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Psych Club: The Man Who Shocked the World

Release date: February 18, 2008

Dr. Thomas Blass, the world's leading authority on Stanley Milgram, gave students an engaging glimpse of the man, his research, and his legacy.  Professor Ann McKim introduced Dr. Blass to the approximately 140 students in attendance as a distinguished expert on obedience to authority, a Hungarian holocaust survivor, and the author of Stanley Milgram’s biography: The Man Who Shocked the World..  To this introduction, Dr. Blass also added that he had been on Dr. McKim's dissertation committee while she was pursuing her Ph.D. degree at UMBC.        

Dr. Blass began by describing his own encounter with Stanley Milgram at a psychological convention. Although their conversation lasted a brief 15 minutes, Dr. Blass was “struck by Milgram’s humility.” He went on to depict the early life of Milgram as a Jewish boy growing up in the Bronx, his fascination with all things French, and his first scientific comparison between two cultures. He went on to speak of Milgram’s most controversial and famous research on obedience to authority. According to Dr. Blass, Milgram was incredibly riveted by the tragedies that occurred during the Second World War, which subsequently sparked many questions concerning authority. Despite the darker aspects of his research concerning obedience, Dr. Blass asserted that Stanley Milgram was a “zany, funny guy, but he was complex.”


The students who thought they were going to hear a lecture on a dusty old text book figure were surprised to hear that Muilgram occasionally used drugs and was the inspiration behind a popular punk rock band.


One inquisitive student asked what attracted Dr. Blass to the research of Stanley Milgram. He replied, “I am a Holocaust survivor and there is a historical link.” He went on to add that “the universality of Milgram’s research straddles both time and place.”


In conclusion, Dr. Blass spoke of the legacy that Stanley Milgram left behind that ultimately spans both the “serious and sublime.” Students left with a greater understanding of Milgram’s life, but many could not help asking themselves the essential question of sparked by Milgram's research, “How could people be so influenced by authority?”