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This Article Could Save Your Life (but only if someone else reads it)

It is 18 June 1961.

You are reading the New Haven Register on Sunday, and an advert catches your eye:


This is 1961, that is not a bad deal. You read on.

The advert is recruiting men from the New Haven area for a study into memory and learning at Yale University. Interested parties are to apply to Professor Stanley Milgram’s office and will be contacted with further details. You take a pair of scissors from the draw and neatly cut out the response form.

When you arrive at Professor Milgram’s elegant Yale University laboratory, you are greeted by a researcher in a grey technician’s coat. He leads you to a room where another participant is already waiting — a professional looking man comfortably settled into middle age. He smiles at you.

The researcher clears his throat to attract your attention. Very little is understood, he says, about the effect of punishment on learning — for instance, how much is best?

He explains that for the experiment one of you will be the teacher and the other will be the learner. He asks if either of you would prefer a role. Your fellow shakes his head; he does not mind. In turn, you shrug your shoulders.

The researcher nods and produces a hat. He asks you to put your hand in and choose a slip of paper.


Perhaps some relief; no learning, no punishment, $4 for practically nothing.

You are both led to another room. Inside is a chair, coiled with wires that sprout into electrodes. Leather straps are fixed to the arms and legs. Necessary to prevent excessive movement from the electric shocks, apparently.

The learner is strapped into the chair. Before the electrodes are attached, a gel is applied to their skin — to avoid blisters and burns.

The learner is now clearly nervous and asks how strong the shocks will be. The researcher assures him that although they can be extremely painful, they cause no permanent tissue damage.

You are taken next door, l