Stanley Milgram’s Obedience to Authority “Relationship” Condition: Some Methodological and Theoretical Implications

  • Russell N
Citations of this article
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.


In May 1962, social psychologist, Stanley Milgram, ran what was arguably the most controversial variation of his Obedience to Authority (OTA) experiments: the Relationship Condition (RC). In the RC, participants were required to bring a friend, with one becoming the teacher and the other the learner. The learners were covertly informed that the experiment was actually exploring whether their friend would obey an experimenter’s orders to hurt them. Learners were quickly trained in how to react to the impending “shocks”. Only 15 percent of teachers completed the RC. In an article published in 1965, Milgram discussed most of the variations on his baseline experiment, but only named the RC in passing, promising a more detailed account in his forthcoming book. However, his 1974 book failed to mention the RC and it remained unpublished until François Rochat and Andre Modigliani discovered it in Milgram’s personal archive in 1997 at Yale University. Their overview of the RC’s procedure and results left a number of questions unanswered. For example, what were the etiological origins of the RC? Why did Milgram decide against publishing this experiment? And does the RC have any significant methodological or theoretical implications on the Obedience studies discourse? Based on documents obtained from Milgram’s personal archive, the aim of this article is to shed new light on these questions.




Russell, N. (2014). Stanley Milgram’s Obedience to Authority “Relationship” Condition: Some Methodological and Theoretical Implications. Social Sciences, 3(2), 194–214.

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free