The normalization of torment: Producing and managing anguish in Milgram’s “Obedience” laboratory.

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  • Author(s): Nicholson, Ian
  • Source:
    Theory & Psychology. Oct2015, Vol. 25 Issue 5, p639-656. 18p.
  • Additional Information
    • Subject Terms:
    • Abstract:
      Milgram framed his “Obedience” experiments as an inquiry into the Holocaust, posing state directed mass murder as a “conflict between conscience and authority.” However, recent research into atrocities suggests that “moral conflict” is often absent; murder is frequently undertaken willingly in a spirit of idealism and “normalcy.” The question is not why do people obey orders they find morally objectionable as Milgram suggested, but rather how does it become “normal” and “ok” to torture or kill defenseless people? I examine this question through a reinterpretation of the Obedience study. Instead of focusing on the confused and entrapped participants, people who were tricked into “immoral” action, I study the scientists themselves—individuals who applied enhanced stress techniques on innocent people repeatedly and enthusiastically, fully aware of what they were doing. Inverting Milgram’s Holocaust analogy, I suggest that recent scholarship on Nazi doctors can provide insights into the various ways that torment became “normalized” for Milgram and his assistants. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
    • Abstract:
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