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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

La Trobe 'torture' study anguish

By Tim Elliott
Originally published April 26, 2012

Diane Blackwell as university student
IN 1973, arts student Dianne Backwell tortured her roommate to death. Or so she thought.

Ms Backwell, then a 19-year-old student at La Trobe University, believed she was taking part in research into the effect of punishment on learning. But the friend whose screams she heard from another room every time she pushed a button was only pretending to receive electric shocks.

Nonetheless, the experiment, record of which has only now come to light, traumatised Ms Backwell for years. According to a new book, Behind the Shock Machine, by Melbourne psychologist Gina Perry, Ms Backwell was one of about 200 La Trobe students who took part in 1973 and 1974 in controversial experiments conducted by the university's psychology department.

The experiments were modelled on the notorious ''obedience tests'' carried out by US psychologist Stanley Milgram at Yale University in 1961, in which participants were ordered to shock students in another room, even when they believed it would kill them.

The entire story is here.

Thanks to Gary Schoener for this story.