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The Socialization of Evil: How the “Nazi Hate Primers” Prepared and Conditioned the Minds of German Youth to Hate Jews

The second broad class of operational principles by which otherwise good people can be recruited into evil is through education/socialization pro- cesses that are sanctioned by the government in power, enacted within school programs, and supported by parents and teachers. A prime example is the way in which German children in the 1930s and 1940s were system- atically indoctrinated to hate Jews, to view them as the all-purpose enemy of the new (post–World War I) German nation. Space limitations do not allow full documentation of this process, but I touch on several examples of one way in which governments are responsible for sanctioning evil.

In Germany, as the Nazi party rose to power in 1933, no target of Nazification took higher priority than the reeducation of Germany’s youth. Hitler wrote: “I will have no intellectual training. Knowledge is ruin to my young men. A violently active, dominating, brutal youth—that is what I am after” (The New Order, 1989, pp. 101–102). To teach the youth about geography and race, special primers were created and ordered to be read starting in the first grade of elementary school (seeThe New Order,1989). These “hate primers” were brightly colored comic books that contrasted the beautiful blond Aryans with the despicably ugly carica- tured Jew. They sold in the hundreds of thousands. One was titledTrust No Fox in the Green Meadows and No Jew on His Oath.What is most in- sidious about this kind of hate conditioning is that the misinformation was presented as facts to be learned and tested upon, or from which to practice penmanship. In the copy of theTrust No Fox text that I reviewed, a series of cartoons illustrates all the ways in which Jews supposedly deceive Ary- ans, get rich and fat from dominating them, and are lascivious, mean, and without compassion for the plight of the poor and the elderly Aryans.

The final scenarios depict the retribution of Aryan children when they expel Jewish teachers and children from their school, so that “proper disci- pline and order” could then be taught. Initially, Jews were prohibited from community areas, like public parks, then expelled altogether from Ger- many. The sign in the cartoon reads, ominously, “One-way street.” In- deed, it was a unidirectional street that led eventually to the death camps and crematoria that were the centerpiece of Hitler’s Final Solution: the genocide of the Jews. Thus, this institutionalized evil was spread perva- sively and insidiously through a perverted educational system that turned away from the types of critical thinking exercises that open students’ minds to new ideas and toward thinking uncritically and close-mindedly about those targeted as the enemy of the people. By controlling education and the propaganda media, any national leader could produce the fantas- tic scenarios depicted in George Orwell’s (1981) frightening novel1984.

The institutionalized evil that Orwell vividly portrays in his fictional account of state dominance over individuals goes beyond the novelist’s imagination when its prophetic vision is carried into operational validity by powerful cult leaders or by agencies and departments within the current national administration of the United States. Previously I have outlined the direct parallels between the mind control strategies and tactics Orwell at- tributes to “The Party” and those that Reverend Jim Jones used in dominating the members of his religious/political cult, Peoples Temple (Zimbardo, 2003a). Jones orchestrated the suicide/murders of more than 900 U.S. citizens in the jungles of Guyana 25 years ago, perhaps as the grand finale of his experiment in institutionalized mind control. I learned from former members of this group that not only did Jones read1984, he talked about it often and even had a song commissioned by the church’s singer, entitled “1984 Is Coming,” that everyone had to sing at some ser- vices. I will leave it to the reader to explore the similarities between the mind control practices in1984 and those being practiced on U.S. citizens in the past few years (see Zimbardo, 2003b).


Framing the issues we have been considering as, in essence, who wins when good boys are put in an evil place casts it as a neo-Greek tragedy sce- nario, wherein “the situation” stands in for the externally imposed forces of “the gods and destiny.” As such, we can anticipate an outcome unfavor- able to humanity. In more mundane psychological terms, this research on the Stanford prison experiment synthesized many of the processes and variables outlined earlier: those of place and person anonymity that con- tribute to the deindividuation of the people involved, the dehumanization of victims, giving some actors (guards) permission to control others (pris- oners), and placing it all within a unique setting (the prison) that most so- cieties throughout the world acknowledge provides some form of institu- tionally approved sanctions for evil through the extreme differentials in control and power fostered in prison environments.

In 1971, I designed a dramatic experiment that would extend over a 2-week period to provide our research participants with sufficient time for them to become fully engaged in their experimentally assigned roles of either guards or prisoners. Having participants live in a simulated prison set- ting day and night, if prisoners, or work there for long 8-hour shifts, if guards, would also allow sufficient time for situational norms to develop and patterns of social interaction to emerge, change, and crystallize. The second feature of this study was to ensure that all research participants would be as normal as possible initially, healthy both physically and men- tally, and without any history of involvement in drugs or crime or vio- lence. This baseline was essential to establish if we were to untangle the situational versus dispositional knot: What the situation elicited from this collection of similar, interchangeable young men versus what was emitted by the research participants based on the unique dispositions they brought into the experiment. The third feature of the study was the novelty of the prisoner and guard roles: Participants had no prior training in how to play the randomly assigned roles. Each subject’s prior societal learning of the meaning of prisons and the behavioral scripts associated with the op- positional roles of prisoner and guard was the sole source of guidance. The fourth feature was to create an experimental setting that came as close to a functional simulationof the psychology of imprisonment as possible. The details of how we went about creating a mindset comparable to that of real prisoners and guards are given in several of the articles I wrote about the study (see Zimbardo, 1975; Zimbardo, Haney, Banks, & Jaffe, 1973).

Central to this mind set were the oppositional issues of power and powerlessness, dominance and submission, freedom and servitude, control and rebellion, identity and anonymity, coercive rules and restrictive roles. In general, these social-psychological constructs were operationalized by putting all subjects in appropriate uniforms, using assorted props (e.g., handcuffs, police clubs, whistles, signs on doors and halls), replacing corri- dor hall doors with prison bars to create prison cells, using windowless and clock-less cells that afforded no clues as to time of day, applying insti- tutional rules that removed/substituted individual names with numbers (prisoners) or titles for staff (Mr. Correctional Officer, Warden, Super- intendent), and that gave guards control power over prisoners.

Subjects were recruited from among nearly 100 men between the ages of 18 and 30 who answered our advertisements in the local city newspa- per. They were given a background evaluation that consisted of a battery of five psychological tests, personal history, and in-depth interviews. The 24 who were evaluated as most normal and healthiest in every respect were randomly assigned, half to the role of prisoner and half to that of guard. The student-prisoners underwent a realistic surprise arrest by offi- cers from the Palo Alto Police Department, who cooperated with our plan. The arresting officer proceeded with a formal arrest, taking the “felons” to the police station for booking, after which each prisoner was brought to our prison in the reconstructed basement of our psychology department.

The prisoner’s uniform was a smock/dress with a prison ID number. The guards wore military-style uniforms and silver-reflecting sunglasses to enhance anonymity. At any one time there were nine prisoners on “the yard,” three to a cell, and three guards working 8-hour shifts. Data were collected via systematic video recordings, secret audio recordings of con- versations of prisoners in their cells, interviews and tests at various times during the study, postexperiment reports, and direct, concealed obser- vations.

For a detailed chronology and fuller account of the behavioral re- actions that followed, readers are referred to the above references, to Zimbardo, Maslach, and Haney (1999), and to our new website: current purposes, let me simply summarize that the negative situational forces overwhelmed the positive dispositional ten- dencies. The Evil Situation triumphed over the Good People. Our pro- jected 2-week experiment had to be terminated after only 6 days because of the pathology we were witnessing. Pacifistic young men were behaving sadistically in their role as guards, inflicting humiliation and pain and suf- fering on other young men who had the inferior status of prisoner. Some “guards” even reported enjoying doing so. Many of the intelligent, healthy college students who were occupying the role of prisoner showed signs of “emotional breakdown” (i.e., stress disorders) so extreme that five of them had to be removed from the experiment within that first week. The prison- ers who adapted better to the situation were those who mindlessly fol- lowed orders and who allowed the guards to dehumanize and degrade them ever more with each passing day and night. The only personality variable that had any significant predictive value was that ofF-scale au- thoritarianism: The higher the score, the more days the prisoner survived in this totally authoritarian environment.

I terminated the experiment not only because of the escalating level of violence and degradation by the guards against the prisoners that was ap- parent when viewing the videotapes of their interactions, but also because I was made aware of the transformation that I was undergoing personally (see the analysis by Christina Maslach of how she intervened to help bring light to that dark place and end the study; in Zimbardo et al., 1999). I had become a Prison Superintendent in addition to my role as Principal Investi- gator. I began to talk, walk, and act like a rigid institutional authority fig- ure more concerned about the security of “my prison” than the needs of the young men entrusted to my care as a psychological researcher. In a sense, I consider the extent to which I was transformed to be the most pro- found measure of the power of this situation. We held extended debriefing sessions of guards and prisoners at the end of the study and conducted pe- riodic checkups over many years. Fortunately, there were no lasting nega- tive consequences of this powerful experience.

Before moving on, I would like to share parts of a letter sent to me re- cently (e-mail communication, October 18, 2002) by a young psychology student, recently discharged from military service. It outlines some of the direct parallels between the aversive aspects of our simulated prison many years ago and current despicable practices still taking place in some mili- tary boot-camp training. It also points up the positive effects that research and education can have:

I am a 19-year-old student of psychology [who watched] the slide show of your prison experiment. Not too far into it, I was almost in tears. . . . I joined the United States Marine Corps, pursuing a childhood dream. To make a long story short, I had become the victim of repeated illegal physical and mental abuse. An investigation showed I suffered more than 40 unprovoked beatings. Eventually, as much as I fought it, I became suicidal, thus received a discharge from boot camp. . . .

The point I am trying to make is that the manner in which your guards carried about their duties and the way that military drill instructors do is un- believable. I was amazed at all the parallels of your guards and one particular D. I. who comes to mind. I was treated much the same way, and even worse, in some cases.

One incident that stands out was the time, in an effort to break platoon solidarity, I was forced to sit in the middle of my squad bay (living quarters) and shout to the other recruits “If you guys would have moved faster, we wouldn’t be doing this for hours,” referencing every single recruit who was holding over his head a very heavy foot locker. The event was very similar to the prisoners saying #819 was a bad prisoner. After my incident, and after I was home safe some months later, all I could think about was how much I wanted to go back to show the other recruits that as much as the D. I.s told the platoon that I was a bad recruit, I wasn’t.

Other behaviors come to mind, like the push-ups we did for punish- ment, the shaved heads, not having any identity other than being addressed as, and referring to other people as, “Recruit So-and-So”—which replicates your study. The point of it all is that even though your experiment was con- ducted 31 years ago, my reading the study has helped me gain an understand- ing I was previously unable to gain before, even after therapy and counseling. What you have demonstrated really gave me insight into something I’ve been dealing with for almost a year now. Although, it is certainly not an excuse for their behavior, I now can understand the rationale behind the D. I.’s actions as far as being sadistic and power hungry. (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.37-41)

Affection and Nurturance versus Neglect and Harsh Treatment

Temperamental characteristics of children enter into the development of altruism and aggression (Coie & Dodge, 1998; Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998). For example, impulsiveness and related early temperamental characteris- tics have been linked to boys’ aggression (Staub, in preparation-b). How- ever, these characteristics are most likely to exert their influence in interac- tion with social experience. The expression of these characteristics is shaped by harsh treatment or lack of support and appropriate guidance by parents and other people. Similarly, temperamental dispositions appear to play a role in the emergence of empathy, but so do early socializing experi- ences (Zahn-Waxler & Radke-Yarrow, 1990). Social conditions such as poverty also play an important role, but they appear to exert influence primarily by affecting how parents relate to and guide their children (McLoyd, 1990).

Here, I focus on child-rearing practices. Becoming a caring, helpful, altruistic person or a hostile and aggressive one is the result of combina- tions or patterns of child-rearing practices (Staub, 1979, 1996a, 2003, in preparation-b). Early responsiveness by parents to their infants’ needs and the provision of continuing nurturance, warmth, and affection are the core socializing practices and experiences for the development of helpful ten- dencies in children (Eisenberg, 1992; Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998; Hoffman, 1970a, 1970b, 1975a; Shaffer, 1995; Staub, 1971, 1979, 1996a, 1996b, 2003, in preparation-b; Yarrow & Scott, 1972). Neglect and harsh treat- ment—that is, rejection, hostility, the extensive use of physical punish- ment, and physical or verbal abuse—are the core socializing practices and experiences that contribute to the development of aggression (Coie & Dodge, 1998; Eron, Gentry, & Schlegel, 1994; Eron, Walder, Lefkowitz, 1971; Heussman, Eron, Lefkowitz, & Walder, 1984; Huesman, Lager- spetz, & Eron, 1984; Lykken, 2001; Staub, 1979, 1996a, 1996b, 2003, in preparation-b; Weiss et al., 1992; Widom, 1989a, 1989b).

Providing warmth, affection, and nurturance indicates that caretakers are responsive to the needs of the young child. Responsiveness to the in- fant’s physical and social needs provides (fulfills the basic needs for) secu- rity and connection. Sensitive responding to the infant’s signals also satisfies the need for efficacy and control. Responding to signals and satisfying needs also affirms the child and begins to develop the rudiments of a posi- tive identity. Such sensitive parental responding is associated with the de- velopment of secure attachment (Ainsworth, Bell, & Stayton, 1974; Bretherton, 1992; Shaffer, 1995; Waters, Wippman, & Sroufe, 1979). In turn, secure attachment is associated with the development of sympathy (i.e., the feeling of sorrow or concern for the distressed or needy other; Eisenberg, 2002, p. 135), with helping peers by the time children are 3½ years old (Waters et al., 1979), and with the emergence of prosocial behav- ior in preschool (Kestenbaum, Farber, & Sroufe, 1989).

As children get older, love, affection, and caring about a child’s wel- fare can take varied forms. For example, an in-depth, important study found that an essential characteristic of the parents of boys who have high self-esteem was caring about the child’s welfare, expressed in many ways, and not necessarily by physical affection (Coopersmith, 1967). Sensitivity in caring about and responding to the child’s feelings and needs—to who the child is—fulfills all basic needs. The child in such care develops con- nection to important adults and forms a positive orientation toward peo- ple in general. That this is the case is suggested by research findings that show that securely attached children are also capable ofcreating positive connections. Such children have positive relationships with peers in the early school years (Waters et al., 1979). Further in the developmental con- tinuum, college students who rate their parents as affectionate and caring also have a positive view of their fellow humans and express con- cern about, and feelings of responsibility for, others’ welfare (Staub & Operario, unpublished data). As noted earlier, such a prosocial value ori- entation is related to varied forms of helping.

In contrast, experiencing neglect and the ineffectiveness of one’s sig- nals, such as crying, to bring about the satisfaction of essential biological (and social) needs has severe negative effects. Research on institutionalized infants has shown that in institutions with poor caretaking, infants be- come depressed and die in significant numbers. Children who had lived in such institutions later show deficiencies in their capacity for human con- nection and in other domains (Shaffer, 1995; Thompson & Grusec, 1970). The conditions in such institutions frustrate infants’ basic needs for secu- rity, connection, and effectiveness/control. Given inadequate staffing, in- fants are fed and cared for on schedule, and in sequence, when it is their turn, not when they are hungry or distressed. Their crying brings no re- sponse. They have no significant connection to anyone. Neglect beyond in- fancy also has extreme negative consequences. Emotional neglect—that is, inattention to the child as a person and to his or her efforts to feel connec- tion and affirmation—has even more severe consequences than harsh treatment (Erikson & Egeland, 1996).

Harsh treatment also frustrates basic needs, increasingly so as it be- come more severe and abusive. Especially when it is unpredictable, it creates insecurity. When it is unavoidable, in that the child cannot prevent it, it creates a feeling of ineffectiveness. The child feels diminished; his or her connection with the caretaker is broken, and the child forms a view of peo- ple and the world as hostile and dangerous. This view, formed so early in life, interferes with the child’s ability to develop connections to people in general.

Aggressive boys, as well as adults, may come to use aggression as a destructive mode of fulfilling needs for security, efficacy, positive identity, and even connection. They learn to interpret others’ behavior toward themselves as hostile (Dodge, 1980, 1993) and consider aggression to be normal, appropriate, and even inevitable (Huesmann & Eron, 1984). When children are victimized by caretakers and also have models who coach them in aggressive responses (referred to as “violentization”), they may become intensely aggressive (Rhodes, 1999). (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.68-70)

There can be little doubt that, from the victim’s perspective, their killers or would-be killers would be considered evil. Before we consider the possible evolution of a universal cognitive category of evil, however, it is critical to consider the evolutionary events that would be set into motion once killing entered the human strategic repertoire. Because of the dramatic fitness costs of being killed, selection would act strongly to create defenses against killing—what we have called anti-homicide mechanisms (Duntley & Buss, 1998). (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.108)

That good and evil exist in the world is clear. Of that, there is little debate. We know that some people are capable of great selflessness, and that most people maintain high moral standards for themselves and others, give the welfare of others high priority, and place equality among their most cen- tral values (Kluegel & Smith, 1986). We also know that some people are capable of doing great harm, intentionally and unintentionally, to others. Racism reflects an essential kind of selfishness and evil that has pervaded human existence across cultures and across time (Jones, 1997). Racism provides both psychological benefits (e.g., enhanced self-esteem; Fein & Spencer, 1997) and material advantages (e.g., access to economic re- sources; Dovidio & Gaertner, 1998; see also Blank, 2001) to the perpetra- tor. The problem is that the same people—average people, “good” people—can be responsible for both good and bad deeds. Good people are often racist, and they are often racist without being aware of it….

In this initial study of contemporary racism (Gaertner, 1973), white participants residing in Brooklyn, New York, were selected for a field ex- periment on helping on the basis of their liberal or conservative orienta- tions, as indicated by their political party affiliations, which were a matter of public record. Both the liberal and the conservative households received wrong-number telephone calls that quickly developed into requests for as- sistance. The callers, who were clearly identifiable from their dialects as being black or white, explained that their car was disabled and that they were attempting to reach a service garage from a public phone along the parkway. The callers further claimed that they had no more change to make another call and asked the participant to help by calling the garage. If the participant agreed to help and called the number, ostensibly of the garage, a “helping” response was scored. If the participant refused to help or hung up after the caller explained that he or she had no more change, a “not helping” response was recorded. If the participant hung up before learning that the motorist had no more change, the response was con- sidered to be a “premature hang-up.”

The first finding from this study was direct and predicted. Conserva- tives showed a higher “helping” response to whites than to blacks (92% vs. 65%), whereas liberals helped whites somewhat, but not significantly, more than blacks (85% vs. 75%). By this measure, conservatives were more biased against blacks than were liberals. However, what is good and bad behavior is not always obvious or straightforward. Additional inspec- tion of the data revealed an unanticipated finding. Liberals “hung up pre- maturely” much more often on blacks than they did on whites (19% vs. 3%), and especially often on a black male motorist (28%). Conservatives did not discriminate in this way (8% vs. 5%). From the perspective of black callers, the consequence of a direct “not helping” response and of a “premature hang-up” was the same: They would be left without assistance. From the perspective of the participants, however, the consequences were different. Whereas a “not helping” response was a direct form of dis- crimination because it should have been clear to participants that their help was needed, a “premature hang-up” was a more indirect form be- cause participants disengaged from the situation before they learned of the other person’s dependence on them, and thus participants never overtly refused assistance. Consequently, both conservative and liberal whites dis- criminated against blacks but in different ways.

These findings and the conceptual work of Kovel (1970) challenged our views of good and bad and prompted us to reevaluate our assumptions about the nature of liberals’ racial attitudes and good intentions. They also stimulated a line of research on contemporary racism that we have con- ducted over the past 30 years. Specifically, this work has focused on a par- ticular type of contemporary racism, “aversive racism.” Aversive racism is hypothesized to be qualitatively different from the old-fashioned, blatant kind, and it is presumed to characterize the racial attitudes of most well- educated and liberal whites in the United States. It is more indirect and subtle than the traditional form of prejudice, but its consequences are no less evil. In this chapter, we first consider the nature of aversive racism. Second, we offer experimental evidence of its existence and operation in the behavior of whites toward blacks. Third, we examine how aver- sive racism can contribute to interracial miscommunication and distrust. Fourth, we explore approaches for combating aversive racism. And finally, we discuss the social implications of aversive racism. (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.141-3)

Research from several perspectives reveals that a wide variety of risk and protective factors influence the incidence of individual and collective vio- lent evil between and within various societies. Examples of these factors include accessibility of guns (O’Donnell, 1995), global warming (Ander- son, Bushman, & Groom, 1997), different cultural norms about violence (Nisbett & Cohen, 1996), and the widespread exposure to violent enter- tainment media (Anderson et al., in press; Anderson & Bushman, 2001, 2002b). However, no one causal factor, by itself, explains more than a small portion of differences in violence. For example, it is now well estab- lished that exposure to media violence is a risk factor for development of aggressive and violent individuals. Four broad types of converging evidence provide consistent results on this point: Cross-sectional correlation studies, longitudinal studies, laboratory experiments, and field experiments all point to the same simple conclusion (Anderson & Bushman, 2002c). Compared to the effect sizes of other more well-known medical ef- fects, such as secondhand smoking effects on lung cancer (Bushman & Anderson, 2002a), the media violence effects are sizeable but still account for only 3–4% of the variance in aggression. The effect size on the most ex- treme forms of violent evil is likely smaller. But the same is true for other violence risk factors. Violent evil is most likely to emerge in environments with multiple risk factors, environments that provide aggressive models, frustrate and victimize people, reinforce aggression, and teach people that aggression is acceptable and successful. (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.182)

Types of Causes It is convenient to divide risk factors for violent evil into proximate and distal causes (Anderson & Huesmann, 2003). As discussed earlier,proxi- matecauses are those personand situationvariables that are present and active in the current social episode.Distal causes areenvironmental and biologicalmodifiers that exert their influence over a long period of time. As illustrated in Figure 8.6, distal factors operate by increasing proximate factors that facilitate aggression or by decreasing proximate factors that inhibit aggression. For the most part, distal factors are seen as influencing the individual’s personal preparedness to aggress (i.e., aggressive personal- ity). For example, repeated exposure to media violence can create highly accessible retaliation scripts that are easily activated on future occasions. As noted earlier, however, systematic changes in aggressiveness also pro- duce systematic changes in the person’s social environment. Thus, distal factors can also systematically change the situational contexts in which a person habitually resides. Finally, it is useful to remember that some bio- logical and some environmental modifiers operate as both proximate and distall causal factors. Exposure to a violent movie both primes aggression- related knowledge structures in the immediate situation and constitutes an additional learning trial that teaches the viewer beliefs that will have lon- ger-lasting effects. Table 8.1 lists a variety of causes of aggression and violence, including causal factors described in greater detail by a number of authors in this volume. Though not exhaustive, the list is intended to illustrate how various types of factors are well organized by GAM, and how even societal- level factors eventually operate through their influence on the individual in a specific social encounter.2 2For citations of relevant empirical articles on these factors, see Anderson and Huesmann (2003); Berkowitz (1993); Geen (2001); Miller (1999); and various chapters in this volume. TABLE 8.1.Proximate and Distal Causal Factors in Violent Evil

Proximate causal factors


Unstable high self-esteem Narcissism Self-image Long-term goals Self-efficacy beliefs for violent and nonviolent behavior Normative beliefs about aggression, retaliation, etc. Attitudes toward violence Hostile attribution, expectation, and perception biases Aggression scripts Dehumanization of others Cultural stereotypes Moral justification for violence Displacement of responsibility


Social stress Provocation Frustration Pain/discomfort Bad moods Weapons Violent scenes Violent media Noise Temperature Threatening or fearful stimuli Exercise Alcohol and other drugs

Distal Causal Factors in Violent Evil

Environmental modifiers

Maladaptive families and parenting Violent neighborhood Cultural norms that support violence Victimization experiences Deprivation Difficult life conditions Group conflict Fear-inducing events Lack of bystander intervention in violent encounters Diffusion of responsibility Exposure to violent media Association antisocial peers

Biological modifiers Low arousal Low serotonin ADHD Hormone imbalances Executive functioning deficits For example, consider a Palestinian youth growing up on the West Bank during the last 15 years. The social, economic, and cultural environ- ment has been filled with deprivation, fear, hate, and violence. The cul- tural norms and everyday experiences have provided ample opportunity for the youngster to learn to hate and dehumanize his or her Israeli “enemies,” to develop violent behavioral scripts, and to become quite prepared to engage in “heroic” (i.e., terrorist) attacks on Israeli citizens. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine an environment better suited to create a generation of people prepared to behave violently toward their neighbors. Though the conditions are considerably different in many ways, Isrealis growing up during this time period also have been exposed to conditions conducive to creating people who are psychologically prepared to behave violently to- ward their neighbors. Indeed, the recent series of suicide bombings by Pal- estinians and military attacks by Israelis illustrates the violence escalation cycle all too well, despite truly heroic efforts by many individuals on both sides of the conflict to end the conflict. In addition to the heuristic value provided by organizing research findings from several voluminous literatures, GAM also bolsters research on how to intervene in group conflicts at several levels. For instance, key factors outlined by Staub (e.g., 1989, 1998) in numerous writings all fit well with GAM: the initial need to stop the violence, provide economic de- velopment, work toward reducing (and eventually eliminating) mutual dis- trust and fear, promote healing and reconciliation, and promote cultural change in ways that give people on both sides a stake in the success of peace (e.g., promoting democratic reforms). Similarly, the work by Kelman (1998, 2001) fits GAM well. Not only do these approaches to the reduction of the broad types of violent evil fit GAM, but GAM provides a meaningful theoretical context within which we can understand how these approaches work at the level of the individual engaging in social en- counters. CONCLUDING ISSUES AND COMMENTS An Interactionist Perspective Like any good theory, the General Aggression Model is a work in progress. Most of our early studies on this model came from the heat/aggres- sion domain, whereas most of our recent empirical work has been focused on media violence. Throughout all of this work, though, the intent has been to create and test hypotheses about human aggression, in general. As it turns out (not entirely by chance), a focus on these two domains natu- rally led us to create a model that takes a very strong interactionist per- spective. It is an interactive model in several ways. First, GAM is largely predicated on the ubiquity of social encounters or interactions of the per- son with his or her social environment (broadly conceived to include thinking about fictitious characters as well as truly social interactions with real people). Second, GAM illustrates the dynamics underlying interac- tions between situational and personological variables. Third, GAM explicitly incorporates biological factors (admittedly, with less precision) as they interact with enviromental factors to influence the preparedness of the individual to aggress within specific contexts. Finally, and perhaps most importantly in the context of this chapter, GAM includes a structure that explicates how multiple levels of violence-related factors operate on the individual, from very general societal factors through subcultures, neighborhoods, schools, peers, family, and so on. Causality and Personal Responsibility Though it has become fashionable in some scientific quarters to eschew causal language in favor of eviscerated terms such aslinkages orassocia- tions,GAM is explicitly a causal model. This does not mean that correlational evidence is ignored or that the difficulties in establishing clear, causal connections from correlational data are overlooked. The causal focus reflects an underlying belief that good theory is intended to be useful for social action, and that we do not take social action on the basis of linkages unless we believe them to be causal. Thus, GAM specifies that violent evil is indeedcaused by the conjunction of numerous converging risk factors. This causal language is sometimes misinterpreted as suggesting that the perpetrators of violence are not seen as carrying responsibility for their violence, or that society should not hold them responsible. From a social action perspective, however, perpetrators must be held responsible for their actions. Several key aggression-inhibiting factors rely on the individ- ual’s belief that he or she is responsible for his or her own behavior (i.e., self-regulation processes) and will be held responsible by others (i.e., social regulation). GAM (and other social–cognitive models) brings the future into the present by noting the effects of expected future outcomes on pres- ent behavioral decisions. When individuals or groups of individuals come to believe either that they are not responsible or that they will not be held accountable by others, the stage is set for the occurrence of violent evil. In- deed, as several writers in this volume have noted, a key ingredient of genocidal attacks is the blurring of personal responsibility. In sum, modern society cannot afford to allow abdication of personal responsibility, even if it sometimes seems unfair to hold individuals (or nations) responsible for violent acts that were “caused,” at least partially, by extraneous factors over which they had no control. For example, there are several recent ho- micide cases in which the defense used a violent video game defense. Al- though we agree that violent video games (like other violent media) are a cause of increased aggressiveness, we disagree with a position that totally removes responsibility from the person who actually committed the homicide. Social, Political, and Cultural Implications Research on human aggression, as organized by the General Aggression Model, has numerous public policy implications at several levels. It tells us how to raise children who will not be prone to using violence to resolve conflicts. It suggests how to construct successful prevention programs and intervention methods and helps us understand why prevention is easier than intervention, why intervention is easier at earlier ages than later ones, and why some programs “work” and others do not (e.g., Anderson, 2000; Anderson & Bushman, 2002b; Anderson & Huesmann, 2003). GAM and the research it summarizes can also provide a guide for in- ternational political action in the face of conflict between nations and be- tween disparate groups within nations. It suggests what sorts of short-term interventions are most likely to provide a useful interruption in some on- going cycles of violence as well as what types of programs are most likely to yield desirable long-term results. At the most global level, this work sug- gests that citizens of this planet must not sit quietly on the sidelines when major genocidal events are taking place. Finally, the model suggests that modern society must beware of creep- ing cultural shifts toward greater acceptance of violence in everyday life. It makes clear that each generation learns an array of aggression-related knowledge structures both from direct sources, such as family, school, churches, and peers, and from indirect sources, such as the mass media. When a society allows (or creates) a shift toward greater acceptance of vio- lence in everyday life, it is a shift that comes with an immediate price and a long-term risk. The immediate price is obvious. There will be more assualts, murders, rapes, and the quality of life will decline. The long-term risk may be less obvious. The next generation will internalize the new, more aggression-tolerant norms and hence be prepared to allow even fur- ther shifts toward greater acceptance of everyday violence. Furthermore, such tolerance of violence may well increase a nation’s willingness to go to war to further its aims. Although still in very early stages of data analysis, we have some evidence indicating that changes in the framing of news re- ports about 9/11 events and the “war on terrorism” may have led to sys- tematic changes in attitudes toward violence—changes that facilitated ac- ceptance among the U.S. population of the use of war in Afghanistan and Iraq as a legitimate, appropriate, and even desirable foreign policy (Ander- son & Carnagey, 2003). Recent discussions throughout the United States about the lack of civility and about the pervasiveness of media violence are touching on this same issue of creeping shifts in violence acceptability. GAM and the knowledge structure approach on which it is based provides insight into how such cultural shifts take place and into potential ways to slow or reverse them. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This chapter borrows heavily from Anderson and Bushman (2002b) and Anderson and Huesmann (2003). REFERENCES Abelson, R. P. (1981). 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CHAPTER 9 WHAT CAN THE MILGRAM OBEDIENCE EXPERIMENTS TELL US ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST? Generalizing from the Social Psychology Laboratory ARTHUR G. MILLER If in this study an anonymous experimenter could successfully command adults to subdue a fifty-year old man, and force on him painful electric shocks against his protests, one can only wonder what government, with its vastly greater authority and prestige, can command of its subjects. —MILGRAM(1965, p. 75) Indeed, the inspiration for Milgram’s study was the Holocaust, in which seemingly normal individuals (e.g., guards at prison camps) followed the orders of authority figures to the point of committing horrific acts. . . . The fact that these processes appear to be similar to those that occurred at some of humankind’s darkest moments, such as the Holocaust, is what makes his results so compelling. —ARONSON, WILSON, ANDBREWER(1998, p. 133) His [Milgram’s] obedience explanation of the Holocaust is oversimplified, misleading, and of potential social danger. —MANDEL(1998, p. 78) If we compare the Holocaust with Milgram’s research . . . the differences are brutally clear. Although we may be upset, saddened, even disappointed by the behavior of Milgram’s subjects, the terms that are routinely used to describe the horrors of the Holocaust— 193 e.g., atrocity, inhumanity, hatefulness, wickedness—are simply preposterous in the context of Milgram’s studies. Those terms suggest a psychological state that is almost the antithesis of that observed in the lab studies. —FENIGSTEIN(1998, p. 71) Stanley Milgram’s research on obedience to authority, conducted over 40 years ago, is the most well-known research in social psychology and, per- haps, in all of social science. A major reason for the unabating visibility of the obedience experiments is their association with the Nazi Holocaust. This linkage was noted by Milgram, himself, in his first published account of his research in 1963. In the intervening decades, countless enthusiasts have endorsed the view that these studies contain vital insights into the Holocaust, in particular, the propensity of ordinary human beings, under the dictates of malevolent authority, to fail significant tests of moral judg- ment. As Brown (1985) commented in his influential social psychology text: Perhaps Hannah Arendt and all those who have agreed with her about Eichmann were too credulous; the man was, after all, on trial for his life. Yet she made the startling claim that “in certain circumstances the most ordinary decent person can become a criminal.” That should not be so if monstrous deeds presuppose a monstrous character. However, the most famous series of experiments in social psychology, Stanley Milgram’s (1974) experiments on obedience to malevolent authority, confirm Arendt’s prophetic claim. (pp. 2–3) However, there have also been critics who find the associations of the Milgram research to the Holocaust (termedM–H in this chapter) com- pletely unwarranted (Miller, 1986). Recently, a number of particularly ve- hement criticisms have been directed at the M–H linkage. These critics— social psychologists, themselves—present perspectives on the Holocaust that contrast sharply with the implications of the obedience research. This chapter examines the associations between the obedience experi- ments and the Holocaust, charts the evidence and diverse commentary re- garding these associations, and draws some conclusions regarding the con- tribution that the obedience research makes—and does not make—in terms of understanding the Holocaust. First, I briefly review Milgram’s major empirical findings and interpretation (Milgram, 1963, 1974). Sec- ond, the associations made to the Holocaust are considered. I also summa- rize recent empirical findings regarding reactions to explanations of the Holocaust that focus on obedience to authority, as well as on other causal factors. The chapter concludes with an appraisal of the M–H thesis and suggestions for further consideration. THE OBEDIENCE EXPERIMENTS: A SYNOPSIS OF THE EMPIRICAL FINDINGS The Experimental Paradigm Milgram (1963) created a laboratory scenario described to research partic- ipants as one concerned with punishment and learning. Participants, who were volunteers of diverse ages and backgrounds (primarily male), arrived at the Yale University laboratory and encountered a white-coated experi- menter of stern demeanor and another apparent volunteer (an accom- plice). An elaborate staging then occurred in which the other participant, in the role of “learner,” was to receive electric shocks for mistakes that he would make on a word-association task. The device which the “teacher” (the real participant) would use to administer the shocks was a realistic “shock generator,” labeled as delivering shocks from 15 to 450 volts. Par- ticipants were instructed to administer increasingly severe shocks for each error made on a series of memory trials. No actual shocks were delivered, although the learner acted as if he were receiving the punishment. Al- though he was located in an adjoining room (in the basic paradigm), he emitted audible sounds of pain, in clear hearing of the participant. Pounding on the wall, the learner also mentioned a recently diagnosed “heart problem” and, ultimately, demanded repeatedly to be released. Milgram’s intent was to produce an intense moral conflict for the partici- pant—whether to obey the experimenter but at the cost of continuing to harm a protesting victim, or to side with the learner but, in so doing, dis- obey the experimenter and ruin the experiment. The learner was programmed to make “errors” on the memory task. If the participant resisted administering the appropriate shock, the experi- menter responded with a sequence of four increasingly strident prods, con- cluding with the exhortation, “You have no other choice, you must go on” (Milgram, 1963, p. 374). Refusals to continue punishing the learner be- yond this prod terminated the experiment. The prods thus operationalized the experimenter’s authority, conveying the expectation that the partici- pant was obliged to obey all instructions to punish the learner. The Major Findings Milgram reported (1963) two startling findings in his initial paper on the experiment. First, 65% of the participants obeyed orders to the end of the shock series. Various groups (e.g., psychiatrists, undergraduate students) were given a description of the laboratory situation and asked to predict the obedience rate of 100 hypothetical persons; the respondents invariably underestimated the obtained results by extremely wide margins. Milgram’s initial report thus constituted evidence of the most dramatic kind, given thatnobody expected what, in fact, had occurred (Milgram, 1974, Ch. 3). In their stunning contradiction to commonsense reasoning, Milgram’s re- sults could be likened to the Holocaust itself. Both scenarios revealed ordi- nary people willing to treat other people with unimaginable cruelty, and in both instances, the coercive influence of authority figures seemed to be of critical importance. A second major finding was the intense stress observed in many par- ticipants. Regarding these emotional experiences as one of the key findings of the research itself, Milgram (1963) was extremely graphic in his de- scription: In a large number of cases, the degree of tension reached extremes that are rarely seen in sociopsychological laboratory studies. Subjects were observed to sweat, tremble, stutter, bite their lips, groan, and dig their fingernails into their flesh. These were characteristic rather than exceptional responses to the experiment. . . . At one point he [one of the participants] pushed his fist into his forehead and muttered: “Oh God, let’s stop it.” And yet he continued to respond to every word of the experimenter, and obeyed to the end. . . . I ob- served a mature and initially poised businessman enter the laboratory smiling and confident. Within 20 minutes, he was reduced to a twitching, stuttering wreck, who was rapidly approaching a point of nervous collapse. (pp. 375– 377) Evidence regarding the tension experienced by Milgram’s participants is based largely on his reports (1963, 1974), and a vivid documentation of stress in Milgram’s film (1965) of the obedience project. A variety of situa- tional factors that weakened the authority were invariably associated with less obedience. A control condition that allowed participants to select their own shock level, under no authority pressures, produced only the most minimal level of punishment. Thus it could be safely concluded that most participants, whether maximally obedient or not, found the task decidedly onerous. This conjunction ofhigh rates of obedience on the part of persons who appear to detest what they are doing to the victimis crucially im- portant and discussed later in this chapter. Confirmation of Milgram’s Findings A number of studies have confirmed Milgram’s major findings (Miller, 1986, Ch. 4). Research in the Netherlands has provided evidence of de- structive obedience, using a procedure in which participants are ordered to harass another person taking a test as part of a job interview (Meeus & Raaijmakers, 1995). Again, the specific situational arrangements are criti- cally relevant to the observed obedience. The key finding, however, is an extraordinarily high level of destructive obedience (90%) in the baseline condition, exceeding Milgram’s initial finding. Although there have been methodological criticisms of the Milgram paradigm (Milgram, 1972; Miller, 1986, Ch. 6), the current view on the part of most social psycholo- gists is that the Milgram findings are a reliable phenomenon in the laboratory. Initial Conclusions: The Power of the Situation Milgram’s interpretation emphasized the extraordinary influence of di- verse contextual features faced by his participants. Paramount was the per- ceived legitimacy of the experiment, inherent in the larger context of a sci- entific study. Also key were the participants’ voluntary commitment to the experiment and the rapidity with which events occurred in the course of the study. Participants thus became involved in a graduated escalation of harming, the endpoint of which was very unlikely to be foreseen at the start. Because participants were randomly assigned to the different situa- tional arrangements, and because obedience was shown to vary corre- spondingly, Milgram repeatedly emphasized the power of the situation to override personal feelings: “One might suppose that a subject would sim- ply break off or continue as his conscience dictated. Yet, this is very far from what happened” (1963, p. 377). In the baseline experiment, there- fore, a large percentage of seemingly good people engaged in extremely de- structive actions under an experimenter’s orders. Because the “learner” eventually stopped responding to the experimental task, it was conceivable that in the eyes of at least some participants, the learner had either become unconscious or had died. The Role of Individual Differences Milgram found that within any specific experimental variation, there were typically variations among individuals in their degree of obedience. In the baseline (1963) study, 35% defied the experimenter at some point prior to the end (450 v. shock level). Precisely why some individuals obeyed fully while others did not, although of considerable interest, has not been clari- fied, unfortunately (Blass, 1991; Miller, 1986; Miller, Collins, & Brief, 1995). Possibly due, in part, to the ethical problems in conducting this type of research, there have been relatively few replications. To examine the personality factors operative in acts of destructive obedience would also require relatively large samples. Berkowitz (1999) has suggested that the failure to examine individual differences limits the generalizations that can be made from this research to the Holocaust. At least some of Milgram’s participants were more heroic in being able to disengage them- selves from the experiment, suggesting that those who were totally obedi- ent may have lacked some aspect of personal character or values, thus leaving them in their role as an obedient participant (e.g., Kelman & Ham- ilton, 1989). SOURCES OF CONTROVERSY The controversial impact of Milgram’s experiments, perhaps as well known as the experimental findings themselves, is based on three factors: the ethical and methodological status of the research, and the linkage of Milgram’s studies to the Nazi Holocaust (Miller, 1986). The ethical issue deserves at least a brief consideration, because it is related to the Holo- caust linkage as well. The Ethical Controversy The Milgram experiments have always been regarded, even by their most zealous supporters, as at least approaching the limits of ethical propriety in terms of the amount of stress and anxiety that was experienced by many participants. Although there is no documented evidence that any person was harmed, either in Milgram’s studies or any subsequent research on obedience, there is no question that Milgram approached the limits of ethi- cal propriety, specifically in terms of respecting current provisions regard- ing the participants’ right to withdraw from the experiment (American Psychological Association, 2002; Miller, 1986, Ch. 5). One resolution, commonly noted in discussions of this issue, is to conclude that the bene- fits of the obedience research outweighed the costs in terms of subjects’ stress levels. Milgram’s postexperiment debriefing procedure was also very extensive and included follow-up correspondence with each participant. There is, however, a meaningful connection between the ethical as- pects of the obedience research and the generalizations that can be made from the experiments, themselves. The extreme stress and emotional con- flict described by Milgram, which were the basis for the ethical contro- versy (e.g., Baumrind, 1964), also define the operative generalizations that may be inferred convincingly, for example, to the Holocaust. As will be seen, the participants’ personal motivationnot to harm the victim is ex- tremely relevant to the M–H thesis. What Are the Participants’ Personal Feelings and Objectives in the Milgram Paradigm? Although the most common interpretation of Milgram’s findings is that participants did not personally wish to harm the learner, the motives gen- erated in this paradigm may well have been more mixed or ambivalent in many participants. Unfortunately, the manner in which people actually regard the act of punishing others when they make mistakes—that is, the key behavior in the Milgram paradigm—has been virtually ignored in discussions of the obedience research. However, an examination of recent research on corporal punishment suggests that this form of harming is a widely accepted form of child discipline (Gershoff, 2002; Strauss, 1994). Most people are hardly unequivocally opposed to the use of physical punishment under absolutely any circumstances. That a majority approve the use of capital punishment in this country might serve as another illustra- tion. It is also likely that in the late 1950s, the rationale of administering physical pain (i.e., shocks) to induce better learning may have seemed at least somewhat less surprising than it would today.

Key aspects of the arguments linking the obedience studies to the Holocaust rest not simply upon what actions people perform in these studies but why they perform them, and what they are experiencing while doing so.Many participants may have had a complex mixture of feelings about what they were being ordered to do; that is, they may not have beentotally opposed personally to shocking the learner, even though they did have res- ervations and were not willing to inflict significant punishment when left to their own accord. Precisely how people regard punishment, both physi- cal and nonphysical, is thus one of the many unanswered questions with important relevance to the M–H argument.

The Issue of Generalizing Research Findings

Research findings rarely “speak for themselves.” Generalizing the results of research to specific nonresearch contexts frequently produces disagree- ment because the applicability of a study is often a matter ofinterpretation rather than empirical or statistical fact, and people obviously may differ in their interpretations (e.g., Banaji & Crowder, 1989; Miller, 1995). Often, it is not the superficial similarities between a research project and an anal- ogous “real world” setting that are crucial to the generalization process (Henshel, 1980). Rather, as Mook (1983) has noted: “Ultimately, what makes research findings of interest is that they help us understand every- day life. That understanding, however, comes from theory or the analysis of mechanism; it is not a matter of ‘generalizing’ the findings themselves” (p. 386). At times, the linkage between research and nonresearch settings is relatively straightforward. For example, a number of generalizations from Milgram’s studies have been made to the kinds of obedience pres- sures that exist in hierarchical social organizations, corporations, and other bureaucracies (e.g., Brief, Buttram, Elliott, Reizenstein, & McCline, 1995; Darley, Messick, & Tyler, 2001; Hamilton & Sanders, 1999; Kelman & Hamilton, 1989). These analyses have provoked no noticeable controversy. Hamilton and Sanders (1995), for example, see great value in the Milgram experiments in terms of explaining how contemporary bu- reaucratic organizations may create conditions for subordinate deference to authorities:

Most of the organized ways in which people do wrong happen when they go to work. It is part of Milgram’s (1974) legacy that psychologists realize no question is more important for the next millennium than that of how human social organization can be made more humane. We need to learn, literally, who in the world really expects organizational actors to be autonomous moral beings. Perhaps then we may better understand when and why they are not. (p. 85)

As will be noted, however, generalizing the obedience research to the Ho- locaust has been anything but noncontroversial.

The First Challenge to the Obedience Interpretation of the Holocaust

In her influential ethical criticism of Milgram’s studies, Baumrind (1964) was extremely skeptical of linking the obedience research to the Holo- caust. She noted that the SS officers were not under the impression that the ultimate authority, Hitler, was kindly disposed toward the victims. The victims also were not social peers of the SS but rather were dehumanized to an extreme degree. Baumrind contended that the conflict expressed by many subjects was evidence of their concern for the learner—another ma- jor weakness in the Nazi analogy.

In Milgram’s (1964) rebuttal, he agreed partially with Baumrind— that is, he noted that he was not attempting to study the Holocaust per se. Arguing that his paradigm was only an analogy to the Holocaust, he clari- fied that his primary intent was not to explain the Holocaust:

Baumrind mistakes the background metaphor for the precise subject matter of investigation. The German event was cited to point up a serious problem in the human situation: the potentially destructive effect of obedience. But the best way to tackle the problem of obedience, from a scientific standpoint, is in no way restricted by “what happened exactly” in Germany. What hap- pened exactly cannever be duplicated in the laboratory or anywhere else. The real task is to learn more about the general problem of destructive obedience using a workable approach. (p. 851)

If Milgram and others had subsequently continued studying the processes of destructive obedience without a continuous preoccupation with its link- age to the Holocaust, the course of scholarship relating to the obedience research would likely have been very different. However, connections to the Holocaustwere to become the most salient reaction to the obedience studies. Indeed, the obedience studies were soon to become world re- nowned, and Milgram often extrapolated his laboratory findings to a vari- ety of global instances of destructive obedience—in addition to the Holo caust, he opined on the mass suicides under Jim Jones at Jonestown, the My Lai massacre, and other horrific events (e.g., Milgram, 1974, pp. 179– 189).

Why Is the Generalizability Issue Controversial?

Preexisting points of view or theoretical orientations held by the observer of a study (i.e., critics, students, readers) are a major source of contro- versy. One’s initial position or perspective may induce powerful biases in terms of how a research finding is interpreted or appraised (e.g., Green- wald, Pratkanis, Leippe, & Baumgardner, 1986; Kunda, 1990; Lord, Ross, & Lepper, 1979). Information that contradicts one’s prevailing attitude or theory is likely to be devalued and subjected to intense scrutiny. Informa- tion that is consistent with one’s theoretical view or leads to a preferred conclusion is more likely to be readily endorsed. Contributing to the im- portance and often insidious effects of these biases is the fact that people are likely to be unaware of these effects, claiming, instead, that their reac- tions to a particular study are objective and factually based.

The sources of these confirmatory biases are diverse—it could be a formal theoretical orientation, a political position, a religious or ethical conviction, a highly personal, emotional feeling, etc. Social psychologists who adopt a strongly situationist view of behavior invariably endorse the obedience experiments, whereas social psychologists taking a more dispositional or personality-oriented view of behavior are more criti- cal (e.g., Berkowitz, 1999), particularly in terms of their generaliza- tion to the Holocaust. In dramatizing the power of situations, social psychologists frequently note that the lay observer is not similarly at- tuned to situational pressures but rather biased toward dispositional explanations—what is often termed the fundamental attribution error or correspondence bias (Gilbert & Malone, 1995)—that is, if you do not agree with the situational view, you are simply committing a serious attributional error.

Generalizations from a social-psychological explanatory perspective are convincing only to the degree that the conceptualization of the do- main to which the research is generalized (e.g., Holocaust) is also plausi- bly construed in compatible terms. Thus, for a social-psychological anal- ysis of the Holocaust to be convincing—that is, to be persuasive to those who might not initially think about the Holocaust in social-psychologi cal terms—it must describe the Holocaust as caused, in key respects, by processes of social influence and external pressure in addition to (or per- haps rather than) personality factors or traits of moral character in indi- vidual actors. In essence, there must be a conceptual fit or match be- tween both elements of the generalization: the research and the target domain of the generalization. If this match is not present, disagreement will automatically ensue.


In this chapter, the termHolocaust refers to the systematic and planned killing of millions of Jews, largely during the latter parts of the war. The Holocaust is generally considered to have been the result of a highly efficient bureaucracy or social organization (Darley, 1992; Hilberg, 1985). It is virtually uncontested that the policy of genocide was instigated by Adolf Hitler and other high-ranking Nazi officials (Mandel, 2002). It is further assumed here that the murder of Jews on the scale of genocide would not have occurred without this key factor of authorization from the upper ech- elons of the Nazi hierarchy. In describing the motives of the instigators, there is a general consensus that an ideological world view of Jews was of central importance. Bauer (2001) has noted that the Nazi regime extended anti-Semitism to a radically new form, essentially coupling it with a more elaborate ideology of racial purification: “Nazi ideology saw in the Jews a universal devilish element, so the pursuit of Jews was to have been a global, quasi-religious affair, the translation into practice of a murderous ideology” (p. 27). Sabini and Silver (1980) describe the diverse actions, performed by those who were given orders, that comprised the Holocaust:

It is not the angry rioter we must understand but Eichmann, the colorless bu- reaucrat, replicated two million times in those who assembled the trains, dis- patched the supplies, manufactured the poison gas, filed the paper work, sent out the death notices, guarded the prisoners, pointed left and right, super- vised the loading–unloading of the vans, disposed of the ashes, and per- formed the countless other tasks that also constituted the Holocaust. (p. 330)

A central question in this chapter concerns the perpetrators’ primary mo- tives in the killing operations. In terms of the M–H thesis, the issue of mo- tives is of critical importance and a source of great controversy.


What can the obedience experiments tell us about the Holocaust? Posi- tions on this issue can generally be divided into those that endorse the gen- eralizations and those opposing them. I begin with an examination of the pro-generalization arguments.

Milgram’s Position

In the opening paragraph of his first publication on the obedience re- search, Milgram (1963) made an explicit association between the experi- ments and the Holocaust:

Obedience, as a determinant of behavior, is of particular relevance to our time. It has been reliably established that from 1933–45 millions of innocent persons were systematically slaughtered on command. Gas chambers were built, death camps were guarded, daily quotas of corpses were produced with the same efficiency as the manufacture of appliances. These inhumane poli- cies may have originated in the mind of a single person, but they could only be carried out on a massive scale if a very large number of persons obeyed orders. (p. 371)

Given that the Holocaust, itself, has been the focus of intense controversies within a host of academic disciplines—for example, reactions to Gold- hagen’sHitler’s Willing Executioners (1996)—it is understandable that any scientific experiment claiming a meaningful connection to the Holocaust would prompt similar reactions. Certainly this controversy accompanied the obedience studies. My impression is that it was Milgram’s reference to the Holocaust in conjunction with the startling results of his 1963 report that set into motion the unparalleled impact of this study. Baumrind’s ethical criti- cisms (1964) inThe American Psychologist, appearing only a few months af- ter the original obedience publication, also had the unintended effect of in- troducing the obedience studies to a large readership.

People, Milgram stated, are often obsessed with carrying out their jobs; they become dominated by “an administrative, rather than a moral, outlook” (1974, p. 186). He emphasized the role of the mission itself, its noble purpose: “In the experiment, science is served by the act of shocking the victim against his will; in Germany, the destruction of the Jews was represented as a ‘hygienic’ process against ‘jewish vermin’ (Hilberg, 1961)” (p. 187). He addressed the role of silence in the process of destruc- tive obedience: “In Nazi Germany, even among those most closely identi- fied with the ‘final solution,’ it was considered an act of discourtesy to talk about the killings. . . . Subjects in the experiment most frequently experience their objections as embarrassing” (p. 187). Milgram was careful to note that obedience was not, in its essence, a bad or dangerous activity, and that it could have life-enhancing consequences.

Milgram’s Recognition of Distinctions between His Research and the Holocaust

By the appearance of Milgram’s 1974 book, the linkage of the obedience research to the Holocaust had already become extremely well known and cited in diverse texts. Here Milgram explicitly recognized importantdiffer- encesbetween his experimental paradigm and the Nazi Holocaust:

The experiment is presented to our subjects in a way that stresses its posi- tive human values: increase of knowledge about learning and memory pro- cesses. . . . By contrast, the objectives that Nazi Germany pursued were themselves morally reprehensible, and were recognized as such by many Germans. [Milgram does footnote the idea that the regime itself viewed killing Jews as a virtuous activity to cleanse the Reich of subhuman ver- min.]The maintenance of obedience in our subjects is highly dependent upon the face-to-face nature of the social occasion and its attendant surveil- lance. . . . The forms of obedience that occurred in Germany were in far greater degree dependent upon the internalization of authority . . . to resist Nazism was itself an act of heroism, not an inconsequential decision, and death was a possible penalty. Penalties and threats were forever around the corner, and the victims themselves had been thoroughly vilified and por- trayed as being unworthy of life or human kindness. Finally our subjects were told by authority that what they were doing to their victim might be tempo- rarily painful but would cause no permanent damage, while those Germans directly involved in the annihilations knew that they were not only inflicting pain but were destroying human life. So, in the final analysis, what happened in Germany from 1933 to 1945 can only be fully understood as the expres- sion of a unique historical development that will never again be precisely rep- licated. (pp. 176–177)

Thus, Milgram explicitly articulated key distinctions between his studies and the Holocaust—precisely what many critics have accused him (and legions of his advocates) of completely ignoring in his analysis. Nev- ertheless, Milgram’s position on the M–H issue varied. At times, he was a strong proponent of the linkage. He felt that he had identified a fundamen- tal psychological process that was common to both the laboratory and the real-world context:

Yet the essence of obedience, as a psychological process, can be captured by studying the simple situation in which a man is told by a legitimate authority to act against a third individual. This situation confronted both our experi- mental subject and the German subject and evoked in each a set of parallel psychological adjustments. (1974, p. 177)

Milgram’s views could thus be termed complex and diverse by his support- ers or inconsistent and ambiguous by his detractors. Clearly, however, the linkage between Milgram’s studies and the Holocaust was to become the prevailing thesis in the eyes of most social psychologists. Numerous schol- ars, other than social psychologists, have both championed and refuted the M–H thesis (Miller, 1986).

Social Psychology Textbooks: Positions on the M–H Linkage

Where can we find discussions of the obedience experiments? I am tempted to answer, “Not quite everywhere, but close to it!” I wish to fo- cus, however, on social psychology textbooks, which have been the pri- mary source for generations of students and social scientists. To assess the current treatment of the M–H thesis, I examined seven recent editions of popular textbooks. The Milgram obedience research continues to receive extraordinary attention. The number of pages allotted to the obedience re- search varied between five and 15, most accounts featuring detailed analy- ses of the many experimental variations in Milgram’s paradigm and pho- tographs from his laboratory. Contemporary authors emphasize a point that Milgram himself regarded as highly underappreciated, namely the ex- traordinary degree to which harmful obedience to authority is responsive to variations in the specific experimental context:

The degree of obedience varied sharply depending upon the exact manner in which the variables of the experiment are arranged in an experimental condi- tion. Yet, in the popular press, these variations are virtually ignored, or as- sumed to be of only minor importance. (1979, pp. 7–8)

In this context, there is a tendency for many people to misunderstand the obedience experiments even after hearing a discussion of the research and watching Milgram’s filmed account of the study (Safer, 1980). Instead of recognizing (correctly) the situationally specific nature of obedience, that is, that (the same) people may be highly obedient in some circum- stances but very defiant in others, many observers conclude, erroneously, that most people are simply obedient to destructive ordersregardless of the situation.For example, one frequently observes the assertion that Milgram’s primary finding is that people are “blindly obedient” to author- ity, a finding virtually completely at odds with Milgram’s actual observa- tions. As I have noted, this tendency to infer personal or internal causes of behavior, even when it occurs under highly constraining circumstances, is viewed by many social psychologists as a major judgmental error or attributional bias (Ross & Nisbett, 1991). From the perspective of this chapter, however, the most salient ele- ment in all of these textbook accounts of Milgram’s research is the asser- tion that the obedience research provides crucial insights into the causes of the Holocaust. Consider the following excerpts: Would you be cruel if ordered? How did Nazi Germany conceive and imple- ment the inconceivable slaughter of 6 million Jews? These evil acts occurred because thousands of people followed orders. They put the prisoners on trains, herded them into crowded showers, and poisoned them with gas. How could people engage in such horrific actions? Were these folks normal human beings? Stanley Milgram (1974) wondered. So he set up a situation where people were ordered to administer increasing levels of electric shock to some- one who was having difficulty learning a series of words . . . the experimental results were quite disturbing: nearly two-thirds of the participants fully com- plied. . . . Milgram’s conclusion also makes it hard to attribute the Holocaust to unique character traits in the German people: “The most fundamental les- son of our study,” he noted, is that “ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a ter- rible destructive process.” (Myers, 2002, pp. 4, 222) The virtual annihilation of the European Jewish community could not have happened without the cooperation of thousands of ordinary citizens—bu- reaucrats, soldiers, janitors, doctors, railroad workers, carpenters. Why did so many people comply with the Nazi regime? Did their compliance emerge from pathological characteristics of the German people? Or, more frighten- ingly, did following orders arise out of the normal operation of everyday so- cial processes, such as simple obedience to authority? Social psychologists have used scientific methods to seek answers to these questions. (Taylor, Peplau, & Sears, 2000, p. 224) Milgram argued that his study of obedience gave us insights into the horrible events in Nazi Germany. . . . If, as Milgram’s research indicates, a majority of people will deliver painful shocks to a heart patient on the orders of a re- search scientist who has no real authority over them, it becomes less surpris- ing that solders will kill innocent civilians and that cult members will kill themselves at the direction of more personally relevant authority figures. (Kenrick, Neuberg, & Cialdini, 2002, pp. 28, 201) Perhaps the most vivid example of people’s willingness to follow those with au- thority is seen in the atrocities committed against the Jews by the Nazis during World War II. . . . Although the most common examples of blind faith in fol- lowing orders occur in emergency or wartime situations, there is nowhere a more striking and, we think, more terrifying example of how blindly people fol- low orders than in the demonstrations of Stanley Milgram (1963, 1965). (Worchel, Cooper, Goethals, & Olson, 2000, p. 355) According to social psychologists, most of the German guards and citizens who participated in the Holocaust were not madmen but ordinary people ex- posed to extraordinary social influences (p. 288). [This is a figure caption to a death camp scene, with mounds of victims at Nordhausen, Germany.] Thus the Milgram studies do not show that people have an evil streak that shines through when the surface is scratched. Instead, these studies demonstrate that social pressures can combine in insidious ways to make humane people act in an inhumane manner. (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2002, p. 295) During World War II, troops in the German army frequently obeyed commands to torture and murder unarmed civilians—millions of them. In fact, the Nazis established horrible but highly efficient death camps designed to eradicate Jews, Gypsies, and other groups they felt were inferior or a threat to their own racial purity. These events are described in vivid detail in the National Holo- caust Museum in Washington, D.C., and we strongly recommend that you visit this museum if you ever get the chance to do so (see Figure 9.14). In an effort to gain insights into the nature of such events, Milgram designed an ingenious, if unsettling, laboratory simulation. (Baron & Byrne, 2003, p. 383) Ross and Nisbett (1991), in their influential book, also addressed the M– H issue: That there were many Germans who were not fiends yet knowingly played a role in sending the victims of Naziism to their horrible fates, we do not doubt. It is certainly the case that many Nazi concentration camp guards led blameless lives, both before and after their horrible service (Steiner, 1980). To explain such complicity, therefore, we must assume the existence of a spe- cific social and situational context that could induce ordinary people to com- mit extraordinarily evil deeds. As it happens, at roughly the same time Arendt was developing her thesis about the banality of evil, Stanley Milgram was demonstrating it in his laboratory. (p. 53) Similar quotations have been commonplace in most social psychology textbooks for decades, as shown in previous analyses of textbook con- structions of the obedience research (Miller, 1986, 1995; Saltzman, 2000). Generations of college students (and many others) have been exposed to these explicit associations between the obedience experiments and the Holocaust. What are the underlying reasons for these consistent M–H associations? Major Elements in the M–H Thesis The Central Role of Obedience to Authority It is virtually uncontested in text accounts that obedience to authority was a major feature of the Nazi Holocaust. A policy of genocide, instigated by a relatively small group of the Nazis, was obeyed and enacted by countless subordinates, who were in varying degrees of proximity to the actual kill- ing operations. Milgram created a laboratory procedure that produced harmful behaviors under the directives of an authority—behaviorsthat would not have occurred without such directives—and thus captured a key feature of the Holocaust in the psychological laboratory. It is this general position that characterizes social-psychological accounts of the obedience experiments. Good People Are Capable of Harming Others Under Orders Milgram’s participants were not screened for any personal traits regarding hostility, aggression, anger, prejudice, etc. Randomly assigned to varying conditions of the experimental situation, most participants were capable of either obeying or defying the experimenter’s orders to inflict punish- ment. Thus, as with many phenomena studied by social psychologists, de- structive obedience to authority appears well within the repertoire of most people (Miller, Buddie, & Kretschmar, 2002). It does not require a signifi- cant degree of mental illness or psychological disturbance to harm others under orders. This reality, of course, does not deny the existence of special types of persons who would be even more likely to engage in extreme acts of harm toward others. The implication that might be drawn from the “normality” thesis noted above is that many, if not most, of the Germans who were involved in the Holocaust were, like Milgram’s subjects, basically good, adjusted people—or at least would have been thus considered in the context of the society within which they lived.Thus, while those instigating the genocidal policy of the Holocaust might well have been extremist in their ideological zeal, which included virulent anti-Semitism (Mandel, 2002), there is no need to ascribe similar traits to the countless subordinates who obeyed their orders. InOrdinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland,Browning (1992) makes a similar point. Units of overage, rear-echelon reservists brought to Poland from Hamburg—neither committed Nazis nor racial fanatics—participated in the direct shooting deaths of at least 38,000 Jews and the deportation of even more. Acknowl- edging that “this story of ordinary men is not the story of all men” and that, similar to Milgram’s findings, there were individual differences in the degrees of killing behavior, Browning nevertheless concludes with a highly situational perspective on the Holocaust: The collective behavior of Reserve Police Battalion 101 has deeply disturbing implications. There are many societies afflicted by traditions of racism and caught in the siege mentality of war or threat of war. Everywhere society con- ditions people to respect and defer to authority, and indeed could scarcely function otherwise. Everywhere people seek career advancement. In every modern society, the complexity of life and the resulting bureaucratization and specialization attenuate the sense of personal responsibility of those im- plementing official policy. Within virtually every social collective, the peer group exerts tremendous pressures on behavior and sets moral norms. If the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 could become killers under such circum- stances, what group of men cannot? (pp. 188–189) The thesis that ordinary people are fully capable of being influenced to inflict severe pain on others is counterintuitive and provocative—it de- fies what people predict to occur, and it defines a larger moral image of human nature. It is saying that evil is not committed only by evil people— what Baumeister (1997) and Darley (1992) have termed the “myth” of evil—but is within the repertoire of most people. College students, given a description of the Milgram experiment, tend to regard those who obey the experimenter’s orders as hostile or aggressive, and they cannot imagine themselves behaving as, in fact, the majority did in Milgram’s baseline ex- periment (Miller, Gillen, Schenker, & Radlove, 1974). Arendt’s Thesis on the Banality of Evil In terms of historical documentation, the most significant association that social psychologists make to the obedience research is to “the banality of evil,” used by the philosopher Hannah Arendt (1963) in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil(Miller, 1995). Arendt, a court reporter forThe New Yorker at the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel, challenged the prevailing view of Eichmann as a “scourge, a hangman, and a monster” (Segev, 1993, p. 332): The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institu- tions, and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together. (Arendt, 1963, p. 276) Stanley Milgram was among the first to note the correspondence be- tween Arendt’s thesis and his findings: After witnessing hundreds of ordinary people submit to the authority in our own experiments, I must conclude that Arendt’s conception of thebanality of evilcomes closer to the truth than one might dare imagine. The ordinary per- son who shocked his victim did so out of a sense of obligation . . . and not from any peculiarly aggressive tendencies. (1974, p. 6) Milgram’s reference to the banality of evil was itself important in terms of investing his research with both political and moral significance. The obe- dience research seemed to provide empirical verification of Arendt’s ex- traordinarily counterintuitive description of Eichmann. Arendt’s judgment of Eichmann was instantly controversial. She was accused of “going against the way of thinking that grounds evil deeds in evil natures, that claims mendo evil because theyare evil” (Young-Bruehl, 1982, p. 342). The Milgram studies were also immediately controversial, and for precisely the same reason. Both Milgram and Arendt had con- verged, almost simultaneously, on the astonishing idea that rather ordi- nary people, in the dutiful conduct of their occupation, could perform un- conscionable evil (Brown, 1985; Miller, 1995). Generations of social psychologists have endorsed the obedience studies as a reflection of the ba- nality of evil. This linkage has not been uncontested, however, as will be seen. Attributing Responsibility and Self-Serving Justifications One of Milgram’s (1974) central arguments was that obedience to author- ity was powerfully driven by subordinates’ ability to absolve themselves of personal responsibility for the actions they were performing—what Milgram termed the “agentic shift.” Although there is very little empirical support for this particular theoretical process, the idea is intuitively com- pelling. People often do what authorities tell them to do, even if it goes against their personal desires or preferences. Sabini and Silver (1980) sug- gest a clear linkage between the obedience studies and the Holocaust on this issue, but argue that obedience to authority does not provide a moral justification for reallocating personal responsibility for immoral actions committed under that authority: Eichmann and Milgram’s subjects lost the right to be unconcerned with the moral implications of their actions just when the German state and the exper- imenter’s demands became immoral. Milgram’s obedient subjects and Hit- ler’s murderers ought to have seen that these institutions were no longer legit- imate, could no longer claim their loyalty, and could no longer settle for them the question of moral responsibility. (p. 336) Sabini and Silver’s judgment on the moral illegitimacy of the behavior in- side Milgram’s laboratory does not, however, detract from the idea that from the participants’ point of view, they may well have felt personally ab- solved, at least to a degree. Once in the process of obeying increasingly disturbing commands, what allows the participant to continue obeying? Contemporary social psychology has provided considerable empirical evidence suggesting the powerful role of self-justification and self-affirming rationalizations for one’s behavior (Aronson, 1992; Bandura, 1999; Kelman & Hamilton, 1989; Kunda, 1990). People typically are motivated to preserve a strong sense of personal self-esteem and therefore interpret their own actions so as to maintain this sense of virtue (e.g., Bandura, Underwood, & Fromson, 1975; Bersoff, 1999). In terms of the contemporary emphases upon pro- cesses of construal and self-serving biases, the behavior of Milgram’s par- ticipants is even more understandable than it was at the time of Milgram’s (1974) own effort to provide a theoretical account. The Extreme Level of “Pain” Administered in Milgram’s Laboratory I am unaware of any other research program in social science that has in- volved a comparable level of physical pain being inflicted by research par- ticipants (only, of course, in the eyes of these perpetrators). As noted, this aspect of the experiment led to the extreme stress and tension experienced by many participants, thus contributing to the ethical controversy. However, it was also the apparent infliction of pain in the obedience research that added to the validity of the Holocaust analogy, in terms of the pain (and, of course, far worse fates) experienced by Holocaust victims. Why Social Psychologists Have Not Emphasized Anti-Semitism as an Explanation of the Holocaust In an earlier period, social psychologists emphasized personality as a key factor in the anti-Semitism that was believed to culminate in the Holo- caust—for example, the classic studies on the authoritarian personality (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, & Sanford, 1950). For a variety of reasons, this approach was largely abandoned. In discussing the obedience experiments, social psychology text authors rarely expand upon the thesis that German culture was rampant with widespread or uniquely extremist anti-Semitism. Instead, a variety of examples of genocide and massacres are noted in addition to the Holocaust (e.g., Armenia, My Lai, Jonestown, Rwanda, ethnic cleansing in Serbia, etc.). Destructive obedience to malev- olent authority is seen as a generic problem in social life. The “particu- lars,” in terms of the specific identities of the victims or perpetrators, are largely a matter of historical rather than psychological significance. As in- teresting as the Holocaust is to all who ponder human nature, for social psychologists, the My Lai massacre, the mass suicides at Jonestown, and other genocides are also, in principle, very relevant. For example, Kelman and Hamilton (1989) have examined numerous real-world scenarios of or- ganizational corruption and harm-doing. Although none is of the same de- structive magnitude as the Holocaust, it is still possible, from a scientific perspective, to seek the common themes and dynamics underlying a wide array of scenarios and events that are highly unique on the surface. The uniquely Jewish aspect of the Holocaust is generally given minimal con- sideration by social psychologists. If prejudice is included, it is generalized to the idea that the potential for destructive obedience would, under- standably, be even heightened when the victims are a despised outgroup (e.g., Mook, 1983). CRITICISMS OF THE M–H LINKAGE If one were to examine only social psychology textbooks (and other texts in social sciences more generally), one would emerge with a clear convic- tion that the linkage of the obedience research to the Holocaust is one of social psychology’s most dramatic and compelling messages. One would not surmise that there is a completely opposing point of view, a set of ve- hement criticisms authored not by skeptics from other academic quarters but from social psychologists themselves. As noted earlier, one criterion for a convincing argument of the generalizability of a research finding is that the research context and target domain share a sufficient number of critically important features—in particular, underlying psychological pro- cesses. One may conclude that the research doesnot generalize to a given target either because of particular features of the research itself or because one construes the target as not involving features or processes that are cen- tral to the research. Both of these types of criticism have been made re- garding the linkage of the obedience experiments to the Holocaust. Obedience to Authority: Inconsistent with the Sadism and Egregious Cruelty of the Holocaust If the obedience paradigm is to relate meaningfully to the Holocaust, we would need evidence that subordinates in the Holocaust obeyed authority with great reluctance and personal distaste for what they were ordered to do (i.e., similar to what was observed in Milgram’s studies). However, a number of writers have argued that there is no compelling evidence for this type of conflicted obedience in the Holocaust. Fenigstein (1998) points to three features of killers’ actions in the Holocaust—an absence of a guilty conscience, the lack of mechanistic killing, and the presence of a clear choice not to participate—that, in his view, werenot characteristic of the participants in the obedience experiments: In general, the historical evidence on the spontaneity, initiative, enthusiasm, and pride with which the Nazis degraded, tortured, and killed their victims, is utterly incompatible with the concept of obedience, and simply has no coun- terpart in the behavior that Milgram observed in his laboratory studies. . . . The terms that are routinely used to describe the horrors of the Holocaust— e.g., atrocity, inhumanity, hatefulness, wickedness—are simply preposterous in the context of Milgram’s studies. (pp. 68, 71) Berkowitz (1999) has noted that “social psychology’s general belief in the overriding power of the immediate situation has contributed greatly to the widespread contention that Milgram’s observations capture the ‘cen- tral dynamic’ of the Holocaust” (p. 250). Berkowitz suggests that an em- phasis on the type of obedience observed in Milgram’s studies fails to rec- ognize the sadism involved in many of the killings and the crucial importance of distinguishing between “truly egregious injustices, such as the Nazis’ Final Solution . . . and somewhat lesser misdeeds” (p. 250). Obedience and Authority: Conceptual Ambiguities Lutsky (1995) is critical of the imprecise use of the termobedience in relat- ing the obedience studies to the Holocaust (and other contexts). His major objection is that the termobedience is used both as adescription of behav- ior (i.e., subjects “obeying” an experimenter’s orders to inflict punish- ment) and as anexplanation of that behavior. There is also ambiguity in- herent in the concept ofauthority, which may refer to expertise, to the power to reward and punish a subordinate, or to a role of legitimized power that induces a sense of moral obligation to obey. Finally, Lutsky notes that whereas Milgram emphasized thereluctance expressed on the part of his obedient subjects, this reluctance, in itself, hardly requires the explanatory concept of obedience. For many decades, social psychologists have shown that people often engage in behaviors that are not correspon- dent with their beliefs or feelings. Lutsky acknowledges the role of author- ity in Nazi Germany but argues that social psychology has vastly over- emphasized the importance of obedience as understood in terms of the Milgram paradigm: What I want to suggest below is that when our references rely on the model of obligatory obedience in the Milgram experiment, they do not adequately represent the behavior of perpetrators in the Holocaust nor do they prompt new social psychological understandings of that behavior. . . . What an em- phasis on obedience slights, however, are voluntary individual and group contributions to Nazi ideology, policy, bureaucracy, technology, and ulti- mately, inhumanity. . . . Perhaps if we recognize that obligatory obedience addresses only a part of the tragedy of the Holocaust, we will consider anew why people were attracted to authority . . . how they perceived their circum- stances and why they were unwilling or unable to alter them, how individuals responded to peer behavior and the social dilemmas they faced . . . and why so many people used the opportunity provided by the Nazis to further their own interests, even if that meant tolerating or contributing to genocide. (pp. 62–63) Obedience: Too Limited in Its Explanatory Power Similarly, Staub (1989) has provided an instructive emphasis upon a di- verse set of processes responsible for genocide—not only the Holocaust, but a number of other genocidal events as well. As does Lutsky, Staub has a more complex view of the Holocaust, in which obedience is viewed as a relevant but hardly dominant feature: While obedience is an important force, it is not the true motive for mass kill- ing or genocide. The motivation to obey often comes from adesire to follow a leader, to be a good member of a group, to show respect for authority. Those who willingly accept the authority of leaders are likely to have also ac- cepted their views and ideology. Guided by shared cultural dispositions, the shared experience of difficult life conditions, shared motivations that result from them, and shared inclinations for ways to satisfy motives, peoplejoin rather than simply obey out of fear or respect. We must consider not only how those in authority gain obedience but how the motivations of the whole group evolve. . . . A society’s strong respect for authority isone source of genocidal violence. A tendency to like and obey isone characteristic of perpetrators. (pp. 29–30) For Staub, the power of the situation—that is, the prototypic social- psychological explanation—can mask the vital importance of individuals’ personal choices and goals, even if they are also in a subordinate position in relation to authorities. Bandura (1999) has voiced a similar argument: The sanctioning of harmful conduct in everyday life differs in two important ways from the direct authorizing system examined by Milgram (1974). Re- sponsibility is rarely assumed that openly. . . . Obedient functionaries do not cast off all responsibility for their behavior as if they were mindless exten- sions of others. If they disowned all responsibility, they would perform their duties only when told to do so. It requires a strong sense of responsibility, rooted in ideology, to be a good functionary. (p. 197) Darley (1995) takes a similar perspective: Obviously I violently object to those who would equate the behavior of the subjects in the Milgram situation with the behaviors of Nazi doctors, concen- tration camp executioners, or Serbian snipers who assassinate children . . . the actions of the subjects in the Milgram obedience studies are different in important ways from the actions of concentration camp executioners, or sol- diers perpetrating massacres, but the psychological community’s presentation of these results no longer recognizes these differences. (p. 133) Darley acknowledges that the behavior of Milgram’s participants is “con- demnable” because they inflict pain on an individual who has withdrawn his consent to participate. But, nevertheless, the operative dynamic in the Milgram paradigm is a very literal form of obedience to authority—intrin- sically different from what Darley sees, in the Holocaust, as the voluntary perpetration of atrocities. Changes in Perpetrators over Time: Not Addressed in the Obedience Experiments A key feature of harm-doing, particularly as it occurs in group and organi- zational contexts, is the escalation of harm over time (Baumeister, 1997; Darley, 1992, 1995; Darley et al., 2001; Zimbardo, 1995). People first commit themselves to a course of action, then find themselves behaving badly toward others in a manner they did not envision at the outset, then engage in a variety of justification or rationalization processes to reassure themselves of the moral legitimacy of their harming actions (Bandura, 1999). The momentum is decidedly in the direction of maintaining, if not escalating, the destructive acts. For a variety of reasons, dropping out, quitting, whistle blowing, and other acts of defiance are unlikely to occur, at least on the part of most people, particularly if they do not have group support. The Milgram experiments do not, in themselves, capture this tem- poral dynamic of harm-doing in real contexts, but Darley suggests that Milgram at least has shown how the temporal drift toward evil may look in its earliest phase—the initial stage of a harm-doing process—which, if “continued by organizational forces, will bring people to do independ- ently, calmly, and willingly what they first did only reluctantly, stressfully, and under protest” (1995, p. 134). Furthermore: The person who is induced into participation, and who goes far enough in the conversion process so that he or she autonomously and intelligently initiates evil actions, is an individual who has become evil. . . . The possibility of being evil is latent in all of us, and can be made actual and active, among other ways, by the conversion process. The person who goes a certain distance in the process has been fundamentally changed, and is now capable of doing harm in an autonomous way. He or she has “changed, changed utterly,” has become evil. (Darley, 1992, p. 209) The Dehumanized Status of Holocaust Victims: Neglected in Discussions of Obedience For a number of commentators, the Milgram experiments fail to capture the most important feature of the Holocaust—namely, the dehumanized status of Jews (and others, including homosexual individuals and those with mental illness). The extreme symptoms of stress involved in obedi- ence, emphasized as a key finding in Milgram’s report, would likely not occur if the victims were viewed in dehumanized terms. Fenigstein (1998) has noted: If the Nazi perpetrators were “ideologically prepared” to see their Jewish vic- tims as vermin, as less than human, and as hated enemies that threatened their way of life, their destruction could hardly be seen as morally repugnant. (p. 65) Fenigstein argues that if this moral resistance is lacking, “obedience is un- necessary as an explanation” (p. 66). Browning repeatedly noted that on occasion, the soldiers who quit shooting did so because of physical revul- sion, but “did not express any ethical . . . principles behind this revulsion” (1992, p. 74). Guilt and remorse, apparently central to the conflict in Milgram’s laboratory, are not to be found in the Holocaust killers, according to Fenigstein. Browning (and others) report very graphic indicators of purely physical revulsion: “The shooters were gruesomely besmirched with blood, brains, and bone splinters. It hung on their clothing” (p. 65). Thus, a key distinction must be made betweendistress—which apparently was experienced by Nazi murderers—andpersonally held moral values contradictory to the orders—which were not experienced. Guilt and remorse were not experienced because the objects of their brutality were not, in their eyes, human beings. Fenigstein points out that after the war, the ac- cused Nazi killers would have been expected to engage in a variety of self- absolving apologies and expressions of guilt and regret to mitigate their crimes and minimize their punishment. However, “in the absence of any such expression, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that these men sim- ply did not feel that they had performed any morally repugnant actions” (1998, p. 67). A widespread view of the Holocaust is that the Nazis had no choice but to obey their orders—but this view appears to be based almost entirely on statements made by these perpetrators at the postwar trials (e.g., Nuremburg), such as, “I had no choice, I was following orders.” On this point, Fenigstein (1998) cites Browning, Goldhagen, and others: “There is not a single instance on record of harsh punishment ever being used, or even being possible, for disobeying a killing order” (p. 69). Berkowitz (1999) also has expressed misgivings, specifically regarding Arendt’s banality of evil thesis that was endorsed by Milgram and so many others. Berkowitz emphasizes that Arendt herself was struck by the sadis- tic nature of the murders of Jews: No one had issued orders that infants should be thrown into the air as shoot- ing targets, or hurled into the fire alive, or have their heads smashed against walls. . . . Innumerable individual crimes, one more horrible than the next, surrounded and created the atmosphere of the gigantic crime of extermina- tion. (Blass, 1993, p. 36, cited in Berkowitz, 1999, p. 250) The dissimilarity between such actions and the obedience shown in Milgram’s laboratory is, for the critics, an overwhelming reality that cer- tainly rules out any obvious linkage or generalizability. Is to Explain to Condone?—to Understand to Forgive? A major concern of critics is that an explanation of the Holocaust from the perspective of the obedience experiments exonerates the perpetrators. Be- fore examining the specific arguments, I should note that there is a general concern often expressed by those studying violence and evil that their ex- planation will be construed as forgiving harm-doers: Some would argue that rather than studying Nazi evil, it should simply be recognized for what it is and condemned. Any efforts at understanding the causes of the Third Reich only serve to explain such actions, thus making them seemingly understandable and perhaps even excusable or justifiable. (Zillmer, Harrower, Ritzler, & Archer, 1995, p. 13) Some went on to make a compelling case for leaving the whole subject alone. Their argument was that Nazi evil should merely be recognized and isolated: rather than make it an object of study, one should simply condemn it. Psy- chological study in particular, it was feared, ran the risk of replacing condem- nation with “insights.” (Lifton, 1986, p. xi) I also fear that some readers may see me as exculpating killers; I have no such intention. . . . Although outrage is easier to feel in the face of uncom- prehended evil, to understand is not necessarily to forgive. (Staub, 1989, pp. xiii–xiv) The policemen in the battalion who carried out the massacres and deporta- tions, like the much smaller number who refused or evaded, were human be- ings. I must recognize that in the same situation, I could have been either a killer or an evader—both were human—if I want to understand and explain the behavior of both as best I can. This recognition does indeed mean an at- tempt to empathize. What I do not accept, however, are the old cliches that to explain is to excuse, to understand is to forgive. Explaining is not excusing; understanding is not forgiving. (Browning, 1992, p. xx). Despite the disavowing assertions of these writers, Miller and col- leagues (Miller, Gordon, & Buddie, 1999; Miller et al., 2002) have suggested that their concerns about appearing too condoning are well founded in terms of the cognitive and emotional effects of explanations. In contrast to the intuitive, first-impression reactions of the lay person to the Holocaust—in whom reactions of anger, horror, shock, disgust, disbelief, and revulsion are virtually automatic—explicit theoretical accounts by so- cial scientists are likely to be more complex, less exclusively reliant upon denigrating the personal moral character of perpetrators, and devoid of personal invective and anger on the part of the theorist. Baumeister (1997) has noted that formal (e.g., social science) explanations are also more likely, relative to the accounts of laypersons, to take into account the per- spective of perpetrators, a perspective with exonerating implications: “There is ample reason to fear that understanding can promote forgiving. Seeing deeds from the perpetrator’s point of view does change things in many ways” (p. 386). Sabini and Silver (1980), who have provided the strongest endorsement of the M–H thesis, acknowledge this possibility but are resolved not to exonerate perpetrators: The thrust of [this] chapter has been to bring the phenomena of the camps closer to home, to see how this horror, this inhumanity could have been the product not only of deranged individuals but of normal people placed in de- ranged and degrading circumstances. We have attempted to draw links be- tween what we know the artisans of the Holocaust did and what ordinary, American people have done in laboratory settings. . . . There is, however, a danger in this. The task of making something understandable is to make us see how it could have happened by showing how it is akin to something we can already grasp. There is a common tendency to slide from understanding to excusing. We are accustomed to thinking that once we have understood how someone came to do something, we are then compelled to forgive. In this case we cannot allow understanding to lead to excuse or forgiveness.” (pp. 356–357)

Does Milgram’s Interpretation Exonerate Those Who Obey Malevolent Authority?

In my view, the answer to this question is a qualified “yes.” Consider the following from Milgram (1974):

It is the old story of “just doing one’s duty” that was heard time and time again in the defense statements of those accused at Nuremberg. But it would be wrong to think of it as a thin alibi concocted for the occasion. Rather, it is a fundamental mode of thinking for a great many people once they are locked into a subordinate position in a structure of authority. The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority (p. 8). . . . For the social psychology of this century reveals a ma- jor lesson: Often, it is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act. (p. 205) Milgram’s explicit refutation of the “alibi” argument is of particular sig- nificance in terms of contemporary criticisms. It is the position one might expect to hear from a defense attorney in a criminal trial, that is, in refut- ing claims that his or her client was lying and making excuses to escape conviction or punishment (e.g., Colman, 1991). There is, however, a statement, located somewhat obscurely, that con- tradicts the above conclusion. This occurs in Milgram’s (1964) rebuttal to Baumrind’s (1964) widely known ethical criticism of the obedience re- search. Responding to Baumrind’s contention that, methodologically, obe- dience to authority could not, in principle, be analyzed in a laboratory sit- uation because the baseline for expected obedience was so extraordinarily high in that setting, Milgram countered as follows: Baumrind feels that the experimentermade the subject shock the victim. This conception is alien to my view. The experimenter tells the subject to do something. But between the command and the outcome there is a paramount force, the acting person who may obey or disobey. I started with the belief that every person who came to the laboratory was free to accept or to reject the dictates of authority. This view sustains a conception of human dignity insofar as it sees in each man [sic] a capacity forchoosing his own behavior. (p. 851) It is difficult, of course, to reconcile the idea of “freedom of choice” ex- pressed here with Milgram’s earlier-cited (and far more widely noted) views regarding the power of the situation. Perhaps because Milgram was challenging Baumrind’s very personal ethical criticisms of his research, he disclaimed the accusation that he forced his participants to obey. In fact, many of Milgram’s participants did disobey the experimenter, which strongly supports his position. Yet in my view, Milgram’s more basic theo- retical view is one that is likely to be perceived as exonerating harmful obedience. In a recent analysis of the diverse interpretive constructions of the Ho- locaust in American culture, historian Peter Novick (1999) has commented on the impact of the obedience studies. In the context of Arendt’s thesis on the banality of evil, he notes the different meaning that “following orders” acquired as a result of Milgram’s experiments. In the mid-sixties Milgram’s work began to reach an audience wider than the readership of theJournal of Abnormal [and Social] Psychology. By then, Arendt’s version of Eichmann had also entered common discourse. . . . A kind of synergy developed between the symbol of Arendt’s Eichmann and the symbol of Milgram’s subjects, invoked in discussing everything from the Vietnam war to the tobacco industry, and, of course, reflecting back on dis- cussions of the Holocaust. It was in large part as a result of the acceptance of Arendt’s portrait of Eichmann (with an assist from Milgram) that “just fol- lowing orders” changed, in the American lexicon, from a plea in extenuation to a damning indictment. (p. 137) Novick thus endorses Milgram’s view that the concept of following orders has powerful explanatory value—an unpleasant reality of the human pre- dicament—despite its more superficial image as an exonerating rational- ization for destructive acts.1 In his address to the nation on March 17, 2003, prior to ordering the invasion of Iraq, Pres- ident George W. Bush recognized but explicitly disavowed the exonerating implications of obedience to authority: “And all Iraqi military and civilian personnel should listen care- fully to this warning. . . . Do not obey any command to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone. War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defense to say, ‘I was just following orders.’ ” Critics of the Exonerating Implications of the Obedience Experiments In a scathing critique of the relevance of the M–H thesis, Mandel (1998) describes two “social dangers” inherent in the “just following orders” claim, which he construes as the essential meaning of the experiments con- veyed by social psychologists: “The first is that it is offensive to survivors (and to our memories of victims) who know all too well that there was much more behind the way they were viciously brutalized, mocked, and tormented than a mere obligation to follow orders” (p. 91). Mandel is the first scholar, to my knowledge, to voice the position that one should consider the impact of certain types of explanations of the Holocaust on those for whom the issue is of particular emotional signifi- cance. However, he then suggests that social scientists should not try to construct theories “that comfort any particular group” (p. 90), that they “should, of course, seek the truth even if it is a terrible truth and they should reveal what they find. Nevertheless care should be taken in how ex- planations are communicated, especially when they have a clear potential to cause harm” (p. 91). Obedience, for example, should be given a quali- fied causal significance in the Holocaust, and its role should be placed in the context of the crucial importance of many other factors. The second “social danger” of the obedience explanation relates spe- cifically to the exoneration problem: The second, negative social ramification of the oversimplified obedience ac- count is that it insidiously serves the function of exonerating Nazi war crimi- nals (and an untold number of other evildoers) by reaffirming exactly what many of them—even the highest-ranking Nazi officials on trial at Nuremberg . . . claimed in their defense: that they too were “just following orders.” (p. 91) Mandel accuses Milgram (and all who have championed his studies in con- nection with the Holocaust) of providing an obedience alibi, of “siding with the enemy”: Holocaust perpetrators have asserted the obedience alibi as an assurance of their innocence. Social scientists have asserted the obedience alibi as an osten- sibly situationist explanation of the Holocaust. Though the intent of one group has differed from the other, the message conveyed has been strikingly similar. (p. 91) Mandel concludes with an unusually vitriolic summarization of Milgram’s position on the Holocaust, calling him “uninformed by fact and displaying a bizarre illogic,” revealing a “dangerous form of pseudoscientific over- confidence” (p. 92). In a strong critique of a central thesis of traditional social psychol- ogy—that is, that behavior is under the powerful causal control of situa- tional factors—Sabini, Siepmann, and Stein (2001a, 2001b) have recently advocated a pronounced reemphasis on the role of “the person” and of dispositions in social-psychological theory and research. They noted: And, indeed, the overly broad message that situations, not dispositions, cause behavior seems to erode responsibility for behavior. This message lets people off the hook for what is their fault (as well as for what is not their fault) and denies them praise for what they should be praised for. If claiming that situa- tions are more important than dispositions lets the innocent off the hook, it does so by a blanket denial of human responsibility, and that is dehumaniz- ing, not humanizing. (2001a, p. 46) Berkowitz (1999) also implies that there is a condoning aspect to the radi- cal situationist view of obedience, common to social-psychological discus- sions of the Holocaust. In his view, situationist accounts of evil—and, in particular, the behavior of Milgram’s obedient participants—have virtu- ally no meaningful relationship to the heinous acts of the Holocaust perpe- trators. Implying that all harmful acts, be they in a laboratory or extermi- nation camps, are a reflection of situationally imposed evil is unacceptable: Social psychology’s relative inattention to the great atrocities committed dur- ing the extermination program reflects the field’s failure to establish a con- ception of evil that differentiates among categories of wrongdoing. In so do- ing, there is a danger of trivializing terrible actions. In not distinguishing conceptually between truly egregious injustices such as the Nazis’ Final Solu- tion and somewhat lesser misdeeds, . . . we basically place all of these behav- iors in the same psychological category and thus run the risk of regarding all of them as equally bad. (p. 250) Fenigstein (1998) also sees an alibi in the Milgram studies: The concept of the agentic state is frighteningly evocative, for example, of the litany of “I was just following orders” heard repeatedly at the Nuremberg tri- als. Although Milgram argued that these defense claims actually represent se- rious and significant psychological truths, the possibility that these men were simply trying to avoid or mitigate punishment for the crimes must obviously be considered (as the Nuremberg jurists, in fact, often did). Thus, it is diffi- cult to find convincing evidence for the agentic state by examining the testi- mony (or psychiatric protocols, e.g. Lifton 1986) of war criminals. (p. 62) Instigators of the Holocaust: A Neglected Factor Recent commentators have suggested that social psychologists, in their devotion to the obedience experiments, have essentially ignored a major element in Milgram’s paradigm: the authority issuing the harmful orders. Who are the authorities? How do they achieve this status? What factors induce them to develop the harmful orders that others appear so inclined to obey? These questions have received virtually no attention in contempo- rary social psychology. Berkowitz’s views are representative: Milgram’s (1974) obedience research does not represent significant features of the Holocaust, especially the sadism that occurred not infrequently, and disregards the vital difference between those who initiated the murderous policy and the others who followed their orders. . . . The evil of Adolph Eichmann’s actions surely did not match those of Adolph Hitler or even those of Reinhardt Heydrich, described by Arendt (1963) as “the real engineer of the Final Solution (p. 36).” (1999, pp. 246, 250). In a recent analysis of the instigator issue, Mandel (2002) makes a sharp distinction between instigators—those who originate acts of collective vio- lence—and perpetrators—those who execute such acts. Focusing on Hit- ler, Mandel applies a number of social-psychological principles (regarding cognition, emotion, motivation, behavior) that help explain Hitler’s role. Mandel notes, however: My attempt to “normalize Hitler” by examining his behavior from a subjec- tivist and situationist perspective does not imply, as some might wrongly as- sume, that there is a Hitler in all of us. However, I hope that this chapter may convince the reader that social-psychological accounts of evil do not necessi- tate a view of people as fundamentally good either. Lay dispositionist ac- counts of evil may erroneously portray evildoers as monsters, but situationist accounts may also erroneously portray evildoers as good-intentioned souls who are swept along by the power of bad situations. (p. 279) THE M–H THESIS IN RECENT ANALYSES OF OBEDIENCE AND GENOCIDE Given the uniformly positive endorsement of the M–H thesis in social- psychology texts, it is of interest to note how the Milgram experiments are discussed in texts devoted more exclusively to analyses of obedience and genocide. A number of social psychologists have written or edited books on these topics (Baumeister, 1997; Blass, 2000; Katz, 1993; Kelman & Hamilton, 1989; Newman & Erber, 2002; Staub, 1989; Waller, 2002). All of these sources refer to the obedience experiments in the context of the Holocaust, genocide, and other crimes. These books generally present highly detailed, multifaceted analyses, involving numerous processes inter- acting in complex patterns (e.g., social-psychological, personality, organi- zational, historical, legal, cultural, political). Understandably, the concept of destructive obedience to authority emerges as only one causal dynamic among many others. Clearly, the inhumane treatment of other people raises complex questions about human nature, and requires extensive con- ceptual frameworks to cover the vast domains involved in this subject. Among the works noted above, Staub is the most critical of the M–H thesis. As noted earlier, his primary contention is that most people who participate in genocidal behaviors do so voluntarily. Recognizing the im- pact of the obedience research, Staub nevertheless has serious reservations: Milgram’s dramatic demonstration of the power of authority, although of great importance, may have slowed the development of a psychology of geno- cide, as others came to view obedience as the main source of human destruc- tiveness. (p. 29) The other authors are generally more positive in endorsing the M–H thesis but all recognize the crucial role of other processes as well, in partic- ular the dehumanization of the Jews and other victims as well as the cru- elty and sadism that were routinely inflicted by many perpetrators. Waller (2002), for example, takes a complex view of the M–H thesis. He first out- lines several important features of the Milgram experiments that do not generalize convincingly to the Holocaust—for example, the transient na- ture of the laboratory experience, the anguish displayed by Milgram’s par- ticipants, and the presumably benevolent attitude of the authority to the welfare of the victims. Yet he also sees a crucial validity to the M–H link- age: It would be inaccurate to characterize the subjects’ motivations and behavior in Milgram’s Yale laboratory as exactly equivalent, either morally or psycho- logically, to that of those who commit atrocities in mass killing and genocide. However, it is just as inaccurate to say that Milgram’s research is without rel- evance to our study of extraordinary evil. He correctly focuses our attention on the social and situational pressures that can lead ordinary people to com- mit extraordinary evil. (p. 108) Thus, in these more extensive discussions of evil and genocide, one ob- serves elements of the M–H thesis that are highly congruent with those characterizing social psychology texts, as well as consistent with some of the pointed criticisms I have described in this chapter. Readers who are in- terested in pursuing the M–H thesis would benefit considerably in examin- ing the broad contexts that these analyses provide. It should also be possible for authors of social psychology texts to incorporate, in their dis- cussion of the M–H thesis, at least a synopsis of the more detailed and contextually rich analyses contained in these more extended treatments of genocide and evil. ARE SOCIAL-PSYCHOLOGICAL EXPLANATIONS OF HARM-DOING PERCEIVED AS EXONERATING PERPETRATORS?: EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE Miller and colleagues (1999) tested the hypothesis that a social-psycholog- ical explanation of a harmful act would be perceived as more condoning toward the perpetrator than would an explanation focused on dispositions of the perpetrator. The essential underlying rationale for their study de- rived from Weiner’s (1995) model of the attribution of responsibility. Social-psychological explanations of harm-doing that emphasize the influ- ence of external forces tend to describe perpetrators as relatively low in personal responsibility and thus should elicit a relatively condoning im- pression, in comparison to a more dispositionally framed explanation of the same behavior. Participants were first given a synopsis of an experiment on cheat- ing modeled after Diener and Wallbom (1976), who found evidence that people would cheat less if they were in a situation that accentuated self- awareness (e.g., having a mirror in front of them as they worked alone on a test). Participants were assigned to one of two conditions. In the social-psychological explanationcondition, results were provided (to participants in Miller et al.) that indicated a powerful situational effect: 5% cheating in the mirror condition, 90% cheating in the no-mirror condition (similar to the actual results of Diener & Wallbom). The dis- cussion emphasized the power of the situation to influence cheating be- havior and the implications of random assignment to conditions. In the personality explanationcondition, the results indicated the total absence of any situational effect. In order to clarify the failure to obtain the ex- pected effect, the researcher had administered a follow-up study, in which the same participants returned to complete an “honesty test” (e.g., “It is important never to lie,” “Cheating is probably more common than most people realize,” etc). A new set of results was then presented, showing that only 5% of those scoring high on the honesty test had cheated in the earlier session, whereas 90% of those scoring low on the honesty test had cheated. The discussion section emphasized the failure of the situational manipulation and the power of the individual par- ticipant’s level of honesty to predict cheating behavior. After participants read either the social-psychological or personality results and explanation, they were given two sets of measures. On theresearcher’s impressions form, they were asked to estimate the re- searcher’s views concerning various aspects of the study. As predicted, participants who had read a social-psychological explanation of cheating viewed the researcher as significantly more condoning toward the perpe- trators than did subjects who had read a dispositional explanation—that is, less responsible, less intentional, and less blameworthy. However, when givingtheir personal impressions, participants held cheaters ac- countable for their behavior, regardless of the type of explanation they had read. Thus, subjects essentially ignored the situational implications of the social-psychological explanations when giving their personal judg- ments about the cheater. To extend this analysis to the primary focus of this chapter, a follow- up study was recently conducted.2Two very distinct explanations of the Holocaust were written. Anobedience explanation was based closely on the Milgram research and emphasized key elements of the social- psychological perspective. Included in this explanation were two quota- tions from Milgram: “These inhumane policies may have originated in the mind of a single person, but they could only have been carried out on a massive scale if a very large number of persons obeyed orders” (1963, p. 371) and “it is not so much the kind of person one is, but the kind of sit- uation one is in, that determines our actions” (1974, p. 205).3The second explanation, termed theanti-Semitism explanation, emphasized that the Holocaust was essentially caused by the virulent anti-Semitism that char- acterized the German people. For this explanation, a number of quotations from Goldhagen’s (1996)Hitler’s Willing Executioners were used. Repre- sentative of this explanation is the following: This explanation is that “antisemitism moved many thousands of ‘ordinary’ Germans . . . to slaughter Jews. Not economic hardship, not the coercive means of a totalitarian state, not social psychological pressure . . . but ideas about Jews that were pervasive in Germany, and had been for decades, in- duced ordinary Germans to kill unarmed, defenseless Jewish men, women, and children by the thousands, systematically and without pity.” (p. 9) Participants read both explanations, being assigned randomly to read either the obedience or anti-Semitism explanation first in order. After reading each explanation, participants rated it on a number of judgmental items. As expected, participants reading the obedience explanation in com- parison to the anti-Semitism explanation rated the perpetrators as substan- tially lower in responsibility, intentionality, and blameworthiness. They also evaluated the obedience explanation as providing a relatively greater justification and excuse on the part of the perpetrators, and as portraying the perpetrators as significantly less evil and violent. Interestingly, partici- pants were, on average, very similar in their personal endorsements of both types of explanations.4 2Olga Levina provided invaluable assistance in the conceptualization and analysis of this re- search. Further information about this study may be obtained from the author. 3This is a slight modification of the original quotation in Milgram (1974), which is as fol- lows: “It is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act” (p. 205). Conclusions In previous commentary, I strongly supported the M–H thesis (e.g., Miller, 1986): The experiments cast a shadow. They warn against relegating the potential for Holocaust-like events to the past, to a time of unenlightenment, to an era of primitive passions. They have an unsettling, futuristic relevance. They sig- nify that destructive obedience, in a variety of contexts, may be a disaster “waiting to happen.” (p. 258) The world has surely witnessed numerous Holocaust-like events in recent years—so-called ethnic cleansing in Serbia, genocide in Africa, pervasive sexual abuse of children and its concealment in religious institutions, worldwide terrorism, shockingly destructive corruption in leading finan- cial institutions, and fatal disasters in the space program traced to organi- zational malfeasance, to name only a few. I have no doubt that obedience to authority has been a significant element in all of them. However, my own views regarding the M–H thesis have become more complex or perhaps ambivalent. My objectives in this final section are to identify what I view to be some important issues underlying the controver- sies, to suggest a resolution of at least some of them, and to make sugges- tions for further inquiry. Good People Doing Evil: Confronting the Counterintuitive and Controversial The obedience research is often portrayed by its supporters asthe proto- type of a counterintuitive finding. They highlight the naiveté of the lay perceivers’ presumption that only evil people do evil deeds. As Novick (1999) observed, Daniel Goldhagen’s book has, in fact, been extremely popular, despite some resistance among scholars. The reason is that Goldhagen’s explanation, in its extremely dispositional orientation, dis- tances the perpetrators from the average reader. Goldhagen thus indicts rather than exonerates perpetrators. In essence, he is telling readers what they want to hear: 4For further discussion on the condoning implications of social-psychological explanations of the Holocaust, see Miller et al. (2002). Miller et al. (1999) have also observed that simply generating an explanation of more mundane examples of harm-doing—in contrast to not explaining but simply reading about such acts—may produce a condoning bias in the person generating the explanation. Folkes and Whang (2003) have recently confirmed these findings, noting that explanations tend to produce a cognitive elaboration of the harming behavior, including an increased awareness of situational causes. It is a comforting argument: if such deep and long-standing hatred is a neces- sary precondition for mass murder, we’re a lot safer than many of us think. But the desire to frame the perpetrators in the traditional way remains power- ful—which is why Goldhagen’s book was a runaway bestseller” (Novick, 1999, p. 137).5 The obedience research captures these issues in a startling way, and is par- ticularly instructive in provoking students to engage in critical thinking re- garding their own susceptibility to destructive influences from authorities. The Prestige of Contributing to an Understanding of the Holocaust The Holocaust is obviously a very daunting and intriguing domain of in- quiry. To be able to claim—in classes and in writing—that one’s academic discipline has important things to say about the Holocaust is extremely gratifying. There is, I think, an undeniable degree of prestige or intellectual status inherent in contributing significantly to an understanding of the Ho- locaust. It is not surprising, therefore, that many social psychologists take pride in claiming the Milgram experiments astheir unique contribution to Holocaust scholarship. Certainly the extensive coverage given to the obe- dience studies in contemporary texts is consistent with this line of reasoning. The powerful meaning of the obedience research for many social psy- chologists may, however, have also imposed, unwittingly, a subtle judg- mental bias or “blind spot.” In a provocative experiment relevant to this discussion, Wilson, DePaulo, Mook, and Klaaren (1993) have shown that the perceived importance of a research topic can influence people to over- look methodological flaws in the research. Research participants (research psychologists and medical faculty) were shown brief descriptions of ficti- tious research studies, either on an important or unimportant topic (e.g., on cardiovascular disease vs. on heartburn, on hypertension vs. on dan- druff). Except for the stated topic of study, the versions of the studies were identical and included a variety of obvious flaws and methodological er- rors (e.g., lack of control groups, lack of random assignment). The results indicated that participants were significantly more likely to recommend the “important topic” study for publication and to regard it as method- ologically more rigorous in comparison to the “unimportant topic” study. Wilson and colleagues concluded: 5Goldhagen’s book,Hitler’s Willing Executioners (1996), although extremely popular, has also been extraordinarily controversial. A useful reference is Shandley (1998). People are often blind to a loved one’s faults. It is a disturbing comment on the nature of scientific assessment that a similar process can occur when trained scientists evaluate research: Our infatuation with the importance of the topic of a study can make us overlook its imperfections. (p. 325) I would suggest that a similar effect may have occurred with respect to the M–H thesis. That is, the uniquely provocative and stimulating as- pects of the obedience research may have induced some commentators (myself included) to be, at least on occasion, too zealous and unreflective in making strong inferences regarding causes of the Holocaust. Such infer- ences may, of course, be perfectly reasonable to make, but only if forged in a careful weighing of the many relevant arguments, specifically including those dissenting from the prevailing pro-M–H thesis. Single-Cause Explanations: Costs and Benefits Critics of the M–H linkage argue that a reliance on the Milgram studies to explain the Holocaust provides too simplistic an account of the horrific event. Thus, when social psychologists suggest or imply that obedience on the part of normal, adjusted persons to malevolent authority wasa major cause—perhaps themajor cause—of the Holocaust, they are going to provoke criticism. There is no statistical or empirical means of verifying such a conclusion, and virtually anyone, upon reflection, would agree with the countering view that a historical epoch such as the Nazi Holocaust would undoubtedly be attributable to a large number of major causal factors. Of course, one could also apply the “too simplistic” objection to those who argue that extreme anti-Semitism and the resulting dehumanization of the Jews werethe major causes of the Holocaust. Complex answers may sound more convincing than simpler ones. However, influential forces in the academic world reinforce the tendency to identify the key causal factor of a phenomenon. To conclude simply that a complex phenomenon such as the Holocaust has a multiplicity of determinants operating in some combination might be seen as obvious or lacking in discernment—perhaps vague, ambiguous, or (worse) even bor- ing. Those who advance a more concise and sharply defined analysis are likely to be regarded as more persuasive and perhaps more brilliant or cre- ative (Amabile, 1983). It is my impression that social psychologists tend to emphasize thedistinctive role of destructive obedience, not merely the plausibility of its playingsome part in the Holocaust. Because the Holocaust rarely receives substantial consideration in so- cial psychology texts other than that associated with the obedience experi- ments, the critics are persuasive in suggesting that students emerge with, at best, a very narrow view. If the “missing components”—for example, the horrific cruelty and sadism, the dehumanization, the psychology of the instigators—were to receive their deserved considerationin conjunction with a discussion of destructive obedience,at least some of the controversy would undoubtedly recede. There would still, however, be dissenting voices regarding the M–H thesis because, as we have seen, a number of scholars and commentators remain convinced that obedience to authority, specifically on the part of large numbers of subordinates who were ideo- logically and emotionally opposed to the orders they were given, was an extremely minor (if that) causal factor in the Holocaust—regardless of how surprising or provocative this assertion may seem. The M–H linkage has seemingly become part of social psychology’s received wisdom. Lee Ross (1988) has observed: Milgram’s demonstrations have become much more than a topic for interne- cine debate among psychologists. Perhaps more than any other empirical con- tributions in the history of social science, they have become part of our soci- ety’s shared intellectual legacy—that small body of historical incidents, biblical parables, and classic literature that serious thinkers feel free to draw on when they debate about human nature or contemplate human history. (p. 101) Shared legacy or not, the M–H linkage clearly deserves a thorough reex- amination, even by its most ardent supporters, on the basis of the evidence reviewed in this chapter. Is Authorization for Murder Superfluous, Given Extremist Anti-Semitic Beliefs? Fenigstein (1998) has suggested that “the vast majority of those who did the killing believed it was just and necessary and would have been willing to kill Jews, even in the absence of orders to do so” (p. 65). To argue that masses of individuals, steeped in vitriolic hatred of Jews, would spontane- ously engage in murderous activities on anything approaching the magni- tude of the Holocaust seems unwarranted. Social psychologists have known for many years that attitudes or feelings do not necessarily predict behavior. One can personally agree with the orders one receives—recall Oliver North, during the Iran/Contra hearings, proudly asserting that he would “march up the hill and salute,” upon receiving any orders from an authority. However, this agreement hardly implies that orders are super- fluous. Fenigstein’s comment illustrates, in my view, an extremist and in- defensible position, likely caused by what he perceives to be the equally implausible thesis linking the obedience experiments to the Holocaust. A more convincing position would be that thesimultaneous occurrence of genocidal orders in the presence of intense hatred and dehumanization of Jewish victims was of critical importance to the creation of the Holocaust. The Milgram experiments only document one part of this position, but it could be a critically important dynamic without in any way minimizing the crucial role of the second component. The Obedience Alibi: Does Social Psychology Condone Destructive Obedience? Do the obedience experiments provide an excuse or justification for the perpetrators of the Holocaust? Critics of the M–H linkage contend that they do, and I have noted that there is now empirical evidence that social- psychological explanations of harming behaviors are, in fact, perceived as condoning in comparison to more dispositional accounts. “I was only obeying orders” was the standard defense at the Nuremburg trials, and this plea stands on rather firm social-psychological ground—indeed, con- sider Milgram’s observation that this claim was “not a thin alibi, con- cocted for the occasion.” Writers on violence and evil alert their readers that they personally do not condone or excuse the harmful behaviors they are seeking to explain. Yet critics of the M–H thesis see precisely this kind of “forgiveness” in Milgram’s situational analysis and, more generally, in the writings of contemporary social psychologists (Miller et al., 2002). It is understandable that many people might react very negatively to a theoretical analysis of the Holocaust that appears to be incongruent with their intensely negative emotional reactions to the perpetrators and their terrible deeds. Theories that locate the causes of such acts inside the perpe- trators—that is, in theirevil nature—are, for many, far more appealing (Miller et al., 1999). Goldhagen states the “bottom line” to this general point of view: “Simply put, the perpetrators, having consulted their own convictions and morality and having judged the mass annihilation of Jews to be right, did notwant to say no” (1996, p. 14). Some critics may thus be motivated to see defects in the M–H linkage because this thesis contradicts their preferred conclusion that perpetrators are responsible for their actions and deserve severe punishment. In con- trast, the M–H thesis appears to normalize and condone their behavior. As noted earlier, there is an extensive research literature documenting the powerful biasing effects of personal beliefs and theoretical allegiances on the processing of new information. The same line of reasoning would ap- ply, of course, to those with a different conceptual orientation. Adherents to the M–H linkage would be expected to be far less enthusiastic about theories emphasizing personal or characterological determinants of perpe- trator behavior (e.g., Goldhagen, 1996). Of course, as we have noted, crit- ics may object to the M–H thesis for reasons quite distinct from the alibi or condoning issue, yet there is the possibility that the strong reaction against the condoning implication itself motivates the critics to findadditionaldefects in the M–H association. Might the converse of the above also be true? That is, might those who champion a strongly situational view of harm-doing and endorse the M–H thesis prefer that theoretical explanation because it condones the ac- tions of perpetrators? It is difficult to argue that scholars or researchers would have, underlying their theoretical work, a strong personal motive to forgive perpetrators of atrocities, thereby endorsing situational views of evil because they have a condoning premise. A number of commentators (Miller et al., 2002) have suggested that social-psychological explanations of the Holocaust are actually very skeptical and accusatory toward the proclivity of most ofus to commit harmful, even evil, deeds. That is, situa- tional analyses are only superficially exonerating—at a deeper level, they implicate all of us. Zimbardo, Maslach, and Haney (2000) have noted: Thus, any deed that any human being has ever done, however horrible, is possible for any of us to do—under the right or wrong situational pressures. That knowledge does not excuse evil; rather it democratizes it, shares its blame among ordinary participants, rather than demonizes it. (p. 206) However, this kind of reasoning would undoubtedly be rejected by critics of the M–H thesis, who, as we have seen, find it ludicrous to “indict every- one” as potential genociders, when, in their view, the perpetrators of the Holocaust were so distinctively different from most people. One of the difficult issues surrounding the relationship between expla- nation and exoneration concerns the role of values and moral judgment. The sentiment appears widely shared that the effort to understand the causes of evil or violence should not—indeed, must not—drift into an apologetic or accepting posture. Yet as I have discussed, there may be a number of cognitive and affective processes, related to social-psychological explanations, which in fact lead to a degree of exoneration, either in fact or as perceived (Miller et al., 1999). Is this necessarily an untenable posi- tion for a scholar or researcher? Perhaps not. Baumeister (1997) has offered a particularly eloquent thought on this complicated matter. He suggests that to understand may require atemporary moratorium on con- demnation, but that this need not be the end of the story: “It is a mistake to let moral condemnation interfere with trying to understand—but it would be a bigger mistake to let that understanding, once it has been at- tained, interfere with moral condemnation” (p. 387). Taking the Perspective of Victims as well as Perpetrators Critics of the M–H thesis may find the obedience experiments unac- ceptable because they appear to take the perpetrator’s perspective. In Milgram’s research (and other studies of obedience) the entire focus is on those who obey—why they obey, when they obey, why they stop obeying, their anguish in obeying, etc. In addition, the conceptual framework is comprised entirely of external causal factors. The victim is not even a real victim but an accomplice of the researcher. One can appreciate how some commentators would find this scenario completely at odds with their construal of the Holocaust, in which the suffering of genuine victims is the essence of the matter. Social-Psychological Accounts of the Holocaust: Reasonable or Deficient? One can take either of two positions on the association between the Milgram experiments and the Holocaust as typically portrayed in social psychology texts. From one perspective, the discussion in current social psychology can be seen as reasonable. It could be argued that introductory courses in social psychology (and other social sciences) are not the appro- priate context for getting into complex historical details on such matters as the Holocaust. Thus, the mention of a “possible” linkage between the Milgram studies and historical episodes of genocide is not only reasonable but professionally responsible. After all, the connection has, in fact, been a major concern from the initial appearance of Milgram’s studies in 1963. The other perspective is less generous. Social psychologists should be- come more familiar with contemporary historical analyses of the Holo- caust (e.g., Bauer, 2001; Gellately, 2001; Johnson, 1999; Newman & Erber, 2002), and weave more specific documentation of obedience (or its absence) in these sources into their discussions of the obedience research. Although sources with this kind of detail are available (e.g., Kelman, 1973; Sabini & Silver, 1980), they are rare and not represented in more standard texts. Newman (2001) has made a similar point with respect to Arendt’s thesis on the banality of evil. However, Newman’s argument is not simply that social psychologists fail to dealsufficiently with Holocaust scholarship but that they deal with iterroneously. He argues that social psychologists have failed to read Arendt’s (1963) bookEichmann in Jeru- salemcarefully (if at all), and present an essentially erroneous concept of Arendt’s own interpretation of the banality of evil. Read more thoroughly, Arendt’s portrait of Eichmann is hardly that of the simple bureaucrat with his reputedly cold, emotionless demeanor. Newman quotes Arendt’s view of Eichmann’s stance: “I will jump into my grave laughing, because the fact that I have the death of five million Jews on my conscience gives me extraordinary satisfaction” (p. 11). Thus, the portrait of Eichmann (and by casual inference, all Nazis) as a stolid, dutiful employee without emo- tional enthusiasm is simply incorrect. What this all leads to, ultimately, is that Eichmann’s banality of evil (in Arendt’s actual report) isnot reflective of the behavior of Milgram’s subjects. Milgram’s subjects were portrayed as greatly distressed and conflicted, features that were not characteristic of Eichmann, and, in fact, were contradictory to Arendt’s portrait. Newman (2001) suggests that many social psychologists are biased. They have engaged in a “rush to judgment,” taking Arendt’s one statement that Eichmann was not a sadistic monster and concluding (erroneously) that his personality did not matter at all: And if that was so, then what was left? Situational pressures. So Arendt’s book was framed in terms of a set of issues that did not really map onto her ideas so well, and in the process, they got distorted. Needless to say, there was also a motivational element at work, too. Social psychologists inter- preted her work in a way that was consistent with their preferred conclu- sions. (p. 16) Weaknesses in Social-Psychological Coverage of the Obedience Research There is no question that one weakness of the obedience research resides in the lack of a substantiatedtheory. Milgram’s (1974) account of the agentic shift has received minimal support (Darley, 1992, 1995; Mantell & Pan- zarella, 1976), and other than post-hoc explanations of the demonstrable finding that obedience to authority varies sharply with specific situational arrangements (Milgram, 1974; Ross & Nisbett, 1991), there is really no con- clusive theory to account for destructive obedience—or defiance, either. The matter of disobedience to authority has also received insufficient attention. Some individuals disobeyed Milgram’s experimenter; crucially important, if relatively rare, help was provided to Jews during the Holocaust (Rochat & Modigliani, 1995). If one agrees with Mook (1983) and others that what generalizes in the truest sense from laboratory findings is “theoretical under- standing,” the M–H thesis rests on a somewhat shaky foundation. This lack of solid grounding, of course, has hardly stopped social psychologists (and scholars from other disciplines) from pursuing the M–H argument, but mak- ing the argument is obviously not tantamount to making it convincingly or persuasively. One approach would be to consider how the concepts of obedi- ence and authority have been pursued in other contexts. A particularly useful example is the analysis of ethical problems in organizations (e.g., Darley et al., 2001; Kelman & Hamilton, 1989; Strudler & Warren, 2001). Social psy- chologists would be advised to examine these and related works to sharpen their conceptual understanding of obedience to authority in a variety of or- ganizational settings. What Can the Obedience Experiments Tell Us about the Holocaust? On the basis of the evidence considered in this chapter, the answer is a complex one. There is no question, in my opinion, that the experiments document obedience to malevolent authority on the part of a representative sample of persons. That many ordinary persons will, upon receiving instructions from a researcher, inflict what they perceive as unbearable pain upon a protesting peer is still, to me, a stunning discovery, with pow- erful implications for real-life settings, including those involving torture and genocide. Because the Holocaust also involved malevolent authority, obedience on the part of an extremely large number of persons, and the in- fliction of pain of every imaginable kind, the M–H thesis is thus convinc- ing—to this point. The experiments certainly generalize to those persons in Nazi Germany who obeyed orders, despite having personal reservations about what was happening to the Jews, and who didnot harbor what Goldhagen terms eliminationist, anti-Semitic beliefs. I do not think we would be able to understand the behavior of these individuals—and the countless bystanders, who may be said to have obeyed by omission (Staub, 1989)—as well as we do had the obedience research not been conducted. On the other hand, the critics pose some very compelling arguments to those who would assert the presence of a strong inference regarding the M–H thesis. I would suggest that any serious discussion of the M–H thesis that did not include a simultaneous consideration of the importance of de- humanization would constitute an inadequate coverage of the issues. To my knowledge, an obedience experiment that includes, as a major inde- pendent variable, the dehumanization of the victim, has not been per- formed. Dehumanization has been well documented (e.g., Bandura, 1999; Bandura et al., 1975), but the joint effects ofobedience pressures andvic- tim dehumanizationhave not received attention. (Milgram envisioned this study in his NSF research proposal, but he never actually performed it.) Until this type of research is performed, it is impossible to make strong in- ferences regarding the M–H thesis on the basis of the Milgram studies alone. Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany is simply too compelling a reality to dismiss as crucial simply because Milgram demonstrated that prejudice on the part of obedient persons was not necessary to obtain extreme harm- doing. Milgram’s participants may have harmed the learner for one set of reasons, and Holocaust perpetrators may have harmed their victims for other reasons. All acts of harming—even if done under orders to harm— are not necessarily comparable in their underlying causes. The critics are on solid ground here. It should also not be surprising, at least at this point, that the exonera- tion of harm-doers is viewed very negatively by many people, including at least some social psychologists. 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Furthermore, a gender-similarities approach could result in a backlash against feminist activism aimed at addressing violence against women. For example, reports of women’s violence toward men have been used by op- ponents of the women’s movement to argue against funding shelters for battered women (Gelles & Strauss, 1988). (Note, however, that gender- differences approaches have also resulted in backlash. Researchers taking gender-differences approaches have been a target of critics such as Gilbert [1991] and Roiphe [1993], who argued that feminists have exaggerated the prevalence and seriousness of violence against women.) (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.250)


The Israeli parliament suggested a curfew on women when the rape rate increased. However, Prime Minister Golda Meir suggested a curfew on men because they were the ones doing the raping. —BART AND O’BRIEN (1985, p. 2)

Rape researchers and activists face political and ethical dilemmas when choosing the focus of their efforts. Researchers can choose to focus on vic- tims by exploring attitudes, behaviors, and personality characteristics that increase or decrease the risk of being raped. Alternatively, researchers can focus on the attitudes, behaviors, and personality characteristics of perpe- trators. Finally, researchers can focus on society, identifying stereotypes, social norms, and institutions that support and perpetuate rape. Similarly, activists can focus their rape-prevention efforts on potential victims, on potential perpetrators, or on society. Each of these approaches could help address the problem of rape, but each is also controversial in its political and ethical implications.

Research Focusing on Victims

Rape research focused on victims has provided valuable information about risk factors for victimization. For example, research suggests that women are at greater risk of rape if they frequently get intoxicated (Muehlenhard & Linton, 1987; Testa & Dermen, 1999), engage in casual sex (Testa & Dermen, 1999), or attend fraternity parties (Ullman, 1997), or if they have a history of child sexual abuse (Muehlenhard, Highby, Lee, Bryan, & Dodrill, 1998).

Such findings can help reduce the risk of rape. Identifying risky situa- tions and behaviors can help individuals make informed choices about their behaviors. Identifying background factors or personality characteris- tics that lead to patterns of repeated victimization can suggest appropriate therapeutic interventions to help alter these patterns.

However, different rape prevention strategies implicitly suggest differ- ent views of responsibility for rape (Krulewitz & Kahn, 1983). Rape prevention based on findings about victims’ traits and behaviors may im- plicitly suggest that those who are most at risk for rape—that is, women— should alter and restrict their behavior to avoid being raped. For example, information suggesting that attending parties is risky might be interpreted to mean that women should avoid parties in order to avoid being raped. This approach puts the burden of preventing rape on potential victims rather than potential perpetrators and limits women’s freedom.

Furthermore, focusing rape prevention on victims may be viewed as blaming the victim. Individuals who engage in risky behaviors and are raped might be blamed—by others and by themselves—for contributing to their own victimization. Such victim blaming is often evident in the legal system; when crime victims are seen as behaving in ways that contribute to their own victimization, legal cases against perpetrators are sometimes dis- missed or the charges are reduced (Miethe, 1985).

An alternative to focusing on risk factors for victimization is to focus on resistance strategies women have used to thwart rape attempts. For ex- ample, research shows that active resistance strategies (e.g., physically fighting, screaming, and running away) are more strongly associated with thwarting attempted rape, whereas passive resistance strategies (e.g., pleading, crying, reasoning, or doing nothing) are associated more strongly with experiencing completed rape (Bart & O’Brien, 1985; Ullman 1997; Ullman & Knight, 1993; Zoucha-Jensen & Coyne, 1993). (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.251-2)


The politics of research have caused many studies to have been undertaken in a less than complete way. For example, we know very little about what kinds of circumstances mediate positive and negative outcomes after sexual abuse. There has been little acknowledgement of the fact that although rape, child sexual abuse, and wife battering are terrible experiences to have gone through, many people have “survived” and moved beyond them, feeling as if their victimization is not something that has defined them or continues to affect them. —LAMB(1996, p. 46)

On July 12th the U.S. House of Representatives voted 355–0 to condemn certain conclusions of our article; the Senate quickly followed suit. —RIND, TROMOVITCH, ANDBAUSERMAN(1999, p. 11)

Does sexual violencealways have severe consequences? This question in- volves issues of politics, definitions, and meaning.

An article published inPsychological Bulletin illustrates the politics of this issue. Rind, Tromovitch, and Bauserman (1998) conducted a meta- analysis of 59 studies comparing the adjustment of college students who reported having experienced child sexual abuse (CSA) with those who did not report CSA. Their meta-analysis revealed small differences between the two groups, with CSA accounting for less than 1% of the variance in adjustment (ru= .09, with a 95% confidence interval from .08 to .11). It also revealed that the outcomes reported by men were less negative than those reported by women.

These results could have been interpreted as a message of hope for victims of CSA and their families, contradicting the idea that individuals experiencing CSA are doomed to a life of depression and despair. Instead, through a complicated series of events, the authors—and the American Psychological Association, which publishesPsychological Bulletin—found themselves under attack (Rind et al., 1999).

The attack was initiated by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a psychoanalytically oriented group that still regards homosexuality as a mental disorder. Conservative talk show host “Dr. Laura” Schlessinger and the conservative lobbying group, The Family Research Council, joined the attack (Rind et al., 1999). Finally, on July 12, 1999, the U.S. Congress voted to condemn the study and “any suggestion that sexual relations between children and adults . . . are anything but abusive [and] destructive” (Rind et al., 1999, p. 11).

The question of whether sexual violence has uniformly severe conse- quences—and, if not, what conditions affect the consequences—deserves careful thought. There are many aspects to consider. Here we discuss two such issues: other experiences that reproduce the dynamics of sexual vio- lence, and individual differences in the meaning of sexual violence. (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.257-8)

One extremely harmful form of aggression that appears to result, in part, from the pursuit of self-esteem, is domestic violence. Research has docu- mented the self-perpetuating nature of domestic violence. Many abusive men either have witnessed violence in their family of origin or been the vic- tim of child abuse and experienced parental rejection (Mischel & Shoda, 1995); domestic violence is highly correlated with child abuse (Osofsky, 1999).

Infants who are maltreated either through exposure to abuse or as a direct victim of abuse are more likely to experience insecure relationships with caregivers (Kaufman & Henrich, 2000). As a result of their unmet needs, attachment relationships are compromised, leaving these individuals with a pattern of sensitivity to rejection, insecure attachment styles, and unsatisfying relationships (Feldman & Downey, 1994). Insecure attachment is also implicated in tendencies to inhibit or exaggerate negative emotions and other emotional regulation problems (Kaufman & Henrich, 2000). Unmet attachment needs, anxiety, and rejection fears are thus hy- pothesized to be important factors in the occurrence of domestic violence (Downey, Feldman, & Ayduk, 2000; Mischel & Shoda, 1995), which is used as a coping strategy to feel better following felt rejection (Bushman et al., 2001). Abusive men seek attention from their spouse through an inter- action pattern of low-level conflict that, at times, erupts into violence (Gottman, Jacobson, Rushe, & Shortt, 1995), or they use aggression to maintain the spouse’s closeness and control her behavior. In other words, it seems that abusive men use defensive strategies to cope with an excessive need for reassurance and approval.

Domestic violence is clearly linked to behavioral and emotional dysregulation and the inability to cope with emotion in the context of interpersonal relationships with significant others. At the physiological level, behavioral regulation patterns indicate that most abusive men expe- rience heart rate increases and other signs of emotional arousal during conflict-laden discussions. Abusive men who experience increased physio- logical arousal may also rely more on a self-regulatory style that is impul- sive, based on emotions, fears, and passions (Metcalfe & Mischel, 1999) that undermine self-control. A smaller subgroup of abusive men who are the most violent display decreased physiological arousal under conditions of low-level conflict with a significant other. This group of men is also more likely to use violence against others as well as their domestic partner (Gottman et al., 1995). (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.280-1) Evil is a strong word when applied to behaviors, but even more so when applied to persons. Many people are uncomfortable with the notion of identifying or labeling others as evil. For some, the concern is the strong value judgment inherent in the term. For others, the concern is the heavy religious connotations associated with the notion ofevil. Still others worry that the term is damning, implying an intractable trait with no hope for redemption. “What do we gain by using the term evil at all?” asked one of our graduate students. “How does it help us to better understand human behavior to develop an index for evil?”

No question about it,evil is a hot term—emotionally loaded, morally judgmental, full of brimstone and fire. But it is a construct that has been with us—often, centrally so—throughout human history. It is a deeply en- trenched construct that will not go away. Precisely because it is such an emotionally “hot” construct, it may be especially important to develop ob- jective measures, based in rational methods, preferably using “cooler” ter- minology. (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.338)

We wish to emphasize that use of the PCL-R to assess psychopathy— or “evil”—does not imply any particular etiology of this construct. The PCL-R is “descriptive”: It measures certain traits and behaviors that are considered to be indicative of psychopathy. It contains no implications as to the root cause of psychopathy, which could be genetics, bad parents, bad childhood, impaired superego, the devil, a “disorder of emotion” caused by brain dysfunction, or just bad luck (Blair, 1995, 2001, 2002; Blair, Colledge, Murray, & Mitchell, 2001; Karpman, 1948; Mealey, 1995a, 1995b; Porter, 1996; Weiler & Widom, 1996). The jury’s still out on the causes of psychopathy, but in order to answer the all-important eti- ology question, we need a reasonably objective, repeatable (e.g., reliable and valid) method for measuring characteristics associated with evil. A de- scriptive scientific index is a prerequisite.

Use of the PCL-R to assess psychopathy is not cheap. It requires an average 6 hours of time from a specially trained clinician, including client interview, records review, scoring, and interpretation. But if one is inter- ested in quantifying “evil” by using strict, empirically-derived criteria in order to minimize subjectivity (Hare, 1991); if one is interested in predict- ing recidivism (Harris, Rice, & Quinsey, 1993; Hart, Kropp, & Hare, 1988; Serin & Amos, 1995); or if one is interested in identifying the root causes of psychopathy in order to effectively intervene, the PCL-R is clearly the instrument of choice. (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.340)

Our guess is that an important part of what sets psychopaths apart from nonpsychopaths is that the latter have some capacity for moral emo- tions. They may engage in bad (even evil) deeds, but they are not bad evil people. When they do commit bad acts, they know they have done some- thing bad, and they feel bad about it (even if they do not readily acknowl- edge these feelings to others). The key question to explore regarding this large majority of current and future inmates is, Whatkind of moral emotion(s) do they feel? Are they inclined to feelguilt about their specific mis- deeds and feel a proactive press to repair and make amends to the harmed person? Or are they likely to feelshame as a person? Shame leads to de- nial, defense, and retaliation in response to the mistaken notion that be- cause they did bad (even evil), theyare bad, evil persons….

For most of the past century the predominant model in the field of correc- tions was one of rehabilitation. This perspective changed during the 1970s and 1980s, when the concept of “nothing works” gained ground based on several reviews of the treatment literature (Martinson, 1974; Sechrest, White, & Brown, 1979). Recently, due to the development of more sophis- ticated methods, such as meta-analysis, and tighter control over program implementation, studies have begun to show that rehabilitationcan effec- tively change some offenders (Cecil, Drapkin, MacKenzie, & Hickman, 2000; Cullen & Gendreau, 2000; MacKenzie, 2000; Wilson, Gallagher, & MacKenzie, 2000). There is now a call for more “evidence-based” correc- tions’ models (Farrington, Petrosino, & Welsh, 2001; MacKenzie, 2001). As Cullen and Gendreau (2001) state, we need to now move from “noth- ing works” to “what works.” An even more important question may be “What works withwhom?” In the search for “what works,” criminolo- gists and forensic psychologists now emphasize that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is not terribly effective when designing treatment for criminal offenders. What is needed is a better understanding of the key moderators of response to treatment—an understanding ofwhat works forwhom. Based on a comprehensive meta-analysis of four decades of correctional research, Andrews and colleagues (1990) identified three elements—risk, need, and responsivity—as the variables most strongly linked to successful outcome. (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.342-4)

One of life’s lessons is that nothing is all good. Even chocolate cake has calories and cholesterol. This lesson makes us leery of terms such asgood andevil, value assessments that present pure opposites. Has anyone ever seriously and sanely admitted to being evil? People admit to misbehavior, to moral shortcomings, even to crimes, but not to evil. Yet with increasing frequency political leaders and pundits are ready to apply this label to oth- ers with phrases such as “the Evil Empire,” “the Great Satan,” “a war be- tween the forces of good and the forces of evil.” These labels are applied not simply to point out the others’ shortcomings but to justify totally dis- missing the others’ point of view and agenda. Talk of good and evil is used to imply the speaker’s own innocence, virtue, and license to punish, even to kill. Not surprisingly, those who bandy charges of evil are often seen as the very incarnation of evil by the targets of their epithets. To avoid fan- ning these flames of moral one-upsmanship that blind more than illumine, we shall speak not of good and evil, but of benefits and liabilities. (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.359)

Second, Milner, Halsey, and Fultz (1995) examined the empathic re- sponsiveness of mothers while they watched videotaped segments of an in- fant who was smiling, was looking around, or was crying. The mothers were in two matched groups, those identified as being at high risk of phys- ically abusing a child and those identified as being at low risk. On average, the high-risk mothers showed no reliable change in empathy across the in- fant conditions, whereas low-risk mothers showed a highly significant in- crease in empathy while watching the crying infant. Rather than empathy, high-risk mothers reported feeling more personal distress and hostility while watching the crying infant (see Frodi & Lamb, 1980, for parallel physiological data). These responses of the high-risk mothers are congru- ent with clinical reports that physical child abusers experience less empa- thy and more hostility in response to a crying child. Also related is the finding that clinical interventions aimed at increasing empathy reduce the reported likelihood of abuse, rape, and sexual harassment on the part of men identified as being at high risk for committing sexual assaults (Schewe & O’Donohue, 1993). (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.364)

There is also evidence that empathy-induced altruistic motivation can in- crease cooperation in conflict situations. Paradigmatic of such situations is the one-trial “prisoner’s dilemma.” In this dilemma, it is always in one’s own best interest to defect (compete) regardless of what the other person does. Accordingly, game theory and the theory of rational choice both pre- dict no cooperation in a one-trial prisoner’s dilemma because each theory assumes that only one motive exists: self-interest. The empathy–altruism hypothesis predicts, however, that if one person in such a dilemma is induced to feel empathy for the other, then for this person two motives exist: self-interestand empathy-induced altruism. Although self-interest can be best satisfied by defecting, altruism can be best satisfied by cooperating. So the empathy–altruism hypothesis predicts that empathy should lead to mo- tivational conflict and to increased cooperation. Batson and Moran (1999) reported an experiment in which they found precisely these results.

In a subsequent experiment, Batson and Ahmad (2001) tried an even more stringent test of the ability of empathy to increase cooperation in a conflict situation. Rather than the standard one-trial prisoner’s dilemma, in which participants make their decisions simultaneously without know- ing what the other has done, Batson and Ahmad altered the procedure so that when each of the female research participants made her decision, she knew that the other participant had already defected. Thus, she knew that if she cooperated, the other participant would receive a very high payoff and she would receive nothing; if she defected, the other participant would receive the same moderate payoff as she. Predictions for behavior in this situation from game theory, from the theory of rational choice, and even from theories of justice and social norms are clear and obvious. There is no longer a dilemma at all; the only rational thing to do is to defect. Not only will defection maximize one’s own outcome, but it will also satisfy the norms of fairness and distributive justice. Moreover, there is no longer any need to fear feeling guilty about having taken advantage of the other, should one defect and the other cooperate, as can happen in a simulta- neous decision dilemma. The other has already defected. Not surprisingly, in the very few previous studies that have bothered to look at responses in such a situation, the proportion of participants cooperating has been ex- tremely low (around 5%). (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.365-6)

In a number of studies, investigators have examined the role of parents’ reactions to, and discussion of, emotion in children’s empathy-related responses. When parents reactions to children’s emotions are positive and supportive they may foster an environment wherein children feel free to experience and express emotions….. (Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.404)