Thursday, June 27, 2013

Social Psychologist Stanley Milgram

From yee Wiki:

Stanley Milgram (1933-1984) was an American social psychologist.

He conducted various studies and published articles during his lifetime, with the most notable being his controversial study on obedience to authority, conducted in the 1960s during his professorship at Yale. Milgram was influenced by the events of the Holocaust, specifically the trial of Adolf Eichmann, in developing this experiment.

His dissertation while at Harvard, small-world experiment, would later help researchers articulate the mechanics of social networks and explore the mathematical relation to the degree of connectedness, most notably the six degrees of separation concept.

Obedience to authority
In 1963, Milgram submitted the results of his Milgram experiments in the article "Behavioral Study of Obedience".

 In the ensuing controversy, the American Psychological Association held up his application for membership for a year because of questions about the ethics of his work, but eventually did grant him full membership.

Ten years later, in 1974, Milgram published Obedience to Authority. He won the AAAS Prize for Behavioral Science Research in 1964, mostly for his work on the social aspects of obedience.

Inspired in part by the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, his models were later also used to explain the 1968 My Lai Massacre (including authority training in the military, depersonalizing the "enemy" through racial and cultural differences, etc.). He produced a film depicting his experiments, which are considered classics of social psychology.

Milgram's Experiment 18: Peer Shock Administration

In this experiment, 26 out of 40 participants administered the full range of shocks up to 450 volts, the highest obedience rate Milgram found in his whole series.

Thus, according to Milgram, the subject shifts responsibility to another person and does not blame himself for what happens. This resembles real-life incidents in which people see themselves as merely cogs in a machine, just "doing their job", allowing them to avoid responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

The shocks themselves were fake; the participant who took the place as the "learner" in the experiment was in fact a paid actor who would simulate the effects of the shock depending on the voltage.

Milgram became notorious for this tactic, and his experiment was soon classed as highly unethical as it caused stress to the participants in the study. The study soon became one of the most talked about psychological experiments in recent history, making headlines across the world, and resulted in Milgram finding himself in the center of public attention. More recent tests of the experiment have found that it only works under certain conditions; in particular, when participants believe the results are necessary for the "good of science."

Small World Phenomenon: Small-World Experiment

The six degrees of separation concept originates from Milgram's "small world experiment" in 1967 that tracked chains of acquaintances in the United States.

In the experiment, Milgram sent several packages to 160 random people living in Omaha, Nebraska, asking them to forward the package to a friend or acquaintance who they thought would bring the package closer to a set final individual, a stockbroker from Boston, Massachusetts.

Each "starter" received instructions to mail a folder via the U.S. Post Office to a recipient, but with some rules. Starters could only mail the folder to someone they actually knew personally on a first-name basis. When doing so, each starter instructed their recipient to mail the folder ahead to one of the latter's first-name acquaintances with the same instructions, with the hope that their acquaintance might by some chance know the target recipient.

Given that starters knew only the target recipient's name and address, they had a seemingly impossible task. Milgram monitored the progress of each chain via returned "tracer" postcards, which allowed him to track the progression of each letter.

Surprisingly, he found that the very first folder reached the target in just four days and took only two intermediate acquaintances. Overall, Milgram reported that chains varied in length from two to ten intermediate acquaintances, with a median of five intermediate acquaintances (i.e. six degrees of separation) between the original sender and the destination recipient.

This concept became popularized by Jon Stewart's Daily Show in the mid-1990s -according to its creators, "a stupid party trick"-called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Milgram's "six degrees" theory has been severely criticized. He did not follow up on many of the sent packages, and as a result, scientists are unconvinced that there are merely "six degrees" of separation. Elizabeth DeVita–Raebu has discussed potential problems with Dr. Milgrams's experiment.

In 2008, a study by Microsoft showed that the average chain of contacts between users of its '.NET Messenger Service' (later called Microsoft Messenger service) was 6.6 people.

Lost Letter Experiment:

Milgram developed a technique for measuring how helpful people are to strangers who are not present, and their attitudes toward various groups, called the "lost letter" experiment.

Several sealed and stamped letters are planted in public places, addressed to various entities, such as individuals, favorable organizations like medical research institutes, and stigmatized organizations such as "Friends of the Nazi Party". Milgram found most of the letters addressed to individuals and favorable organizations were mailed, while most of those addressed to stigmatized organizations were not.

Anti-Social Behavior Experiment:

In 1970-71, Milgram conducted experiments which attempted to find a correlation between media consumption (in this case, watching television) and anti-social behavior. The experiment presented the opportunity to steal money, donate to charity, or neither, and tested whether the rate of each choice was influenced by watching similar actions in the ending of a specially-crafted episode of the popular series Medical Center.

YouTube video:

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