John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

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Ten random things: Reader Request Month, day 48

Ten professors who were denied tenure:

  1. Eleanor Swift (by University of California, Berkeley School of Law; later reversed)
  2. Guillermo Gonzalez (by Iowa State University, for publishing no significant research and obtaining no major grants during his seven years on staff)
  3. David Abraham (by Princeton University, for erroneous citations, inaccurate quotations, and other misrepresentations in a published work)
  4. Theda Skocpol (by Harvard University, for being a woman)
  5. Joseph Tussman (by University of California, Berkeley, for insufficient scholarly publication)
  6. Norman Finkelstein (by DePaul University, for "unprofessional personal attacks")
  7. Jerry Bergman (by Bowling Green State University, for fraudulent academic claims)
  8. Kin-Yip Chun (by University of Toronto, for undisclosed reasons)
  9. Francis J. Beckwith (by Baylor University; reversed on appeal)
  10. Stanley Milgram (by Harvard University, probably for conducting the controversial Milgram experiment)

Today's list is for mrghoul, who asked for the Milgram experiment. The Milgram experiment was a psychological study conducted in the 1960s that demonstrated that many people were willing to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience. The experiments were inspired by the war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann, whose defense was that he had only been following the orders of his superiors. Milgram posed the question he sought to answer with the experiment thusly: "Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?"

The experiment called upon participants to deliver a series of increasingly powerful electric shocks to another person in another room. (In fact, the other person was an accomplice and received no shocks. A tape recorder linked to the electro-shock generator operated by the participant played back a series of increasingly anguished cries, supposedly from the person being shocked. If the participant stated a desire to stop the experiment, the experimentor would attempt to verbally prod him into continuing. If the participant refused after four prods, the experiment was halted. Otherwise, it continued until the subject had delivered the maximum shock (supposedly 450 volts) three times in succession.

In the initial experiment, Milgram found that 65 percent of the subjects were willing to deliver the maximum shock. Later experiments, each introducing certain variables to the experiment, showed similar results, ranging from 61 to 66 percent. In Milgram's own words: "Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority."

Milgram also performed some of the earliest experiments on the "Small world phenomenon," later to become popularly known as the six degrees of separation concept. Interesting guy.


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