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Events that inspired the Milgram studies on obedience
- [Voiceover] One of the most famous series of studies on conformity and obedience are what known as the Milgram Experiments, and I wanna take a moment to talk about Milgram and the things that might've inspired him to conduct these studies. The first thing that I wanna note is that these studies began in 1961. And the reason that this is important is because Milgram's studies, like many of the other studies on conformity and obedience were conducted in response to something, in this case, the atrocities committed during the Holocaust. Milgram was born to a Jewish family in 1933 in New York. And although he was born in the States, his parents had emigrated from Europe, and this is something that he was very aware of. In fact, in one letter that he wrote to a friend, he wrote, "I should have been born "into a German-speaking Jewish community of Prague "and died in a gas chamber some 20 years later. "How I came to be born in a Bronx hospital, "I'll never quite understand." So even though he and his immediate family weren't in Europe during World War II, it's clear that he was still deeply affected by it. Another thing that seemed to have a big influence on Milgram were the trials of Nazi leaders after the end of World War II. In particular, the trial of Nazi-leader Adolf Eichmann seems to have been particularly influential. Unlike other Nazi officers who had been tried in the Nuremberg trials immediately after War War II, Eichmann managed to escape to South America, where he remained until he was captured by Nazi hunters in 1960. And really pay attention to this date because Eichmann was captured and brought to trial and sentenced to death immediately before Milgram began his studies. But it's not just the timing of this trial that made it significant to Milgram, it was Eichmann himself. Because by all accounts, he was actually a pretty normal guy. He was ordinary. He seemed to have a normal personality. And he didn't seem to have this intense hatred that was demonstrated by the other Nazi leaders, and this is particularly puzzling in light of what Eichmann had done, which was to arrange the deportation of Jews to death camps. And while he acknowledged that he was the one who organized these deportations, he said that he didn't feel guilty of the consequences. And years later, years after the Milgram Experiments, Simon Wiesenthal, who was the Nazi hunter who captured Eichmann, stated that, "The world now understands the concept of 'desk murderer.' "We know that one doesn't need to be fanatical, sadistic, "or mentally ill to murder millions, that it is enough "to be a loyal follower, eager to do one's duty." And I think that it's that last part that really stood out to Milgram. Because Eichmann said the same thing, that not only other Nazi officers had said, but also what just everyday German people had said that they were just following orders. And in the end, I think that this is the idea that captured Milgram, the idea that everyday people when put into certain situations could commit horrendous acts against other human beings. And I think that Milgram really wanted to find out if this was true. He wanted to know whether everyday, average Americans could be made to follow orders in the same way that the Nazi soldiers claimed that they were doing. He wanted to see whether or not they could be made to harm an innocent individual just because an authority figure told them to. But I want you to take a moment to think about how important this research is because it was and is very easy to depersonalize and other the individuals who see to be complicit in the Holocaust. It is very easy to think that they are evil, and we are good. And they are murderers, and we are moral. And as Milgram found out, as we all found out, it really isn't that simple. And so with that in mind, let's talk about his studies, the results of these studies, why they are so controversial, and the impact that they might have on us today.