It is often thought that “old” experiments — especially in topics like social psychology — may not reveal very much about how people would behave today. Today’s people, the story is often told, are more sophisticated than the lock-step dupes of times past. This “explanation” is often repeated even in the face of modern replications showing that people are as just as likely, for instance, to give severe electrical shocks to strangers as they were back in the early 1960s (here). And we have recently seen all too clearly that people in the “real world” will still follow orders to torture others. Continue reading Asch Conformity Replication
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Is Evil Not So Banal After All?
The Psychologist, the flagship journal of the British Psychological Society, has published an article by S. Alexander Haslam and Stephen D. Reicher that challenges what the authors call the “clear consensus amongst social psychologists, historians and philosophers that everyone succumbs to the power of the group and hence no one can resist evil once in its midst.”
Relying on a number of recent and soon-to-be-published studies, and re-analyses of old studies, they reject Hannah Arendt’s famous conclusion that Adolf Eichman and others like him are not immoral “monsters” who can be easily distinguished from the “normal” people but, rather, are entirely ordinary individuals caught up social currents beyond their ability to control or disengage themselves from. Arendt’s conclusion was instrumental in the famous experiments of Asch, Milgram, and Zimbardo, [SEE CORRECTION BELOW] Continue reading Is Evil Not So Banal After All?