Beginning with B. F. Skinner and the legend of a child raised in a box, Slater takes us from a deep empathy with Stanley Milgram's obedience subjects to a funny and disturbing re-creation of an experiment questioning the validity of psychiatric diagnosis. Previously described only in academic journals and textbooks, these often daring experiments have never before been narrated as stories, chock-full of plot, wit, personality, and theme.
It is not a textbook in the ordinary sense, since it presents a particular approach to the subject through experimental psychology, and also, to some extent, through philosophy, cybernetics and logic. A brief mention is made of ethological and physiological matters.
It argues that cognition is a stepping-stone to integration with allied sciences. A large-scale study of the organism-as-a-whole needs to be supplemented by other biological and logical studies, but preparatory to this, cognitive psychologists must try and discover more rigorous ways of presenting their theories and models, since the mode of communicating an idea can never be wholly separated from that idea.
Furthermore cognition, even at the organism-as-a-whole level, needs to broaden out and link up with social studies and studies in personality and individual difference.
This book, pointed to a new direction that psychology should take; without contributing greatly to existing knowledge in the obvious sense, it suggests new methods and new ways of regarding the existing knowledge at the time.