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Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram… (2012)

by Gina Perry

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631339,230 (3.14)None
In the summer of 1961, a group of men and women volunteered for a memory experiment to be conducted by young, dynamic psychologist Stanley Milgram. None could have imagined that, once seated in the lab, they would be placed in front of a box known as a shock machine and asked to administer a series of electric shocks to a man they'd just met. And no one could have foreseen how the repercussions of their actions, made under pressure and duress, would reverberate throughout their lives. For what the volunteers did not know was that the man was an actor, the shocks were fake, and what was really being tested was just how far they would go. When Milgram's results were released, they created a worldwide sensation. He reported that people had repeatedly shocked a man they believed to be in pain, even dying, because they had been told to - he linked the finding to Nazi behaviour during the Holocaust. But some questioned Milgram's unethical methods in fooling people. Milgram became both hero and villain, and his work seized the public imagination for more than half a century, inspiring books, plays, films, and art. For Gina Perry, the story of the experiments never felt finished. Listening to participants' accounts and reading Milgram's unpublished files and notebooks, she pieced together an intriguing, sensational story: Milgram's plans went further than anyone had imagined. This is the compelling tale of one man's ambition and of the experiment that defined a generation.… (more)
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This book was very interesting to me, mostly because what I felt is missing in most reviews of the Milgram experiment is the point of view of participants.

Some of the things mentioned in the book were suprising to learn, such as the fact that the participants were not immediately told the truth after the experiment was over.

That being said, the book is not without it's flaws. The author focuses on the ethical and practical concerns about the experiment, and in effect makes it seems as if the results are not applicable to anything in real life at all. Some of the criticisms are extremely naive and, frankly, a bit silly - such as the implication that, because the whole situation and the laboratory was designed in such a way as to make it difficult for participants to disobey, the experiment shows nothing about actual behavior in real life situation. Yes, the laboratory was designed in such a way as to make it difficult to disobey - but so are most real world authority situations. Which is precisely what makes it applicable. A similar criticism about the participants trusting the authority of science, of it all being under control and for a good cause - this sounds highly likely, however, far from discrediting the experiment, it brings it closer to the real world authority situation - don't people, in most cases, assume that the authority is benign and that everything they are doing is for a good cause? ( )
  Beholderess | Dec 22, 2013 |
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In the summer of 1961, a group of men and women volunteered for a memory experiment to be conducted by young, dynamic psychologist Stanley Milgram. None could have imagined that, once seated in the lab, they would be placed in front of a box known as a shock machine and asked to administer a series of electric shocks to a man they'd just met. And no one could have foreseen how the repercussions of their actions, made under pressure and duress, would reverberate throughout their lives. For what the volunteers did not know was that the man was an actor, the shocks were fake, and what was really being tested was just how far they would go. When Milgram's results were released, they created a worldwide sensation. He reported that people had repeatedly shocked a man they believed to be in pain, even dying, because they had been told to - he linked the finding to Nazi behaviour during the Holocaust. But some questioned Milgram's unethical methods in fooling people. Milgram became both hero and villain, and his work seized the public imagination for more than half a century, inspiring books, plays, films, and art. For Gina Perry, the story of the experiments never felt finished. Listening to participants' accounts and reading Milgram's unpublished files and notebooks, she pieced together an intriguing, sensational story: Milgram's plans went further than anyone had imagined. This is the compelling tale of one man's ambition and of the experiment that defined a generation.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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