After shock? Towards a social identity explanation of the Milgram ‘obedience’ studies


Correspondence should be addressed to S. Alexander Haslam, School of Psychology, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon, EX4 4QG, UK (e-mail:


Russell's forensic archival investigations reveal the great lengths that Milgram went to in order to construct an experiment that would ‘shock the world’. However, in achieving this goal it is also apparent that the drama of the ‘basic’ obedience paradigm draws attention away both from variation in obedience and from the task of explaining that variation. Building on points that Russell and others have made concerning the competing ‘pulls’ that are at play in the Milgram paradigm, this paper outlines the potential for a social identity perspective on obedience to provide such an explanation.