Saturday, July 7, 2007

"Stanley" (A Tribute to Milgram)

Few, if any, social psychologists are better known -- by his studies, if not by his name -- than Stanley Milgram (1933-1984).

What's so interesting is that he is best known in one discipline for one line of research (the obedience studies, within social psychology), whereas his fame in another discipline derives from an entirely different line of research (the small-world/six-degrees-of-separation study, within social-network research). Both of these lines of research have inspired dramatic portrayals, such as movies and plays, and they continue to be analyzed and debated today.

Milgram conducted a number of other clever, off-beat studies that never failed to offer some type of insight into human nature in our social world. One of my favorites, to which one of the verses in the song alludes, is his study of gawking up at tall buildings. The more confederates Milgram and his colleagues stationed at the building and had stare up at the top, the more likely passersby were to start looking up, too (see Item 4 in the following lecture outline).

Milgram also has a website devoted to his work, and now he has a song!


Stanley (A Tribute to Milgram)
Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “Dandy,” Ray Davies, popularized by The Kinks and Herman’s Hermits)

Stanley, Stanley,
You were so creative,
Oh so innovative,
In the lab and out,
Your studies, without doubt,
Never ceased to surprise,
Oh, they were done by,

Stanley, Stanley,
How people follow orders,
Crossing humane borders,
You did investigate,
A storm did you create,
What we learned did amaze,
And this was done by,

Stanley, Stanley,
Wrote scientific papers,
From gawking at skyscrapers,
Who’d have thought to ascertain,
’Bout something so mundane?
Studies out in the world,
Oh, they were done by,

Stanley, Stanley, Stanley…

Stanley, your legacy will always last,
The studies, you know their time is never past,
Today we, reflect on, your quirky ideas,
And wonder what else would,
Have come from your creative mind,
The field wants to know,
Will there be any more of your kind?

Stanley, Stanley,
How to forward a letter,
Became a real trend-setter,
Transmission showed such ease,
We talk of six degrees,
’Round the globe or down the hall,
The world is so small,

Stanley, Stanley, Stanley…

Your work we’ll always cite,
We will cite,
We will cite…
(Fade out)



The above song should be pretty straightforward. Each of three lines of research discussed in my introduction is the subject of one of the verses, whereas the other sections offer more general impressions.

Further Reading

Many sources are listed in the References section of the Wikipedia page on Milgram and on this special page created by Milgram biographer Thomas Blass. Also see...

Milgram, S., Bickman, L., & Berkowitz, L. (1969). Note on the drawing power of crowds of different size. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 13, 79-82.

(Note: A friend of mine, Francine Rosselli, used to have her classes conduct replication studies of the gawking-at-buildings study. The most recent e-mail address I can find for her, if anyone wants further information, is: .)

Watts, D.J. (2003). Six degrees: The science of a connected age. New York: Norton.

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