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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Book Review: 'Behind the Shock Machine' by Gina Perry

By Carol Tavris
The Wall Street Journal
Originally published September 6, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

To almost everyone's surprise at the time, upward of two-thirds of the participant-teachers administered what they thought were the highest levels of shock, even though many were sweating and suffering over the pain they believed they were inflicting on a stranger in the name of science. Milgram's experiment produced a firestorm of protest about the potential psychological harm inflicted on the unwitting participants. As a result, it could never be done today in its original version.

Some people hated the method and others the message, but the Milgram study has never faded from public attention. It has been endlessly retold in schoolrooms, textbooks, TV programs, novels, songs and films. What, then, is left to say about it?

According to Gina Perry, an Australian psychologist and journalist, everything. She has investigated every aspect of the research and spoken with seemingly anyone who had a connection to Milgram (1933-84). She describes each of Milgram's 24 experimental variations on the basic obedience paradigm. She interviewed some of the original subjects, the son of the man who played the "learner," Milgram's research assistants, his colleagues and students, his critics and defenders, and his biographer. She listened to audiotapes of the participants made during and after the experiments. She pored through the archives of Milgram's voluminous unpublished papers.

The entire book review is here, unfortunately, behind a paywall.
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