandstretching to our current time.   The continuing study of obedience is vital for the betterment of institutions, even in a democratic society.  Social scientists should and must find a way to safely and ethically investigate the conditions that promote destructive obedience and thereby begin to learn the rudiments of how such can be minimized.  This is a college seminar.  It is not limited to psychology or social studies or for that matter majors in any particular discipline.  The two criteria for membership are a willingness to read with care and then with conviction share with others the results of such reading and study.  Over the course of the semester a sizable portion of the work contained in the body of the obedience literature is reviewed.  Admission by permission of the instructor. Class size 10 – 12.

NOTE:  While that which I describe in this note is still in the planning stage I would inform all who may enroll of the scheduling of “Sunday Evening” visitor sessions.  Such evenings may occur six or seven times over the course of the term as the contribution of these individuals is associated with the topics and presentations of the student members of our group on Monday afternoon of that week.  The visitors are obedience to authority scholars and researchers.  The sessions 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.  A pasta bowl from the dining service will be available.  The visitor will then most likely attend our Monday seminar session to join in the discussion of the student presentations.