A tale of two methods: Gustave Gilbert, Stanley Milgram, and the “Mysterious Nazi Mind” (1945—1965).

Stanley’s Milgram’s (1963) research on “Obedience to Authority” is the most famous study in the history of American psychology. Milgram’s extraordinary historical and contemporary celebrity as “the” psychologist of Nazi atrocities stands in contrast to the relative obscurity of another American psychologist who studied the actions of real Nazis 15 years before the first results of the Obedience research were published–Gustave Gilbert (1911—1977). This article provides an overview of Gilbert’s compelling but neglected career as a psychologist of the Nazi mind and it contrasts his obscurity with Milgram’s renown. Particular attention is given to the methods used by these 2 figures. Gilbert relied primarily on qualitative methods drawn from actual Nazi leaders and his explanation was embedded in the historical particulars of prewar Germany. In contrast, Milgram appeared to transform the Holocaust into a simple laboratory tableau, one that perversely democratized the slaughter making it accessible to everyone while simultaneously implicating modern Americans in the most horrific crime in history–”had you been in Germany you would have been a Nazi too.” The appeal of these 2 approaches is considered in relation to the disciplinary and cultural ethos of Cold War America. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)