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Microsoft Runs Milgram Experiment on Vista

Microsoft today unveiled video footage of an exercise called the Mojave Experiment, where unwitting Windows users were tricked into watching a Vista demo while told it was something else. The experiment’s subjects were all people who had a negative impression of Vista but no personal experience with it. One short demo later almost all of them reported a far more favorable impression of the operating system “Mojave” than they held of Vista.

The videos are reminiscent of the infamous Milgram Experiment, where Stanford researcher Stanley Milgram fooled subjects into believing that a fake situation was actually real. That experiment has been the subject of decades of ethics debates – Microsoft’s Mojave was just creepy. Note: Several readers have responded in comments saying that this is not a legitimate comparison to draw. We will take your thoughts into consideration before drawing wild comparisons between tech marketing campaigns and arguably egregious violations of individual rights in the future. 🙂


The Milgram Experiment was one in which subjects were told that they had to administer a shock to someone who gave the wrong answers to questions they were asked. The subjects objected but were told that the test’s authority required that they administer the shocks. In fact the people getting the shocks were only actors but the moral of the story was that ordinary people were willing to do terrible things if they were told they had to be an authority figure.


Milgram’s was a powerfully disturbing study but the point is that it is ethically questionable to subject people to research based on a false premise.

In the Mojave Experiment the only people likely to be subjected to pain will be the future users of the Microsoft operating system.

The lesson of Mojave may be that computer users are highly susceptible to a short, slick demonstration of new technology. It could also be that they are highly susceptible to reviews written by other people. The writings of experts based on their tests and experience seems a far more valid basis for the formation of an opinion, however.

Looking at the faces of the Mojave test subjects when they are told the truth, it appears they know they are being made to look like fools. It’s not clear what that foolishness is based on, but it is clear that Microsoft’s condescending attitude remains consistent right through this newest marketing campaign.

That’s my take on it, but judge for yourself.

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