Jon Hanson

Jon Hanson

Minding the Law

Stanley Milgram Revisited

Stanley Milgram Revisited

Posted Sep 16, 2009

Next week, I'll lead a reading group that reviews some of the classic studies in social psychology.  Because Stanley Milgram's Obedience expierments had the biggest initial impact on my own practice of "minding the law," I thought it was a great study for my students to begin with and a perfect topic to kick off this blog.

Students commonly assume that, even if Milgram’s famous experiment sheds important light on the power of situation today, were his experiment precisely reproduced today, it would not generate comparable results. To oversimplify the argument behind that claim: The power of white lab coats just ain’t what it used to be. Of course, that assertion has been difficult to challenge given that the option of replicating the Milgram experiment has been presumptively unavailable — indeed, it has been the paradigmatic example of why psychology experiments must be reviewed by institutional review boards (”IRBs”).

Here are a variety of videos and podcasts that in some way involve revisiting Milgram's obedience experiment.

The first video is a portion of an ABC News report in which they worked with Jerry Burger, a psychology professor at Santa Clara University.  With some slight modifications of Milgram's original version, Burger managed to obtain permission to replicate the obediene experiment.

The following three videos are from the the BBC documentary “How violent are you?” first shown in May 2009.  Of the 12 participants, only 3 refused to continue to the end of the experiment.  

You can read about a virtual version of the Milgram experiment here.

For ABC Radio National, Gina Perry revisited some of the subjects in Milgram's shock experiments.  You can listen to what she discovered in a podcast here.

Finally, Dr. Thomas Blass has created an outstanding website about Milgram and his research at, and there are numerous posts about Milgram's work at The Situationist blog.

About the Author

Jon Hanson

Jon Hanson is the Alfred Smart Professor of Law and the Director of the Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School.

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