… that most ordinary people would torture others to death if a guy in a lab coat told them to?
Milgram reported that 65 percent of his subjects continued to shock the learners even when the latter protested, cited heart problems, and then went silent. He later described the typical subject as one who “divests himself of responsibility” becoming an “agent of external authority.” (One hitch was, obedience cratered when the participants knew each other.)
As Tom Bartlett puts it in Chronicle of Higher Education, “Most of us, in other words, are potential Nazis.” Indeed, that is the version taught to introductory psychology classes to this day.
But there is another, more nuanced version of the story. First, contrary to the “shocked, shocked” claims one often hears, Milgram was reporting what everyone in his day who had read George Orwell’s then-futurist classic 1984 (1948) actually expected to hear.
But… was it true? More.
But… was it true?