Using just the authority of his lab coat and actors paid to scream, Yale psychology researcher Stanley Milgram turned dozens of ordinary people into torturers and murderers. Or at least, that's what his research subjects believed. Now a new radio documentary (free online) takes you inside Milgram's torture chamber.
In the 1960s, Milgram conducted an infamous set of experiments where he said he was running pain tests. He asked Yale locals to come to his lab to participate in an experiment, and when they arrived they were told they'd "assist" him by using a machine (a prop) to shock his "test subjects" (the actors) until they screamed and in some cases pretended to die. Of course the real test subjects were the people running the fake shock machine, and he was really studying authoritarianism.
Milgram wanted to find out how easy it would be for a regular person to torture somebody else if ordered to do it by an authority figure. What he discovered horrified him — and his unwitting test subjects. Nearly every single person who came into Milgram's lab was willing to torture or kill a person when ordered to do it by Milgram. Only a very few people refused. Many of them protested, but did it when Milgram insisted he was a doctor and knew what he was doing.
Many of his test subjects claimed they'd been traumatized, while for others it became a life-changing experience that inspired them to go into human rights work. Milgram's research is partly what inspired U.S. universities to create committees devoted to oversight of research done on human subjects. Now BoingBoing points us to a new radio documentary where ABC Radio International's Gina Perry tracked down some of Milgram's research subjects/victims and talked to them about their experiences. It's free online!