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See Inside Scientific American Volume 309, Issue 3

Book Review: Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments

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Behind the Shock Machine



New Press

Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments
Gina Perry
New Press, 2013 ($26.95)

Stanley Milgram's studies of human obedience to authority figures are arguably some of the most infamous psychology experiments ever. Until now, little has been written about how Milgram's subjects dealt with the experiments' aftermath. In Behind the Shock Machine, Perry, a professor at the University of Melbourne and a psychologist herself, tracks down some of the participants and explores how the study affected their lives. For many, the knowledge that they complied as they were urged by one of Milgram's actors to repeatedly “electrocute” a man in distress—a man who was actually only pretending to be in pain—turns out to be a terrible burden that even now elicits anger, confusion and self-doubt. Thanks to Perry's book, we gain more insight than ever before into Milgram's questionable practices and the scientific culture that allowed his experiment to take place.

This article was originally published with the title "Behind the Shock Machine."

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