Book: Opening Skinner's Box

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Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century

Author: Lauren Slater
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Documents the drama of extraordinary inquiries into human psychology, bringing to life stories with unforgettable protagonists.

Lauren Slater delivers a witty and stunningly perceptive view of the progress of the science of the human mind in the last century. Beginning with B. F. Skinner and the legend of a child raised in a box, she 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. We observe cognitive dissonance among cult members whose apocalypse fails to arrive, and we see the groundwork being laid for a pill that promises to rescue the memories of aging baby boomers.

Through nine examples of ingenious experiments by some of psychology’s most innovative thinkers, Slater traces the evolution of the century’s most pressing concerns—free will, authoritarianism, conformity, and morality. 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.

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