It's about time someone wrote this book.

The famed Stanley Milgram psychology experiments shocked the world by suggesting that a majority of humans are capable of cruelty when under the orders of an authority figure. In this book, a secret history of the experiments is revealed, debunking Milgram's most sensational claims.

The experiments, conducted at Yale University in the early 1960s, have long been a staple of psychology textbooks. The setup is dramatic but simple: Subject A sits in a room with a "shock machine" and is instructed to shock an unseen Subject B if he fails a simple memory test. The study was advertised as collecting data on how punishment affects learning and memory, but in reality, Milgram was not shocking Subject B, instead carefully monitoring the behavior of Subject A. The experiment's surprising results indicated that 65 percent of the subjects administered shocks even after the actor playing Subject B screamed in pain or even complained of a heart condition. In a postwar environment still reeling from the horror of the Holocaust, the connection between the Milgram experiments and the behavior of the Nazis brought questions of human behavior and obedience into the national spotlight. However, much like the experiments themselves, Milgram's published results were replete with omissions and inconsistencies, casting doubt on his methodology and ethics. Perry, a psychologist who first presented her research in an award-winning Australian documentary, spent several years interviewing original participants, combing through archived transcripts of the experiments, analyzing unpublished data and meeting with psychologists who worked with Milgram at that time. The result is a passionate text that humanizes the subjects and provides nuanced, provocative context to the experiments. The author asks profound questions about what truths, if any, can be elicited from analysis of human nature in a constructed environment.

It's about time someone wrote this book.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59558-921-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013


Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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