Neurobiology of the Milgram Obedience Experiment




This manuscript presents a comprehensive review of the neurobiology underlying the Milgram Obedience Experiment, a cornerstone in understanding human behavior under authority. Beginning with an examination of traumatic historical events, particularly the Holocaust, the manuscript delves into the psychological underpinnings of obedience. It discusses how individuals, like Adolf Eichmann, rationalized their actions as mere adherence to orders, a phenomenon later empirically studied by Stanley Milgram. Milgram's experiments, conducted at Yale University, demonstrated a startling willingness among ordinary people to inflict harm when instructed by an authority figure, with a significant proportion of participants administering what they believed were lethal electric shocks to others. The review further explores the neurobiological aspects of obedience, emphasizing the role of mirror neurons and empathetic responses. It highlights how obedience to authority can diminish empathetic responses and alter the neural processing of actions and consequences. This diminished sense of agency and responsibility when following orders is contrasted with situations where individuals act on their own volition, shedding light on the complex interplay between authority, morality, and neurobiology. In conclusion, this review not only provides a deep insight into Milgram's obedience experiments but also extends the understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms that drive human behavior in contexts of authority and obedience. It underscores the intricate balance between individual autonomy and susceptibility to external influences, a balance that is crucial in understanding both historical events and contemporary societal dynamics.


Milgram Obedience Experiment, Neurobiology, Authority and Obedience, Empathy and Neuroscience


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Author Biography

Sultan Tarlacı, Uskudar University, Department of Neuroscience and Neurology, İstanbul, Türkiye

He was awarded a Research Encouragement Award by the Society of Brain Research (2000), a Research Encouragement Award by TUBITAK Society of Brain Research (2001), the Sedat Simavi Health Sciences Award by the Society of Turkish Journalists (2003), NeoCortex Prize (2014). He is the author of a neurology textbook titled "Neurologic Emergency Disease: Current Diagnosis and Treatment" (2019) and popular books titled Quantum Brain: New Scientific Approach to the Consciousness-Brain Problem (2010), Consciousness: From Antiquity to the Rediscovery of Consciousness (2012), Crime and Brain (2017), From Cave to Mars (2017), Death’Dict (2016), Why Schrödinger's cat became schizophrenic? (2016) and NeuroQuantology: Quantum Physics in the Brain. Reducing the Secret of the Rainbow to the Colours of a Prism (New York, Nova Publs., 2014), 197 Days: In Search of a Killer (Novel, 2015), Master and Apprentice Conversations: Parapsychology, Mysticism, Afterlife and Dreams (2018), Omar Khayyam: the Whell of Destiny (2023). His main research interest is the application of quantum physics to the nervous system, neuropsychology, neurophilosophy and clinical electrophysiology.


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How to Cite

Eren Yavuz, K., & Tarlacı, S. (2023). Neurobiology of the Milgram Obedience Experiment. Journal of NeuroPhilosophy, 2(2).