Eysenck begins with a look at a paradox of modern psychology. Experimental psychologists use strictly scientific methods to investigate what to many people seem trivial and sterile problems, yet some social psychologists, psychiatrists and psychoanalysts investigate what are clearly important and socially relevant problems, but use methods and theories whose scientific rigor is doubtful at best. This paradox is artificial and unnecessary. Methods of investigation and theories and concepts enable us to combine worthwhile problems and rigorous methods.
The book takes a long look at a particular problem which Eysenck investigated in depth during his illustrious lifetime. This tour de force, by one of the magisterial figures of modern psychology, is written for people as well as about people. It is not a rehash of the voluminous writings of lawyers, poets, politicians, dramatists, historians, psychiatrists and others who have felt compelled to write about these psychological matters without even a smattering of psychological knowledge. It is, instead, based on empirical investigations that are too often declared to be nonexistent by publicists and politicos.
Hans J. Eysenck (1916-1997) was professor of psychology at the University of London and the director of its psychological department at the Institute of Psychiatry. He was best known for his experimental researches in the field of personality. Among his many books are Rebel with a Cause, Dimensions of Personality, The Dynamics of Anxiety and Hysteria, Intelligence, and Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire, all published by Transaction.
Sybil B. G. Eysenck, wife of the late author, is co-director of Personality Investigations, Publications and Services (PIPS), an organization devoted to the promotion of the writings and research of Hans J. Eysenck. She is the coauthor, with Hans Eysenck, of Psychoticism as a Dimension of Personality and Personality Structure and Measurement and the co-editor, with Donald Saklofske, of Individual Differences in Children and Adolescents, published by Transaction.
Each topic has been covered by a different author, who has carried out research in the area in question, and is experienced in demonstrating the main experimental facts in practical class work. The editors have written a challenging introduction, in which some of the basic issues involved in experimental work in social behaviour are raised.
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.
“The classic account of the human tendency to follow orders, no matter who they hurt or what their consequences.” — Washington Post Book World
In the 1960s, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram famously carried out a series of experiments that forever changed our perceptions of morality and free will. The subjects—or “teachers”—were instructed to administer electroshocks to a human “learner,” with the shocks becoming progressively more powerful and painful. Controversial but now strongly vindicated by the scientific community, these experiments attempted to determine to what extent people will obey orders from authority figures regardless of consequences. “Milgram’s experiments on obedience have made us more aware of the dangers of uncritically accepting authority,” wrote Peter Singer in the New York Times Book Review.
With an introduction from Dr. Philip Zimbardo, who conducted the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, Obedience to Authority is Milgram’s fascinating and troubling chronicle of his classic study and a vivid and persuasive explanation of his conclusions.