Blast from the Past

I spent much of January hunting through the Scientific American digital archives, looking for readings to assign in place of a textbook for my Spring course on learning. The archives stretched further in time than I had realized, with a 1949 biography of Pavlov (of salivating dog fame) and a 1951 article  by Skinner (of…

The Tip of the Freudian Iceberg

I am not a Freudian scholar. Although I visited his house in London with my study abroad class, I did so warning them that I was better able to explain how psychoanalysis is a pseudoscience than how Freud’s theories actually work; I might also have let slip that most of what I know about Freud comes…

The Ethics of Obedience

There are few studies in psychology as infamous as Milgram’s study of obedience to authority, which, simply put, found that ordinary people were surprisingly willing to administer larger and larger shocks to a fellow volunteer who incorrectly answered memory questions, just because a man in a white lab coat insisted that they continue. It’s worth…

The Nuremburg Code

The second idea that led to the creation of this class (after discussing Milgram’s study of obedience at a concentration camp) was visiting the birthplace of the Nuremburg Code, which features in any research methods course as the foundation of the practices all researchers must follow. The Nuremburg Code is not from the main “Nuremburg…

Remembrance of things past

As I have visited a dozen monuments of World War II in the past few weeks – to the RAF in the Battle of Britain, to the Londoners who helped fight bombs and fire in the Blitz, to the Jews murdered in the Holocaust, to a man who tried to assassinate Hitler in 1939 –…