In the 1960's, a decade in which people began questioning authority on a large scale in the United States and many other countries, Charles Hofling and his associates published a disturbing study that showed how obedience in hospital settings could literally be lethal if people didn't question authority. In the study, 22 nurses received telephone requests from an unknown doctor to administer twice the maximum daily dosage of an unknown medication called "Astroten." Well, this request should have been squarely rejected because hospital rules prohibited the administration of unapproved medications even in cases when the nurses knew who the physician was and when the dosage wasn't excessive. Nonetheless, 21 out of 22 nurses obeyed the doctor's order. The pill, as it turned out, was just a pink-colored glucose capsule—a sugar pill. There is no such thing as Astroten, and nobody was harmed in the study. But another interesting part of the study is that the researchers asked 12 other nurses and 21 student nurses to predict what they would do if in this situation. The result? Ten of 12 nurses and all 21 student nurses thought that, if they had been asked to administer the medication, they would have rejected the request. So, on the one hand we have very high levels of obedience, and on the other, we have people underestimating how vulnerable they are to authority figures— a potentially deadly combination. Now, of course, there's nothing wrong with obedience itself, and there's certainly nothing wrong with obeying doctor's orders. The primary danger here is blind obedience in which the authority figure is never questioned at all. And the risks aren't just medical. For example, a study published by Art Brief and his colleagues in the year 2000 showed how obedience in the workplace might lead to racial discrimination. In this study, white college students were asked to select job applicants from a pool of candidates for a marketing representative position. Roughly half the students received a fake letter from the company's president saying, "Our organization attempts to match the characteristics of our representatives with the characteristics of the population to which they'll be assigned. The particular territory to which your selected representative will be assigned contains relatively few minority group members. Therefore, in this particular situation, I feel that it's important that you do not hire anyone that is a member of a minority group." The results? White students who were given this statement selected fewer than half as many Black applicants for an interview as did students who received no such statement. So, once again, people obeyed the authority figure without any question, only this time, the instructions were to discriminate, and the participants were college students—not a group normally known for its high level of obedience. Well, as important and alarming as these studies are, when most social psychologists think about research on obedience, they think of one person, and that person is Stanley Milgram. Thanks to the generosity of Professor Milgram's widow, Alexandra Milgram, and with the assistance of Alexander Street Press and Professor Tom Blass, who wrote a superb biography of Stanley Milgram, I'm pleased to say that we'll be able to watch a 40-minute video about Stanley Milgram's research on obedience— arguably, the most famous set of experiments ever conducted in social psychology. They are also, without doubt, among the most ethically controversial—a topic we'll return to in the next lecture. But before you watch the obedience video— which, by the way, Stanley Milgram wrote, directed, and narrated—I want to share one important observation made by Lee Ross, the person who coined the term fundamental attribution error. Professor Ross wrote that, "The Milgram experiments ultimately may have less to say about destructive obedience than about ineffective and indecisive disobedience." As you'll see in the video, it's not the case that the experimental participants fail to object; it's that their objections don't prevent them from going on to harm other people, a very interesting and important distinction. But now, instead of commenting further, let me simply invite you to watch the video, and I'll have more to say about it in our next lecture.