Jan 9, 2012

Who's Bad?

What would it take to make you do something truly awful? One day, psychology professor David Buss headed to a friend's house for a party. But when he arrived, his friend--a mild-mannered fellow professor--wasn't there to greet him. As David explains to producer Pat Walters, his friend was upstairs in a rage--threatening to kill his wife if he didn't get out of the house immediately. David tells us what happened next, and how it led him to ask 5,000 people all over the world a dark question, "have you ever thought about killing someone?," with an even darker answer.

That's what we're struggling with this hour--do violence and cruelty lurk inside us all? Benjamen Walker helps us explore this question by way of one of the most famous psychology experiments of all time. The year was 1961, the same year Adolf Eichman went on trial for Nazi war crimes. His defense boiled down to the assertion that he was just following orders. Enter Stanley Milgram. His now-notorious experiment at Yale found that 65% of participants were willing to administer the maximum electrical shock to a fellow citizen when prodded by a experimenter. But as Alex Haslam makes clear...the experiment isn't just about obedience. If you look closely, a more complicated--and more unsettling--picture emerges. One that forces us to ask ourselves, as Alex puts it: "what is greater, and what is good?"


David Buss, The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill

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