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on 17 May 2004
In a line - Go for it !
I did enjoy this book - to the point where I finished it in a few days. BUT... I didnt see any need for the author to bring her own family into the equation. The facts of the experiments are more than enough to make a good read (and are a bit more compelling than day to day suburbia).
I have to say that the book did make me think about how I would have acted in some of the experiments, at times it calls for some serious soul searching.
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on 12 January 2014
If you have studied psychology at a time when psychology experiments were all the rage, or even since then, you will enjoy this book. It will remind you of key experiments and gives you the chance to find out various things such as: Would that happen today?; What effect did participating in an experiment have?. It is easy to read and each chapter is fairly self contained so you don't have to read the whole book at once.
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VINE VOICEon 31 May 2010
At first sight I was not won over by the subtitle of this book. 'Great Psychological Experiments Of The Twetieth Century' conjures up images of lab monkeys with electrodes attched to shaven heads and all matter of convulsive therapies - definitely not the light reading I was in need of. And yet Lauren Slater has performed the near miraculous feat of turning research into some of the more lugubrious and disarming of human traits and disorders into a thoroughly readable, understandable and entertaining, yes entertaining, book.That she has written this with a human and personal voice throughout makes it even more approachable; her own experiences as a psychologist, a wife and a mother make this an emotive and therapeutic read, helping to dispel the phantoms of Stanley Milgram's studies in obedience, Harry Harlow's somewhat misguided experiments with primates and surrogate mothers and, most disturbingly, Eric Kandel's attempts to develop a medication which will enable us to improve memory retention and recall.
In all eleven of the last century's most prominent and/or notorious scientists are dissected by the scalpel like sharpness of Slater's words and in most cases her conclusions are that the progress that has been made in the fields of psychiatry, psychology and psychosurgery as a result of the work generated by these eleven far outweigh our moral outrage and attempts to brand them Orwellian, Frankenstein esque or followers of a Huxley type miopeia. On the question of the ethical legacy of the last century's mind experimenters Slater is reassuring when she says that it is unlikely that we will see another Milgram today. Unfortunately political torture is not a fiction and, we can be very certain of this, there are still countries who can and do use the findings of Milgram et al to subjugate and punish their prisoners/citizens. Perhaps the main lesson to be learned from this excellently argued book is to ensure that Skinner, whose ultimate vision was of a government of behavioral psychologists with the means to train its citizens into ultra obedient robots, and his modern day equivalents never receive the encouragement or the research grants to turn vision into harsh reality.
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on 19 March 2007
I picked up this book at a friend's house. I thought it looked fascinating; a great idea for a book. Sadly I found Lauren Slater's writing style to be intolerable. Full of "I see him" " I imagine him", she has a folksy, chatty, speculative, style which, combined with a complete absence of insight, only served to grate. Not recommended.
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on 9 January 2014
i reaaly think this book is amazing its a great read if your into that sort of thing would highly recommend to anyone of intrest.. ariived on time, packeged beautifully, new condition.. can't complain
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VINE VOICEon 6 March 2010
Think about a parody, a grotesque stereotype, of a poem, awful doggerel, and you will probably have a good approximation of Slater's prose, or verse, as it may be. It's full of self-indulgent melodrama such as completely inappropriate metaphors, an obsession with the weather as a lyrical device, and repetition in the form of an oration. Sometimes she excels herself, though, such as on page 67 when she describes what we breathe as "airy air". Is that like woody wood, or stony stone? Or is she just being postmodern? Another example, one of dozens I could have chosen at random, of her flights of fancy is when she asks, "What message has Milgram sent us, in what sort of bottle, on which sea?" I can see an Ig®Nobel poetry award wending its way so her already... I really dislike it when an author tries to be poetic. This is an interesting enough subject that its telling doesn't need any frills. A tweed-coated professor could tell me about it and he'd have my full attention even if he just stuck to the facts and delivered it in monotone.

However, having ridiculed her, and rightly so, I still think that this book is worth a look. It is interesting to read. This is my first book about popular psychology and there are some fascinating experiments that have been done over the last 100 or so years. However, I am still squeamish about psychosurgery. The thought of cutting the brain has the same effect on me as watching someone scratching their nails down a blackboard. It's safe to say that I don't quite have the same enthusiasm for it that Slater unashamedly does. I also disagree with her when she says, "There is no way to give one group of patients a sham lobotomy, another group a real one." Of course there is, woman! Shave them, swab their pates with alcohol, drill a hole in their skulls then DON'T lobotomise them. How will they know any different? There IS a problem doing a double-blind lobotomy, though, I'll concede that. Her criticism of the pharmaceutical industry is also a bit zealous and not supported by anything very substantial.

Good DESPITE the author.
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on 1 June 2013
I learnt more about psychology in this book that I did from a 3 year degree in the subject. A great read for psychology students and people new to subject. I would definitely give it to my kids, if I had any.
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on 5 June 2011
What I enjoyed most about this book is the way she told each case as a type of story. She was able to weave in the details of each case into a larger story (mostly from her point of view).

The cases are the "usual suspects" like Skinner and Milgram but there are also lesser known but very interesting cases as well. This book can be read by the lay-person as well as the academic (although judging by some other reviewers posts there is some academic debate around her work).

I would recommend this book mostly to the everyday reader who has a general interest in psychological experiments. Anyone with psychology training will probably know most of these cases inside and out, but can still get a good read due to her writing style. This book is definitely interesting and worth reading.
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on 31 October 2011
I bought this brilliant book as a primer before starting a psychology degree. It is easy to read, giving overviews of a number of important psychological experiments, whilst looking at the circumstances and people behind the work. Slatter tracks down some of the people involved, treating them with humanity, giving a broader perspective than standard text books. She questions the methods and findings of experiments and ask what the experimenters brought to it. She encourages the reader to look at psychology with an open mind.
If you are after a book to quote in your degree essay, this probably isn't it, but if you want to get an easy to read overview of some interesting experiments I heartily recommend it.
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on 9 December 2008
Beautifully written book combining journalistic curiosity, psychological intelligence and a novelist's lyricism in telling the deeper stories behind some of the twentieth century's most incredible psychological experiments. From delving further into well-known studies, such as Milgram's shock experiments, to exploring some lesser known but equally profound experiments, Slater opens our eyes to the ethics, the narratives, and the insights into humanity provided by these discoveries, and the amazing minds that drove them forward.
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