In 1963, Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment, which has since become very famous, in which he asked participants to administer electric shocks to a stranger at the bidding of an authority figure. The subjects were led to believe that each shock was at a higher voltage and, after a few shocks, the unseen subject was screaming in pain from the other room. The 'shocked subject' was an actor, but the subject administering the shocks did not know this. Even with the unseen subject screaming in pain that they feared a heart attack was coming on, if the authority figure commanded it, 65% of the subjects could be ordered to administer the highest shock of 450 volts.
The experiment is quite well-known and is often held up as an example of the common person's willingness to commit an atrocity, against their own will, if a figure in an authority position commands it. Many people have suggested that the experiment shows how conformist Americans were in the early 60s. ABC News Primetime recreated the experiment recently. How many men were willing to potentially kill the unseen subject? 65% Milgram used almost no women in his experiment, leading many to argue that women would have been more humane. How many women could Dateline pressure to potentially kill the unseen subject? 88%