Experimenter (2015) - full transcript

Experimenter is based on the true story of famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram, who in 1961 conducted a series of radical behavior experiments that tested ordinary humans' willingness to obey by using electric shock. We follow Milgram, from meeting his wife Sasha through his controversial experiments that sparked public outcry.

foodval.com - stop by if you're interested in the nutritional composition of food
(switches on machine)

(knocking on door)

Hello. I'm Mr. Williams.
Thank you for coming.

Please. And you are?

- Fred Miller.
- You must be...?

Wallace. James Wallace.

Great. Please. Have a seat.

Now, before we do anything else,
allow me to pay you.

Please check that both names
are spelled correctly.

You understand that this is yours
simply for coming to the lab.

From now on, no matter what happens,
the money is yours.

I'll have to have you sign a receipt.

There you go.
Now, psychologists have developed

several theories on how humans learn.

Uh, for example, it might help
to reward a person.

Sometimes it helps to punish them.

We do know that punishment...
Thank you very much.

...is a powerful incentive
towards learning.

For example,
when a parent spanks a child.

However, in fact, we actually know
very little about

the effect of punishment on learning,
because almost no scientific studies

have been done of it on human beings.

Now, one of you will play
the role of learner,

who will receive a mild

if he answers incorrectly
to a series of questions.

That punishment will be
administered by a teacher.

What kind of punishment
are we talking about?

Well, first, let's determine
which of you

will be learner and which
will be teacher.

If you'll just choose one.



I guess I'm the learner, huh?


This is the machine for
generating electric shocks.

Go ahead.

Now, let's set up the learner
to receive some punishment.

If you'll just follow me
into the next room.

- Is it okay if I leave my hat here?
- Yes, that's fine.

Now, you might wanna
remove the jacket.

Go ahead and have a seat.

Now, when you push one of
these four buttons,

this box will signal
a light in the other room,

telling the teacher how you're
responding to the questions.

(stammers) What kind
of questions?

Multiple choice.

Word pairs. "Strong arm",
"black curtain", and so forth.

Now, we want you to memorize them.

The teacher will first read them
as word pairs,

"strong arm", for example,
then he'll read only the first word,

"strong", followed by
a series of word choices.

"Back, arm, branch, and push".

Your job is to remember
which of those words

was originally paired with
the first word, "strong".

- Arm.
- Right.

Now you would indicate that by
pushing one of these buttons here.

If you had thought it was the
first word I had read, "back",

you'd push this first button here.

If you thought it was
the second word, "arm",

you'd push the second button,
so on and so forth with

third and fourth word choices.

Now, if you get the answer incorrect,
you will receive an electric shock.

Would you please roll up
your right arm sleeve, please?

Would you just help me strap him
in to limit any excess movement?

How far do you think he'll go?

- Now this is connected...
- Too soon to tell.

...to the shock generator
in the next room.

- Electrode paste.
- And electrode paste,

to eliminate any excess burns
or blisters.

You know, I should say that
a couple of years ago,

in the West Haven VA Hospital,

they determined that I had
a slight heart condition.

Nothing serious, but how
dangerous are these shocks?

Well, although the shocks may be
extremely painful,

they cause
no permanent tissue damage.

Oh. Okay.

Well, we'll be communicating
from the next room.

Stanley: The lab coat,
I decided to make it grey.

White would seem too medical.

- Fred: Okay.
- Williams: Thank you.

Now, if he gets the answer
incorrect, you administer

the shock by flipping one of
these switches here. You see?

Each switch has
a little red light above it.

Now, to give you, the teacher,
an idea of the amount of shock

the learner will be receiving,
we think it's only fair that

you receive a sample shock yourself.
Is that all right?

- Uh- huh.
- Okay, just roll up your sleeve.

Life can only be understood backwards
but it must be lived forwards.

Williams: Good.

Now, I'll ask you to close your
eyes and just estimate for me

the amount of volts
you think you're receiving.

Okay, close.

(machine whirs)

This part, this part's where
the experiment really begins.

(machine buzzes)

(switches off)

Now, if you will just use this scale
here to tell me the amount of volts

you think you received
in the sample shock.

Pfff, one ninety-five?

No, actually, that's incorrect.
It was 45 volts.

(pen scratches)

All right.

Okay, learner...
I'm going to read you the words,

and then I'm gonna
repeat the first word

and you're going to tell me
the pair for that word. Okay?

He doesn't have a microphone
but he can hear you.

Keep it moving, understand?
Remember that each time he gives

a wrong answer, you move up one
switch on the shock generator.

It is important that you follow
the procedure exactly.

Okay. (clears throat)

Okay, here we go.

"Blue girl. Nice day.

Fat neck. Green ink.

Rich boy. Fast bird.

Blunt arrow. Soft hair.

Cool cave. Gold paint."

In the first word.

"Blue: Boy, girl, grass, bat."

- (buzzer)
- Correct.

"Soft rug..."

- Stanley: He finds his way into it.
- "Pillow, hair, rat."

With increasing confidence
he finds a rhythm, a groove.

- (buzzer)
- That is incorrect.


Ninety volts.

- (buzzer)
- (James groans)

(clears throat)

- Fred: Um...
- Here we go.

Dollar, necklace, moon, paint."


Incorrect. One hundred
and twenty volts. Gold paint.

- (buzzer)
- (James groans)

"Hard: Stone, head, bread, work."


One hundred and thirty five volts.

- (buzzer)
- (grunts)

(sighs) Okay.

"Wet: Night, grass, duck, cloth."


Incorrect. One hundred
and fifty volts. Wet duck.

- (buzzer)
- (grunts)

It really hurts.


Stanley: How do you know
when a change,

a true and lasting change,

is about to overtake your life?

Fred: "...grass, man, girl..."

- Eighth floor, please.
- The same.

Are we going to the same party?

Probably. You know Doris Eissenman?

Saul Harwood's invited me.


I've never heard of him.

Shall we continue talking or wait
till we're properly introduced?

(elevator bell rings)

(door rattles open)

(indistinct chatter)

(piano music plays)

You're a dancer?

Oh, well,
I studied, here and in Paris.

- But, uh... I work in an office now.
- Mmm-hm.

- What about you?
- I'm at Yale.

Limited dance skills, although
I did spend some time in Paris.


What are you studying at Yale?

I teach, actually. Social Relations.

Did you just give that guy there
your phone number?

So if I wanted your number
I can get it from him?

Social Relations.


- What does that mean?
- It's a combination.

Sociology, anthropology, psychology.

You know, basically covers
everything from

the way people talk in elevators
to the study of

- role-playing, conformity, authority.
- (buzzer)

Fred: "Soft: Rug,
pillow, hair, grass."


Incorrect. A hundred and...

sixty-five volts, strong shock.

- (buzzer)
- James: Ah! Let me out of here!

I told you, I have a heart condition.

I will not be part of
the experiment anymore!

- He says he's not gonna go on.
- Please continue, teacher.

He says he doesn't want to go on.

Well, whether the learner
likes it or not, he must go on

until he's learned
all the pairs correctly.

Please continue, teacher.


(sighs) Calm down, concentrate.

"Sad: Face, music, clown, girl."


One hundred and eighty volts.


James: Ahh! Dammit!
Let me out, let me out!

Stanley: He went all the way.
Most of them do.

"Sharp. Axe, needle, stick, blade."

No response from the learner must be
interpreted as a wrong answer.


Stanley: Still laughing,
trying to hide face with hand.

Something's happening
to that man in there.

Can you please go check that
everything's okay?

Williams: Not once
we've started.

Please continue, teacher.

So you accept all responsibility?

Williams: The responsibility
is mine, correct.

Continue, please.

Teacher: "Wet:
Night, grass, duck, cloth."

Clenching fist,
pushing it onto table.

- (buzzer)
- (panicked laughter)

- How are you holding up, Alan?
- "Dollar: Necklace,

moon, paint."
Three hundred and seventy five volts.

Dangerous, severe shock.

(James groans)

Let me out of here, let me out.
Get me out of here.

You can't hold me in here.
Get me out.

- What is this?
- I just liked the picture.

The colors... Don't you?


Take it. It's yours.

Why don't you mail it to me?

Or we could leave it here
and you can move in?

That'd be easier, wouldn't it?

"Wet: Night, grass, duck, cloth."

"Wet duck." Four hundred
and thirty five volts.




Okay, um... "Brave: Woman, soldier,
dog, horse."

"Brave woman."

- Four hundred and fifty volts.
- (buzzer)

Okay, what now?
I'm at the end at 450 volts.

Williams: Continue, please.

The last switch again.

Yeah, but...
but he could be dead in there.

Williams: The experiment
requires that you continue.

Go on, please.

And his health doesn't mean anything?

Whether the learner likes it or not,
we must continue.

I'm sorry, look,
I don't mean to be rude, sir,

but I think you should
go look in on him. I mean,

all you have to do is look in on him.
Look into that door.

'Cause I'm not getting any noise,
I'm not getting no sound here.

Williams: We must continue.

Go on, please,
the next word is "white".


Teacher: "White: Cloud, horse,
rock, house."

White horse.
Four hundred and fifty volts again.


"Fair: Price, rule, skin, sky."


Wrong. 450 again.


All right, thank you.
We are done with the experiment.

Teacher: Okay.

Williams: I'm just going
to speak with the learner.

I think he might be a little upset.
In the meantime,

my assistant would like
to ask you a few questions,

- if you don't mind?
- Yeah, surely.

Williams: Dr. Milgram?

How do you do?

Uh, first I'd like...
No, thank you.

- I'd like to ask you some questions.
- Yes, surely.

(clears throat)

Uh, why did you give him,
the man in the other room,

the learner, the shocks?

Well, as you could see,
I wanted to stop 'cause...

each time you gave him a shock
the guy hollered.

Did it sound as if he was in pain?


Did he say he wanted you
to stop the experiment?


Did he have a right
to stop the experiment?

I don't know.

Why didn't you stop,
at that point,

- when he asked you to stop?
- Why didn't I stop?

- Mm-hm.
- Well, 'cause...

'Cause he told me to continue.

Why did you listen to that man
and not the man in pain?


Well, 'cause... 'cause I thought
the experiment depended on me.

- And nobody told me to stop.
- He asked you to stop.

That... That's true, but he's the...

you know, the subject, shall we say?

Who was the...

Who bore the responsibility for the
fact this man was being shocked?

I don't know.

Could you fill out items six
through 18 on the questionnaire

in front of you, please?
Here's a pen.

Ah, I get a little skittish.

Uh... nervous.

Williams: As I explained to
Mr. Wallace in the other room,

this shock generator's actually
used for small animals

for laboratory experiments.
Mice, rats, and so forth.

The visual designation
is actually misleading.

This shock generator's actually
been adjusted so that the shocks

were just slightly stronger
than the shock you experienced.

Are you all right?

Yeah, I'm fine, you know.

No hard feelings. I probably would've
done the same thing myself.


Each subject has a
reconciliation with the learner.

We ask the subject
to maintain a secrecy

so that future recruits
aren't tipped off.

Down the line
we get more candid.

The first thing
I wanna tell you is

the man in the other room
wasn't being shocked.

The only real shock was
the one that you felt early on.

We're really interested in
studying your reaction

to having to inflict pain on
someone you don't know.

The experiment's about
obeying orders.

The man in the other room
works with us as a team.

Jim, you can come out now.

He wasn't really being shocked,
he's perfectly fine.

We weren't trying to fool you,

we're just interested
in studying your reactions.

- Teacher: Man, you dog.
- (Jim laughs)

I... I was worried sick.
I thought I was--

You're a good fella.
No hard feelings, no hard feelings.

But you thought
you were really shocking him.

When he wasn't making noise

that's when I was worried.
I didn't wanna go on with it.

- Stanley: But you did go on with it.
- Yeah, but I did not want to.

You saw how it was,
how I was fighting it.

Well, you understand why
we had to do it this way.

We wanted to get true reactions
from people, you see?

You'll receive a copy of the
report when the project's over.

Until then, we ask you not to
say anything.

You may end up talking to someone
who is a potential participant.

How do you feel about having
come down here and done this,

now that you know?

I mean...

Now that I know the truth,
I don't mind.

Well, thank you very much
for coming down.

We certainly do appreciate you
giving us your time.

- Yeah, yeah.
- Alan here will help you out.

We think you'll find the report
very interesting.

Thanks. Yeah, thank you.


I still get nervous.
You're cool as ice.

Maybe all those years of
teaching high school

- gives you sort of a--
- Jim: Poker face?

Discipline, I was thinking.

You're like a gravedigger.

I think you mean undertaker.

The domino effect starts to kick in,
in the teacher's mind,

once he assumes the role.

Get some women in here.
Get my wife in this seat...

We've got nine kids,
the first squawk

she'd stop the whole shebang.

Nine kids.
Are you sure about that?

Oh, yeah. I have enough saved up
to give 'em each a pair of socks

if the electricity gets me.

You're a brave man, Jim.
All right, next subject's due.

I should get going.

♪ Some enchanted evening ♪

♪ You will meet a stranger ♪

I was born in the Bronx, 1933.

My father's from Hungary,
my mother Romania,

Jewish immigrants. It was a
matter of chance they arrived

in the US as children and
managed to raise a family in

New York instead of being swept
up into the extermination camps

and murdered by the Nazis,
like millions of others like them

in Eastern Europe.

That's really what's behind

the obedience experiments.
The inkling I was chasing...

the thing that troubled me.

How do civilized human beings

participate in destructive,
inhumane acts?

How was genocide implemented so
systematically, so efficiently?

And how did the perpetrators of
these murders

live with themselves?

My daughter, Michele,
a precocious child

who at this point in the story
hasn't yet been born,

used to tell the kids at school,
"My dad's a psychologist,

but not the kind who talks to
people lying down.

He's an experimental

He does experiments."

First let's determine which of
you will be "learner"

and which will be "teacher."


They both say that.
And no one's caught on?

- Not a soul.
- Not the corporate manager,

the banker, the plumber,
the Good Humor man.

The Good Humor man
was actually vicious.

Crude mesomorph of obviously
limited intelligence.

The script has kind of momentum.
It carries them along.

- Men only?
- Every hour.

It's getting to be a blur,
really. (laughs)

So you lead them both,
both the teacher and learner,

into the... electric chair?


Well, we don't call it that,

but, yes, if you'll follow me
into the next room, please?

Here's my home.

I think I'd go nuts in this
little room all day.

- Well, they keep me busy. Agh!
- (laughing)

Actually, I have
a heart condition.


It does give you authenticity,
I think, in the part.

But I think I'm a better actor
than I am accountant.

It's nearly time for the next one.

- Oh.
- Is somebody in there?

Maybe Alan.

- Shall we join him?
- Sure.

To give you, the teacher,
an idea of how much shock

the learner will be receiving,
we think it's only fair

you receive a sample shock yourself.
Is that all right?

- Fair enough.
- Give me your right arm, please.

This is the only real shock, right?


Have you done it?

Been shocked like that,

- Yeah.
- Yes, it's not pleasant.

- (buzzer)
- (teacher groans)

Williams: Now if you'll just
use the scale here

to estimate for me
the amount of volts you think

you've received
in the sample shock.

- I don't know. You tell me.
- Well, that was only 45 volts.

So go ahead and begin the test.

He doesn't have a microphone
but he can hear you.

Just speak into the microphone.

The rooms are partially

Are you ready, learner?

Stanley: Continues with
robotic impassivity,

courteous to experimenter.

Seems to derive no pleasure
from the act itself.

- (buzzer)
- Incorrect.

The correct answer is "box".

Stanley: Curt and officious
when saying "Correct".

Seventy-five volts.

- (buzzer)
- Jim: Let me out of here!

Stanley: Each time
he administers a shock,

lips drawn back, bares his teeth.

"Sweet: Candy, girl, taste, pickle."


Wrong. "Sweet taste."
One hundred and twenty volts.

- (buzzer)
- (Jim groans)

Jim: Let me out of here!

Stanley: Looks sadly
at the experimenter

and continues reading word pairs.


Wrong. "True story".
One hundred and thirty five volts.

- (buzzer)
- (Jim groans)

Teacher: "Slow, walk..."

Stanley: Afterwards, if a learner
who says he agreed to it

and therefore must accept

Teacher: Wrong. "Slow music."
One hundred and fifty volts.

- (buzzer)
- Jim: Let me out of here!

I can't stand the pain.

The man, he seems to be getting hurt.

Williams: There's no
permanent tissue damage.

Yes, but I know
what shocks do to you.

I'm an electrical engineer,
and I have had shocks.

You get real shook up by them,

especially if you know
the next one is coming.

I'm sorry.

Williams: It's absolutely
essential that you do continue.

Well, I won't, not with the man
screaming to get out.

Williams: You have
no other choice.

Why don't I have a choice?

I came here on my own free will.

I thought I could help
in a research project.

But if I have to hurt somebody,
if I was in his place...

No, I can't continue.

I've probably gone too far already.
I'm very sorry.

(door shuts)

I could've wept.

I mean he looked like
he wanted to slug me.

Out of gratitude, you do understand,
I mean wept.

Because all day we've been

getting nothing but "wrong," zzzt.

You do realize I have to sit and
listen to you scream all day.

Well, so do I. (chuckles)

He was what, Danish?

Dutch, actually.

Right, but it wasn't his
nationality that caused him

to stop, it was the fact he
worked with electricity.


They all seem
to wanna impress you...

- for some reason.
- Mm-hm.

But why?

Why do so many,
the vast majority,

push all the way through
to the final switch?

Why is the Dutchman's defiance
the anomaly instead of the norm?

All the psychiatrists and
psychologists I consulted

were convinced we'd have trouble
finding a single person

that'd go all the way through
to the end. I'd have been

better off consulting the guy
from Pepe's Pizza.

Oh, you mean Pepe?

I think his name is Carmine.

Stanley: Well, you get my point.
The butcher, the baker,

the candlestick maker.

I'd like to try it,
the test shock.

I just wanna...
know what it feels like.

- Sasha.
- (laughing)

I don't even think about that,
and I've been in there

supposedly getting
zapped to the maximum.

This really isn't necessary.

Well, yeah,
but it's not harmful either.

I mean I just wanna
understand it better.


Other arm.


- Thank you.
- You're welcome.

Stanley: I designed
a series of variations,

25 in all, and continued
the experiments

over the next two semesters.

We adjust the script so that
the learner bangs on the wall...

- (loud thudding)
- but says nothing.

We asked the teacher
to physically press

the learner's hand on a copper plate,
forcing him to receive the shock.


Wrong. A hundred
and thirty five volts.

- (buzzer)
- (groans)

We move the experiment
into a shabby office

in Bridgeport, to deduct the
potential intimidation factor

of Ivy League prestige.
And, back at Yale, we include women.

What did you just do?

Uh, he said: "Ow."

Did you turn off the machine?

I... I thought that if it seemed
like I...

you know, turn...

(sighs) Okay.

(clears throat) "Short..."

Williams: The machine?

Please continue, teacher.


Okay, "Short: Sentence, movie,
time, skirt."


I'm sorry, that's wrong.
It's "short time".

- (buzzer)
- (Jim groans)

Stanley: In nearly every case,
the essential results are the same.

They hesitate, sigh, tremble
and groan,

but they advance to the last
switch, 450 volts,

"Danger Severe Shock XXX",
because they're politely told to.

The results are
terrifying and depressing.

They suggest that the kind of
character produced

in American society
can't be counted on

to insulate its citizens from
brutality and

inhumane treatment in response
to a malevolent authority.

Milgram? Milgram is
Hebrew for pomegranate.

Is that what you mean?
It's one of the seven fruits

- of the Bible.
- You're Jewish, same as me.

You seem upset.
Am I upsetting you?

I have office hours.
You can make an appointment.

Huh? You don't like surprises.

You know, I've been thinking
about the experiment a lot.

It really rattled my wife
about what it said about me.

If she was me, she liked to think
she wouldn't have pulled the switch.

- But you know what?
- What?

You never know.
That's the thing, how can you know?

- You can't, right?
- No, you can't.

If it's any consolation,
a great many participants

were prone to nervous laughter,

but my wife actually is waiting
for me at home for dinner,

- so...
- Are you inviting me?

No. Make an appointment.

With leftover grant money
we film the last two days

of the experiment,
May 26 and 27th, 1962.

Four days later, Adolf Eichmann
is executed in Jerusalem.

Eichmann, architect of
the Holocaust,

responsible for the deportation
and murder of millions of Jews,

escaped to Argentina after
World War II.

He was living with his family
under the name Ricardo Klement,

an employee of Mercedes-Benz,

when Israeli Mossad agents
captured him in 1960

and brought him to trial.

Woman: (on TV) ...to completed
the translations,

I beg to submit a translation

into the German of our number, 887.

Stanley: Eichmann didn't
deny his crimes,

showed no trace of guilt
or remorse.

Said he was merely a transmitter.

"I never did anything great or small

without express instructions
from my superiors."

The cradle rocks above an
abyss and common sense tells us

that our existence is but
a brief crack of light between

two eternities of darkness.

Let me out of here!
Hey, that really hurts!

I told you,
I have a heart condition!

I will not be in
this experiment anymore!

Ow! Let me out.

Let me outta here! Let me out!

Let... me... out... of here.

♪ I will no longer be here ♪

Ah, hey, Stanley,
a nice day to wrap up

- the new obedience experiment.
- Yeah, yeah.


I should tell you about Asch.
Solomon E. Asch.

He oversaw my thesis at
Harvard, and I worked for him,

diligently and miserably,

at the Institute for Advanced Study
at Princeton.

Asch did the thing with the lines,

About a dozen years ago.

The study you are taking part in
today involves the perception

of the lengths of lines.

As you can see, there are
a number of cards,

and on each card there are
several lines.

Your task is a very simple one.

You're to look at the line on
the left and determine which of

the three lines on the right
is equal to it in length.

Stanley: This is a recreation
from a film I made in the 70's.

Five of the six participants are

The single true subject
in the white T- shirt

hears everyone else's answers
before announcing his decision.

- Man 1: Two.
- Man 2: Two.

- Two.
- Two.


Very good. Let's move onto
the next card. Same thing, gentlemen.

- Man 1: Three.
- Man 2: Three.

- Man 3: Three.
- Three.

Stanley: After the first few
rounds, members of the group

choose the wrong line.

- Man 3: Two.
- Man 4: Two.

Stanley: The subject denies
the evidence of his own eyes

and yields to group influence.

(stammers) Two.

Very good. Thank you.

In the language of social science,
the experiment

was known as "The Effect of Group
Pressure Upon the Modification

- and Distortion of Judgments."
- Pff. Great title.

It made Asch famous...

amongst social scientists.

(engine shuts off)

It always bothered me that
the experiment was about lines.

I wanted to do something
more humanly significant.

- (doorbell rings)
- (dog barks)

He hears the bell.

Stanley, it's so good
to see you.

- Hi. Nice to meet you.
- This is Sasha.

Sasha, how are you?
So lovely to see you. Come in.

- Stanley
- How are you?

Glad you made it.

Can we tell you what a miserable
time I had working for Asch?

Princeton, the bureaucracy,
the institutional arrogance.

Not permitted to use a scrap of
paper without it becoming

an issue to be settled behind
closed doors.

A candy bar in the office

and I was reported
via formal letter.

I assumed he'd introduce me to
the leading intellectuals of the day.

This did not happen.

I assumed that he'd acknowledge
me in the book I was researching

for him, a book on conformity.

He did not finish the book.

It was like drinking from
a glass with a false bottom.

I thought there'd be more.
I was thirsty.

Please call me Sholem,
I would prefer it.

There's no need to be so stuffy.

In an elevator? Really?

They met in an elevator.

Can someone please pacify
the dog?

Here I am,
still trying to impress him.

Human nature can be studied
but not escaped,

especially your own.

Well, I was on my way
into this party

and I could feel somebody
walking behind me

as I went into the building.
We both got onto the elevator,

and it turned out we were going
to the same floor.

And one of us said,
I don't remember which,

"Are we going to the same party?"

My fate was sealed.

He didn't leave my side
the whole night.

And he drove me home,

and it turned out we had
a lot in common.

We were both from the Bronx,
my mother was born in Russia.

So my sister's friend,
her parents in Vienna

had sent her and her brothers
to New York during the war.

But when I was over there
visiting, they had

just reclaimed their factory,
and it was a coat factory,

and that's where I got this.

So, you're a well-travelled
American girl, born in Switzerland,

who took dance lessons in Paris
and is wearing a Viennese coat?

Why haven't we met before?

Stanley, why do you feel
compelled to dwell on

the negative aspects of obedience?

Why must you focus on
its destructive potential?

Obedience isn't necessarily
an instrument of evil.

I think we can both agree,
looking at recent history,

the history that brought you
to this country,

a history in which
we see abusive power

assuming unprecedented
murderous dimensions.

Why does your experiment give me
a dirty feeling?

He didn't expect these results.

He tried to change
the conditions

so that people
would refuse to obey.


We met in a library.
Oh, him, not him.

The whole time...
I'm sorry, this is startling.

Out of 780 subjects,
not a single person got up,

went to the door and looked in

to see if the man screaming
was all right.

Not a single one.

Stanley: Sasha goes back
to school, Smith College,

for her degree in social work.

My first obedience paper
submitted almost two years ago

to the Journal of Abnormal
and Social Psychology

is finally published
in October 1963,

just after I start
a new job at Harvard,

Assistant Professor,
Department of Social Relations.

Am I impressed with myself
being at Harvard?

Well, I got my PhD here,
Harvard is the best place to be.

The subjects were seen to swear,
tremble, stutter,

bite their lips, dig their
fingernails into the flesh,

and these were characteristic
responses, not exceptions,

and yet, despite this behavior,
the majority complied.


How do you justify
the deception?

I like to think of it as illusion,
not deception.

Semantics, you may say,
but illusion, you know,

has a revelatory function,
as in a play.

Illusion can set the stage
for revelation,

to reveal certain
difficult-to-get-at truths.

But still, when you go to see
a play, you pay for a ticket.

You know you're seeing a play.

These people didn't know
it wasn't real.

You tricked them.

Hello, today we'll be
doing an experiment about

blind obedience
to malevolent authority.

I'd like for you to pretend
that this machine is delivering

painful shocks to a person in
the other room.

How truthful do you think
that would be?

But if you think of it, really,
you were delivering shocks

to your subjects.
Psychological shocks.

- And the anxieties...
- No--

...methodically, for one year.

If your facts were
as solid as your imagination,

you'd realize that this is
a false analogy.

As Kierkegaard says,
"Take away paradox from the thinker

- and you have a professor."
- An assistant professor.

For the moment,
Dr. Milgram and myself

are only assistant professors,
it's true.

Funt: (on TV) The gentleman
in the elevator now

is a Candid star.

These folks who are entering,
the man with the white shirt,

the lady with the trench coat,

and, subsequently,
one other member of our staff,

will face the rear.

And you'll see how this man in
the trench coat...

(audience laughter)

..tries to maintain his

but, little by little...


...he looks at his watch but
he's really making an excuse

for turning just a little bit
more to the wall."

Actually, it's true.

There's an element of illusion
in almost all my work.

Funt: (on TV) This man
has apparently

been in groups before.

(audience laughter)

Candid Camera was a reference point,
I never deny that.

You can see that plainly enough
in the lost letter technique,

which I conceived of at Yale and
was refined at Harvard.

Leave a letter, a sealed,
stamped letter

but un-mailed,
for someone else to find.

Leave it on a sidewalk,
inside a store, a phone booth.

Put it under the windshield
wipers of a parked car

with a note saying,
"Found near car."

All letters are addressed to
the same post office box.

But they're evenly split between

four different
intended recipients.

Friends of the Communist Party,
friends of the Nazi Party,

Medical Research Associates,
and Mr. Walter Carnap.

All fictitious.

The innocuous content of
the letters,

if anyone's curious enough
to open and read,

was a simple message
from "Max" to "Walter"

proposing an upcoming meeting.

It's kind of an odd name.

Like the philosopher?

Stanley: In two weeks,

out of 100 lost letters
to each addressee,

72 were sent to the Medical
Research Associates,

whilst 71 were sent to
Mr. Walter Carnap,

but a mere 25 to
the Friends of the Communists,

and the same number, 25,
to the Nazis.

We can deduce from this
that the American public

has an aversion
to Nazis and Communists.

Results that are reasonable
and even comforting,

though not startling.
But why not take it further?

Taketo Murata, another student,

drives to Charlotte and
Raleigh, North Carolina,

to lose a new batch of letters.

When the letters come back,
the percentages, once again,

confirm expected prejudices.

Pro-white letters get mailed
more often

in white neighborhoods.

More pro-negro letters get
mailed from black neighborhoods.

A variation.

I hire a pilot with
a Piper Cub to fly low

over Worcester, Massachusetts,

spilling lost letters.

They land in trees, ponds,
on rooftops.

Not all my ideas are brilliant.

(footsteps approach)

Well, it's not on the front page,
strangely enough.

I found it. Page ten.

Okay. Uh...

"Yale experiment shows
many distraught over cruelty

but did not stop."

It's odd to see one's name
in the paper,

but maybe I can get used to it.

"Subjects have been studied

under 24 different experimental

It wasn't a thousand, was it?

I talked to him for
over half an hour

and I don't see
a single direct quote.

"Dr. Milgram pointed out that,
'From 1933 to 1945,

millions of persons

were systematically slaughtered
on command.

Gas chambers were built,
death camps were guarded,

corpses were produced
with the same efficiency

as the manufacture of appliances."'

There's a quote.

Do you think anyone else reads
this paper?

President Kennedy has been shot.

He was shot in the motorcade
in Dallas.

He was shot in the head.

It's Milgram. It's just another
one of his experiments.

- On the level?
- Yes.

Kelly, you've got that radio,
yeah? Turn it on.

Man: (on radio) ...his tour
of the City of Dallas, Texas.

A presidential aide,
Mario Bryan, said he had

no information on whether
the President is alive..."

He's rigged a faked broadcast,
like Orson Welles.

I have?

I wonder what the experiment's
really about?

- This is real.
- ...the president is critical.

Texas Governor John Connally
also was shot

and has been taken to surgery
in Parkland Hospital...

(car approaches)

(car door shuts)

I got it cheap, I got it cheap
from a grad student.

He gave me a deal when he realized

he couldn't take it with him
to London.

It's making a funny noise.
Maybe you can have a look.

- Stanley--
- You love this kind of thing.

The dean lives
right across the street.

We just applied for
financial aid.

A Jaguar, right.
What's he going to think?

Who cares what he thinks?

I didn't say that.

- Well...
- I didn't say that.


See you soon.

It was cheaper than you think,

but I understand it creates
the wrong impression.

- Do you?
- I do.

Or are you just doing an imitation of

someone who listens,
who's reasonable?

Well, we're going to need two cars.


- Is that the dean?
- (engine starts)

Well, maybe it'll impress
the Harvard tenure committee.

Who cares what they think?

- So you returned the car?
- I did.

- It was sensible.
- Hmm.

I don't know a single tenured
professor who drives a Jaguar.

I didn't like the color.

If you get turned down it won't
be because of an automobile.

But it's got to sting, yeah?

The attacks, the criticisms,
the violent reactions.

That woman was going through
a divorce, it turns out.

I didn't take it personally.

I'm going through a divorce.

I don't spit at people.

I'm sorry to hear that.

Thank you.

It's true that I am, possibly,
more than commonly on edge,

but how would you feel if you
picked up a copy of

American Psychologist
and found yourself attacked in

an article called
"Some Thoughts on Ethics in Research:

a Response to Milgram's
Behavioral Study of Obedience"?

many of you in this room,

predicted that only one person
in a thousand

would deliver the shocks across
the board,

an estimate that was off by
a factor of 500.

So what happened in the lab was
discovered, not planned.

But you expected, you knew you
were going to worry some people.

- Mmm.
- Stress, in fact,

- was a part of it.
- Well, every--

Extreme stress.

Every experiment is a situation
where the end is unknown,

something that might fail.

The indeterminacy is part of
the excitement.

Ethics. The undertow of ethics.

I wanted to ask a question,
a series of questions

about the psychological function
of obedience.

The conditions that shape it,
the defense mechanisms it entails.

The emotional forces
that keep a person obeying.

As someone with pretensions as
a moral educator,

let me suggest that science must
enhance our moral personhood,

not... not diminish it.

You forced people
to torture other people.

- No.
- To see if they--

No. No. No.
That is alien to my view.

No one was forced, right?

The experimenter told the
subject to perform an action.

What happened between
the command and the outcome

is the individual.

With conscience and a will,
who can either obey or disobey.

I don't see how you can
seriously equate victimization

in a laboratory con
with the willful participation

in mass murder.

Victimization? Look...

When the experiments were complete...

all the subjects were sent this
questionnaire. Here's some examples.

Eighty-four percent said they were
glad to have been in the experiment.

Fifteen percent
indicated neutral feelings.

One point three percent
indicated negative feelings.

One point three percent.

Four-fifths thought more
experiments of this sort

should be carried out,
and 74 percent said they had

learned something of personal
importance about themselves

and about the conditions
that shape human action.

A year after the study,
a psychiatrist, Dr. Paul Errara,

was hired to meet with subjects
who might have suffered

possible negative effects.

This is not another experiment.
There's no trick here.

I can see why you may have
your doubts.

- Yes.
- Yes.

This is a debriefing meeting.

We're here to assess
the after-effects.

So, tell us how you feel.

I'd like to know
what the point is of it.

To learn something about
human nature.

That was the aim.

Professor Milgram?

I hope that... I sincerely hope that,

you don't have the feeling that
would rather not have been

a part of this experiment.

It's an interesting life experience.

I don't like hurting anyone

and I can't understand myself
going all the way.

- It left me feeling guilty.
- Mm-hm.

Weren't we supposed
to have coffee?


I told my husband.
I know I wasn't supposed to.

But I don't do everything I'm told.

He said he wouldn't have done
the shocks, he would have refused.

I wanted to cry,
but I started to laugh.

- I think I did both.
- I was quite frightened,

and I was quivering, and it's...

I actually tried to memorize
the word pairs myself

so that if they
switched it around

I wouldn't have to get
those shocks.

There's a tendency to think that
everything a person does

is due to the feelings or ideas
within the person.

You haven't had your coffee.
You want coffee?

- Yes.
- Cream? Sugar?

- I'll take two sugars.
- Both, please.

Yes, thank you.

But sometimes a person's actions
depend equally

on the situation
you find yourself in.

And in this case, the power of
the situation overwhelmed

your personal power.

I'm an understanding person.


I'm an intelligent human being.
Speak the truth to me...

and I'll cooperate gladly,
even if it's a bitter truth,

but don't lie to me.

The purpose was
to advance science,

learn something.

Maybe you shouldn't do this kind
of experiment if you have to deceive.

Look, you can deceive other
people but don't deceive me.

We had half a dozen sessions
with Errara

and invited subjects.
The meetings were sparsely attended,

full of confusion and complaints,
but we concluded

that no one showed signs of harm,

no one had been traumatized.

- Stanley?
- Tom Shannon.


Tom did the wiring on
the shock generator.

- At Yale. The shock box.
- It's nice to meet you.

- This is Sasha.
- This is Michele.

Hey, I hated hearing about
Jim McDonough. Dead at 49.

That stuff about his heart
was no joke.

Yeah, I know. Sat down to a bowl
of oatmeal and... had a heart attack.

He had nine kids.

Oh, sad. Maybe you shouldn't
unload such a large brood

into the world, no offense.

She's taking us to Paris.
It's the first stamp on her passport.

- That's awesome.
- Sasha thinks I need a vacation.

Yeah. I heard they roughed you
up pretty good

- about those results.
- He's up for tenure.

People get feisty,
but it'll work out.

Gotta finish your book now.
Publish or perish, right?

Actually, I got sidetracked
working on The Small World Problem.

For The Small World Problem,
we asked people in Kansas and Omaha

to mail a packet to a person in
Sharon, Massachusetts.

The instructions are simple.

There's a target person.

In this case, a stockbroker
named Jacobs in Sharon, Mass.

Assuming they don't know them,
people are asked to mail

the folder to someone who might
know him.

They can send it to a friend,
relative, or acquaintance,

but they have to send it,
and this is key, to a person

they know on a first-name basis.
There's a roster to fill out

and a batch of postcards to mail
back to Harvard to track the process.

Will it work? We don't know.

A woman in Omaha sends the
folder to a high school friend,

a bank clerk, in Council Bluffs,

She sends it to a man in Belmont,
Massachusetts, a publisher,

who sends it to a tanner in
Sharon, the tanner sends it

to his brother-in-law, a sheet
metal worker, also in Sharon,

who sends it to a dentist,
who sends it to a printer,

who sends it to Mr. Jacobs.

Seven links in the chain.

The average chain, in fact,
involves 5.5 links.

That is, we determine that less
than six degrees of separation

exist between you
and several million strangers

who you may or may not encounter
in your lifetime.

When we understand the structure
of this communication net,

we stand to grasp a good deal
more about the fabric of society.

Maybe it's not necessarily justified,
this common human complaint.

The feeling that we're all
cut off, alienated, and alone.

I don't need to go into detail do I?
The things I remember,

when I was 16, in Bucharest.

The killings, torture, terror.

- Why are you bringing this up now?
- It's relevant.

The man was just turned down
for tenure at Harvard.

You wish to give the tragedy
some perspective.

It's not just that.
Because, bear with me,

they took people to the
slaughterhouse and strung them

on meat hooks, still alive.
Cut open their bellies like cattle.

A five-year-old boy.

And they watched the entrails
spill out, the blood drain,

and they wrote notes and they
pinned the papers to the bodies.



Serge was just giving me
a lesson in--


The pogroms,
in Romania during the war.

The Iron Guard...

they lit people on fire,
threw them off buildings.

This is my charming way of
saying your husband's work

is very important...

and timely.

Because the techniques change,
the victims change,

but it's still a question.
How do these things happen?

How are they institutionalized?

The Algerian War, the tortures.
Do you know about this in the States?

Yeah, of course.

You should do the obedience
experiments in Europe, Stanley.

France, Germany.
Recreate them.

Will it be different?

- I don't think so.
- Who would fund them?

The experiments are unethical.

No tenure, no funding.

And the IRBs? The IRBs, yes?

Basically you cannot do these
experiments without submitting

something to
the Internal Review Board.

He'll finish his book, and then
Stanley wants to move on

from the obedience experiments,
and why not?

Well, you look under a rock,
ugly things crawl out,

and we have to face them.

Your other experiments,
the letters, the maps,

clever, hopeful,

but you have to get back to
the obedience experiments.

- I do? I have to?
- Yes, Stanley. You have no choice.

(steel drums playing)

My new job at
City University of New York

involves a jump in pay
and full professorship.

Head of the department of
social psychology.

The City of New York is
a major laboratory,

to be utilized in the research and
training of graduate students

in social psychology.

That's from
the CUNY brochure.

I wrote it.

Sasha finds an apartment for us
in Riverdale

with a great view of the Hudson.
Marc was born in 1967.

He hardly remembers Cambridge.

Even, or especially when nothing
decisive is happening,

time refuses to stand still.

I walk to the station every morning,
take the train into the city.

- I enjoy the routine.
- (train approaches)

Today's assignment.
Get on a local bus,

and then with the bus in motion
and loud enough

to be heard by your fellow

sing your favorite song.

(students murmur)

Girl: Any song we want?

Just as long as you know the
words and can sing them loud

and clear. Pair up. Non-singer
takes notes, then switch roles.

You may say, "So what? Singing
a song, anyone can do that."

Or, "I don't have to do that,
I'm an individual, not a conformist."

Or, "This is silly, it doesn't change
the world to sing a song."

My answer to you is simply this:
get on the bus and sing.

Now go, right now. Come on.

No humming.

- (band plays music)
- (audience applauds)

My next guest is
professor of psychology

at the Graduate Center,
the City University in New York.

He's written a fascinating book,
a disturbing book.

Obedience to Authority:
An Experimental View,

just published by Harper & Row.

Please welcome a very creative,
very controversial

Stanley Milgram.

Doctor. Dr. Milgram.

So your subjects, they thought
the shocks were real,

that they were
delivering 450 volts,

- Sixty five percent of them.
- Mm.

But they were not particularly
aggressive or sadistic people.

They were a representative
cross-section of the average

American citizen living within
range of Yale University.

I thought, yes, we'd do
the experiment in New Haven,

and there'd be very limited

and then we'd recreate
the experiment in, say, Berlin,

and find the rate of obedience
to be much higher.

Saved a bit on airfare,
didn't you?

So, let me get this straight.

You did the experiment
in the early '60s?

And here we are, 1974,
and your book still feels like news.

Why is that?

People don't have the resources
to resist authority.

That's what the experiment
teaches us.

But people don't wanna hear it.
The experiment explains

a kind of...
flaw in social thinking,

a deadening,
a suspension of moral value.

What would you
say to your critics,

critics who would insist
the moral lapse is yours?

One of them cites "the extremely
callous, deceitful way

the experiments were carried out."

Another calls them
"morally repugnant, vile."

"Milgram belongs on the
other end of the shock machine."

There certainly is a certain
kind of Kafkaesque quality

- to the experiments.
- Kafkaesque?

The experiment taught me
something about the, uh,

plasticity of human nature.

Not the evil, not the aggressiveness,
but a certain kind of malleability.

Sixty-five percent of volunteers
were obedient.

That left 35 percent who
recognized a moral breach,

took responsibility for
their actions and resisted.

There is no permanent tissue damage.

That's your opinion.
If he doesn't want to continue,

I'm taking orders from him.

The experiment requires you continue.
You have no other choice.

If this were Russia maybe,
but not in America.

Stanley: But obedience,
compliance, was more common.

You tell yourself, "I wouldn't
do that. I'd never do that."

But then, what did Montaigne

"We are double in ourselves.
What we believe we disbelieve,

and we cannot rid ourselves of
what we condemn."

Another one of my experiments.
Hank, a CUNY grad student,

was the designated
"crowd crystal" staring up

at a fixed point in space,

looking up at a
non-existent something.

As you multiply the confederates,

the people who stare up because
we've recruited them to stare up,

the number of people who
actually stop and look

increases exponentially.

Meanwhile, Obedience to Authority
gets translated into

eight languages and nominated
for a national book award.


- October 24th, 1974, 4:25pm.
- (typewriter keys clatter)

Sheila Jarcho, J-A-R--

I know how to spell it,

...C-H-O, working on the mental
maps project, comes in

and tells me errors were made in
the neighborhood map,

already duplicated in some
500 copies.

Her facial expression captures
the attitude that she's shown

all along in her capacity as
research assistant.

Are my eyes
really that close together?

On the whole, both men and women
are highly critical

when studying photographs of

The vanity factor's

when people judge
their own image.

Do you ever worry that
everything's sort of

an anti-climax since
the obedience experiments,

and that your work,
really everything you're doing,

is just a flash in the pan?

The truth is, you're invested in
the idea of authority

and you love lording it over
all of us.

Me, the other students,
and even your wife.

- Me?
- Well, fuck yeah.


I work here because I get paid for it

and I actually think
it's kind of fun.

Sheila, what's wrong with you?

Huh. Just keep doing
what he tells you to do.

I don't get along
with all my students.

The flash in the pan?

How many people can manage
even that flash?

I've done some psych

but in my mind I'm still about
to write my great Broadway musical.

4:27 pm. Paul Hollander,
looking tan and fit,

pays a visit from Massachusetts.

Tan and fit and miserable.

I am so sorry, Paul.

Well, another marriage
down the drain.

- I should've seen it coming.
- Sasha: It's terrible, rotten.

But you look good.

Paul: The worst of it is she's
erected a Berlin Wall

- between me and my daughter.
- Sasha: Oh.

- Nice place you've got here.
- It isn't Harvard, but, thank you.

Harvard would never have given
you an office half as grand

as this, or found you
as bewitching a secretary.

Oh. Well, I just go
where the work is.

So, aren't you
going to take my picture, then?

I'm considering it.

Do you ever feel invincible one
moment and then worthless the next?

(camera whirs)

- Yes and no.
- (camera whirs)

The camera begins to attract
its own subject matter.

It's no longer a passive recorder

but actively attracts
the people it records.

(door opens)

Uh, Stanley Milgram?

How did I get to be so old?

What is the Kierkegaard quote?

"Life can always be...

Only be understood backward."

October 24th, 1974, 4:29 pm.

Conversation with Paul Hollander
interrupted by the arrival of

a messenger bearing, at last,

the German edition of
Obedience to Authority.

With crass barbed wire
cover design.

Paul: Mein Gott.

- What's your name?
- Thomas Shine.

Mind participating in
my experiment?

It depends.

He just wants to take your picture.
Everybody's doing it.

- Okay. I need a signature.
- Oh, yes.

He's interested in
the unacknowledged power

of photographic images.

- (camera whirs)
- Okay.

"Life can only be understood

but has to be lived forwards."

(door closes)

(steel drums playing)

Stanley: Around this time,
I was also working on

The Familiar Stranger.

(train approaches)

We take photographs of commuters
on a train platform.

Each figure in the photographs
are given a number.

The photos are duplicated,

and a week later
the students follow up.

Hello. I'm a student at CUNY.

Would you mind filling out
this questionnaire?

- Okay.
- Also,

do you recognize
any of these people?


- What about here?
- Well, that's me.

Can you identify anyone else?

Not by name.

Most commuters recognize,
on average, four individuals

that they see in their daily routine
but never speak to.

Familiar strangers.

Amongst these are
"sociometric stars".

Figures that they not only recognize
but even fantasize about.

They wonder what kind of lives
these strangers lead,

what their jobs are like.

And if they ran into each other
in another place,

or if some emergency jolted them
out of this routine,

they might start to speak,
actually know one another.

I teach at CUNY, and I see you
out here, you know, all the time

and I wonder about the things
you must see.

You look familiar.
What do you teach?

Social psychology. "The City of
New York is a vast laboratory."

I had no idea you were English.
You're English?

- Yes.
- Assuming that accent is real.

- I saw you on TV.
- Good Morning America.

- I knew you looked familiar.
- He tortures people

- with electric shocks.
- That isn't accurate.

He's very controversial.

Have you read my book?
Have you?

I don't get a chance to read as
much as I would like to.

- It's okay.
- I read the review.

Well, there were many reviews.

It was the Times, wasn't it?

Yes, it was. It was harsh.

It was nominated for an award,
but, yeah, who cares?

Why disabuse yourself?


I don't wanna make you angry,
ma'am. Just...

have a nice day, okay?

Abe, it was a pleasure
meeting you.


I was bowled over when I first
read about it,

and you in the Times,
and then I read the original material

and the scientific journals,
and I mulled.

- You mulled?
- I mulled.

This mulling produced the idea
to do a TV play

of a hopefully high caliber,
for an accepted show,

of a decently adult level,
treating, in fictional form,

the kind of experiments you
performed and its aftermath.

Using it as a springboard for
my own characters

and situational inventions.

I, uh, I kept this.

D'you see how yellow?

Stan, sorry, help me.
I was just wondering.

Your name, its derivation?

Milgram means "pomegranate"
in Hebrew.

It's one of the seven fruits of
the Bible. I'm Jewish,

if that's what you're asking?

Apples is another, right?

Figs, grapes.
Olives, they're a fruit?

Anyhow, when you point out
the parallels, the connections,

Hannah Arendt,
The Banality of Evil,

the My Lai massacre, all of that,
I see where you're coming from.

I'm here because a serious
situation is pending

with regard to the drama I propose.

Playhouse 90, the Columbia
Broadcasting System.


Michele, ma belle. Ca va?


I was just gonna get
some ice cream.

(crockery clatters)

Whenever I'm up late like this,
which is a lot,

I think of your grandfather.

- Sam?
- Yeah, that was his name.


He died.

That's right, in his sleep.
It's the luckiest way, people say,

not to know what's happening.

Why... Why did he die?


Heart disease.

It was before you were born,
before your mother could meet him.

He was a baker,
his specialty were cakes.

- He worked late.
- Mmm-hmm.

I got it from him.
Maybe you'll get it from me.

(siren blares in distance)

Bellak: Basically there are
three types of people.

That's what
your research confirms.

There's the person
who makes things happen,

the person who
watches things happen,

then the person who says,
"What happened?"

- Right?
- (buzzer)

I'm a dramatist, I was explicit,
not a scientist.

Your work is a springboard for
revealing basic human truths.

You get your consultant's fee.
What's the problem?

It isn't about the money.


Secretary: I'm sorry, she needs
to speak to you again.

She says it's urgent.

Tell her to relax.

Excuse me.

(telephone rings in distance)

(typewriter keys clatter)

(telephone beeps)

Secretary: Dr. Stanley?


Mr. Bellak won't be back
in his office this afternoon.

Excuse me?

He can't talk to you today anymore.

He says you can visit the set.


So, you sold him the rights?

No. But it's a gray area.

But it's your book, it's your work,
it's your experiments.

So either you did it or you sold it
or you didn't. Right?

In the opinion of
Harper's legal department,

we don't have a supportable claim,
not on the basis of

copyright infringement,
because the show is fiction.

Are we finished with this?

They gave me a consulting fee.
Is that enough?

Your father's turning into
a fictional character.

- Michele: Why?
- Yes, why?

And why do they have
to make you a goy ?

It's not about me.
I'm just a springboard.

- Why?
- I don't know.

Sasha: Oh, I see.
So, you had no choice?

I could just give the money back
but they'd make the show anyway.

Why don't I give the money back?

I'll give the money back!
That's a good idea.

You know what?
You don't have to be so snippy.

- (buzzer)
- They don't just come in

and sadistically pull these switches.
Bing. Bing.

They have an inner struggle
not to obey.

Their inner pain is
the evidence to that.

Steven, what you're doing
is very important,

and I love the design.
It's audacious.


I am being careful, which is why
I've got tenure around here

long before black
became popular.

It's tricky. Very tricky.

There'll be criticism of
anything breaking new ground.

There are times when
your life resembles a bad movie,

but nothing prepares you if your life
actually becomes a bad movie.

Here's Dr. Steven Turner,
Steven/Stanley, Turner/Milgram,

of Rutledge University,
a bachelor and a WASP,

being played by William Shatner,

four years after
his last Star Trek episode.

Ossie Davis plays his colleague
and best friend.

I don't believe you're
adequately considering...

faculty reaction.

You may find yourself teaching
in Siberia.

This has to be somewhat weird
for you.

Well, I've made some films
myself actually.


I think Ossie may have meant,
and I was wondering also,

do you have a best friend
who is, you know, a brother?

I mean this tradition of
a black best friend,

where did that come from?

You don't have
a black best friend, Bill?

No. Do you?

This character isn't me.
I'm just a springboard.

Did you know I did the first
interracial kiss in US TV history?

Ah, Star Trek, sure.

I kissed Nichelle Nichols on
network TV.

Controversial, but you did it.

The network was... nervous.

They insisted we shoot
an alternative version,

but during the close up
I did this...

First time, 1968,
in the history of TV.

I've read about
your experiments, Doctor.

Did you happen to use
any black folks?

- Stanley: Yes, of course.
- (clicking)

And the results?

They fared the same as
everyone else.

Roughly 65 percent compliant.

You didn't force or
threaten anyone, right?

- No.
- You didn't twist anyone's arm?

- No, no.
- Didn't hold a gun to anyone's head?

You see, it brings to mind when
I was six or seven years old,

coming home from school.

Two policemen call me over
from their car.

"Come over here, boy.
Come on over."

- Have I heard this one?
- No.

They tell me to get into the car,

and they take me
to the precinct station.

Then one of them
takes a jar of cane syrup

and pours it over my head.

And they both laugh like it's
the funniest thing in the world.

I laugh too.

Then they give me hunks of
peanut brittle and let me go.

It took me 30 years
before I told anyone.

Where was this, Ossie?
Down South?

Well, it doesn't matter where,
and that's my point.

You don't have to go to Germany

to learn about
obedience to authority.

This in the book. Actually,
it's the tenth chapter,

- which very few people get to.
- The Tenth Level.

The agentic state,
in which the demands of

the democratically installed
authority conflict with conscience.

The Banality of Evil.

(bell rings)

I don't take responsibility.
Do you take responsibility?

I take responsibility.
Now count that as wrong.

No response counts as wrong.

You pull the switch then, dammit!
Come on, you pull the switch!

Mr. Dahlquist, that's your job.

No, I won't.

Nobody can learn anything
like this.

There was a time, I suspect,
when men and women

could give a fully human
response to any situation.

When we could be fully absorbed
in the world as human beings.

But more often, now,

people don't get to see
the whole situation

but only some small part of it.

There's a division of labor,
and people carry out small,

narrow, specialized jobs,

and we can't act without some
kind of direction from on high.

I call this "the agentic state".

The individual yields to authority,

and in doing so becomes
alienated from his own actions.

Steven: Mr. Dahlquist,
you agreed to the rules.

The agentic state is "store policy".

It's, "I'm just doing my job."

Or, "That's not my job."

Or, "I don't make the rules."
"We don't do that here."

"Just following orders."
"It's the law."

In the agentic state,
the individual defines himself

as an instrument carrying out
the wishes of others.

A soldier, a nurse,
an administrator.

An actor.

A corporate employee, or even,
yes, academics and artists.

- Please continue.
- Oh, God. Oh, God.

- Mr. Dahlquist?
- Just shut up a minute!

Now, hold on.


- Ossie: Come on, come on.
- Dahlquist: Son of a bitch!

A person has a choice.

He or she chooses
to become agentic.

But once you assume the role,
it's almost impossible to go back.

- (buzzer)
- Wrong.

A hundred
and ninety five volts.

- "Dance."
- (man grunts)

Let me out of here! Let me out!

- Man 1: Continue, please.
- Stanley: We always asked,

"Is there anything
the man could've said

to stop you from administering
the shocks?"

And they'd always say,
"No, I don't think so. No."

Jim: (recording) I told you
I have a heart condition!


Sit up here. All right?

Could we get a couple of
hot chocolates?

- You want hot chocolate?
- Yes, please.

- Hot chocolates all around?
- Yeah, yeah.

Do you want anything?
Okay, no, we're fine.

I need you to stay put,
stay in your seats. Okay?

I'm sorry.

I could say it a thousand times
and mean it every time.

Marc, turn around in your seat.


You remember when
I was translating Piaget?

I hit this line about
child development.

It's the specific point when
the growing child is able

to recognize a gap between what
exists and what might exist.

And it occurred to me,
we choose our reality

when we choose another person.

What does that mean?

Marriage is not a fantasy.

No, no, no, right.


But it is a choice.

You have to know that I choose you.

Every day I choose you.


1984 was a big year for me.

My lecture fees peaked,
I was asked to speak

all over the world, about
the obedience experiments,

of course, in relation to
Orwell's prophetic book.

A book that describes
a totalitarian world

where people aren't very good
at thinking for themselves.

♪ Who can explain it? ♪

♪ Who can tell you why ♪

♪ Fools give you reasons ♪

♪ Wise men never try ♪

1984 was also the year
that I died.

I was 51.

Excuse me? We need to see
a doctor immediately.

I'm Stanley Milgram.
This is my ID.

I believe I'm having
my fifth heart attack.

Dr. Heissenbuttel--

That's who treated me last time.

You need to fill this out.

The agentic personality.

Stanley: No one can truly know
what they might or might not do

when presented with the demands
of a particular situation.

In 2008, a professor at Santa
Clara University replicated

the obedience experiments and
got roughly the same results.

Over 60 percent of volunteers
delivered the full shocks.

In 2010, the experiments
were duplicated

on a French reality TV show,

Le Jeu de la Mort,
The Game of Death.

Participants were egged on by
a live studio audience.

Over 80 percent went all the way.

(siren blares)

Alexandra Milgram, Sasha,

continues to live in
the apartment we shared

in Riverdale. Our children live
with their children

near Boston and Toronto.

Sasha never remarried.

The obedience experiments are
cited and discussed

in nearly every introductory
psychology textbook worldwide.

My obedience film is screened

for every incoming class
at West Point.

And my methods and results
continue to be challenged,

scorned, debunked,

yet every time a new outrage is
unleashed into the world,

sanctioned and systematic acts
of violence,

the obedience experiments
re-enter the conversation,

re-framing unanswerable questions.

You could say we're puppets.

But I believe that we are puppets
with perception,

with awareness.

Sometimes we can see the strings
and, perhaps,

our awareness is the first step
in our liberation.