January 02, 2008

Questioning the banality of evil. "Until recently, there has been a 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. But now, suddenly, things don’t seem quite so certain." (Via.)
  • Excellent link, HW. I don't think they've explained away Milgram or Zimbardo entirely, but shifting the locus back to the individual raises very disturbing questions.
  • This is no surprise. More than a century ago, evil acts were blamed 100% on the individual in question. Through the mid-to-late 20th century, the shift was to "blame society" and see all transgressions as evidence of systemic failings. As with all complex systems, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Nice post.
  • Interesting. Personally, I have always thought that the conclusions drawn from these experiments underplayed the importance of authoritarian personality traits and personal morality/ideology and also ignored the historical differences between cultures.
  • "For instance, the study was conducted both in prestigious Yale and down-market Bridgeport. One might expect the relative authority of the experimenter to be greater in the less privileged area, thus leading to more of an agentic state and hence more compliance. Yet obedience was actually lower in Bridgeport than Yale." Hope always lies in the proles.
  • That was a fascinating link, HW. And it makes a lot of intuitive sense that amongst people who 'drink the kool-aid', you would get people who want to excel and see the clearest way to do so by being more brutal than their peers.
  • The Milgram experiment today. (via MindHacks.com)