by Jason Cooper
Are human beings able to defy an authority’s orders? What if those orders are evil? What if those orders run counter to everything we believe?
We feel that in our heart of hearts, we would resist. We would stop. We would turn on that authority and refuse to continue. But is that true? Maybe we humans are more like sheep than we care to think. What does it take for abusive authority to turn us into evil and abusive sheep?
Stanley Milgram was a scientist at Yale who asked this question. It was 1961, one year after the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. He wondered if there was something unusually sheepish about the Germans of the late ’30s who followed Eichmann’s orders. Would Americans be more defiant? Or could we be easily made to follow an evil order if given by the right authority?
Milgram put an advertisement in a local paper looking for participants to take part in a study at Yale University.