In this issue

Stanley Milgram: The experimenter

In 2015, film director Michael Almereyda produced “Experimenter” featuring the life and work of Stanley Milgram.

By Harold Takooshian, PhD, and Ed English

Stanley Milgram (1933-1984) has been described as "the man who shocked the world" (Blass, 2004). Without doubt, he was one of the most brilliant behavioral scientists of the past century. Despite his premature death at age 51 and his brief 24-year career—from Yale in 1960 to City University of New York (CUNY) in 1984—Milgram was known as a larger-than-life researcher who conducted the "obedience experiment" and other bold research on human nature (Milgram & Blass, 2010). Readers of The General Psychologist may have received more personal insights into the work of Stanley Milgram from his videographer Edward English (2015) and others who knew Milgram as a student, colleague, professor or family man (Takooshian et al., 2010).

In 2015, after eight years of effort, noted film director Michael Almereyda produced “Experimenter,” a feature film about the life and work of Stanley Milgram. This film debuted nationally on Oct. 6, 2015, at the New York Film Festival, with an audience of a thousand New Yorkers at Lincoln Center in New York. Reviewers have praised Almereyda for his equally bold and creative depiction of this bold and creative scientist.

On Nov. 10, 2015, more than 75 people participated in a public forum at Fordham University, to discuss Milgram's legacy. This forum coincided with the national release of Almereyda's film and began with three background film clips of Milgram and his work. Then a dozen experts spoke briefly on one of three themes: Stanley Milgram—the man, his work and the film about his legacy.

First, several of Milgram's former students and others spoke on their most vivid experiences with him at CUNY or Yale: Henry Solomon, Kathryn Hahner, Eva Fogelman, Harold Takooshian, Pearl Beck. Filmmaker Edward English spoke about his filmmaking experience with Milgram at Yale in 1963, producing “Obedience to Authority,” the most widely seen classroom film in the history of psychology.

Second, five speakers focused on Milgram's work. New York businessman I. Edward Price was a Yale undergraduate in 1962 who recalled his experience as one of the first subjects in Milgram's Yale experiment on obedience. Psychologist David Mantell shared his replications of Milgram's experiment at Princeton and the Max Planck Institute in Munich. Philosopher Edward Erdos described his published research identifying the “Milgram trap"” in obedience. Professor Stuart Levine described a course on Stanley Milgram that he introduced at Bard College. Researcher Eugen Tarnow described his published work re-analyzing Milgram's findings.

Film critic Anne-Katrin Titze of Hunter College spoke on her published review of “Experimenter.” Participants in this forum received a biography of Milgram and the New York Times film review by Manohla Dargis, which was published on Oct. 15, 2015.

This Milgram forum was hosted by Fordham University and its New York Times Readership program, in cooperation with the Manhattan Psychological Association and The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues New York (SPSSI NY). For details or a copy of speakers' materials, check the SPSSI NY website or contact Harold Takooshian.

References

Blass, T. (2004). The man who shocked the world. New York: Basic Books.

English, E. (2015, April). Stop: Don't flip that electric switch! The General Psychologist, 49 (2), 1-2, 15-17.

Milgram, S., & Blass, T. (2010). (Eds.). The individual in a social world: Essays and experiments (3rd ed.). London: Pinter & Martin.

Takooshian, H., Milgram, A., Bruner, J.S., Blass, T., Taylor, C.J., Levine, S., & Voronov, A. (2010, April). Stanley Milgram's legacy, 50 years later: A forum. The General Psychologist, 45 (1), 15-25.