Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Anti-violence social experiments could be part of a slippery slope

Several stories have been coming out recently about a social experiment which was done to study how people reacted when domestic violence happened in their presence. The results supposedly indicate that most people probably wouldn't react to it. Whether or not that is the case there should be some concern about whether or not some of these experiments should be done. They could be part of a slippery slope; and, although this one is almost certainly near the top of that slope others that have been done, near the bottom of that slope may have done much more damage and even unintentionally contributed to the creation of at least a couple of mass murderers, including Whitey Bulger and Ted Kaczynski.

These experiments aren't entirely isolated. Many of them are organized by social psychologists that have been conducting research on human behavior for decades and they do an enormous number of experiments and exchange the information they gather with other social psychologists; and the majority of the public doesn't know much if anything about it or how they're used to influence policy. Some of the psychologists that participate in them almost certainly don't even fully recognize what they're used for.

These experiments have been going on for decades if not longer.

There were a couple experiments done a few months ago, or perhaps a year (cited below) that were very similar to see if people would react the same way if it was a woman being abused by a man or a man abused by a woman. The potential of these experiments to expose the causes of violence, if they're done right and reported to the public in a rational manner might make them worthwhile; although I suspect other research would be more important and reminders should be included about how some of that indicates that violence often escalates depending on how small children are taught from a young age.

They certainly don't seem to have the potential to cause the damage of the more extreme experiments that were done on Whitey Bulger and Ted Kaczynski and almost certainly contributed to their increased potential for violence. However if the larger volume of research continues to be discussed at a lower profile in the academic world without informing the public about it they might only impact policy in a manner that benefits the political class, not the majority of the public, including those that have been unwittingly drawn into these experiments without being asked.

On top of that they could be used more for entertainment purposes than to learn how to change behavior for the better, or to shame those that may have declined to react. In fact to some degree they probably already are.

The following is an excerpt from an article from the Huffington post about the most recent of these experiments:

Social Experiment Reveals How People React When Domestic Violence Happens In Public

Even when domestic violence comes out from behind closed doors and into public spaces, people still hesitate to intervene, according to a new social experiment video.

A Swedish video published by the group STHLM Panda created a social experiment in which male actors pretended to verbally and physically abuse their presumed girlfriends in a public elevator.

Over the course of two days of filming, the eye-opening social experiment captured multiple people witnessing domestic violence and not intervening.

“You're nothing, you understand? You're worthless!” one actor yelled at the actress while he pinned her against the wall.

Another actor pushes the actress into the wall and yells "I will kill you, I will f***ing kill you."

Surprisingly, one bystander even asked the couple: "Excuse me, can you let me get out of here before you do that?"

Out of the 53 people STHLM Panda says rode the elevator and saw the abuse take place, they say only one woman said something. “I’m gonna call the police if you touch her again," the onlooker said to the actor.

Co-creator of YouTube group STHLM Panda and actor in the video Konrad Ydhage told The Guardian they made the video to "test domestic violence and violence in close relations and to see if people react when they really need to.”

Ydhage added that they were expecting a lot more people to do something, telling The Guardian: “We were expecting that about 50 percent would intervene. I was prepared to take a hit by the bigger lads who entered the lift. But sadly enough they walked out on the girl.”

Ydhage and the group say they spoke with most of the people who rode the elevator. "Most of them said they felt ashamed of themselves for not reacting and said they were glad it was an experiment," he told The Independent. "Some people claimed they were going to call the police, but we think that that is lie. We filmed it over two days and the police never showed up once." Complete article

Little or no consideration is given to the fact that when people do bring their domestic disputes into the public they're not only harassing their spouse but they're disrupting the surrounding public as well. The same goes for the people conducting this experiment, who aren't actually abusing the spouse, since they know it is acting; but they're still disrupting the public that are participating in the experiment without their knowledge or consent.

Why should the article present the person who objects because they're carrying out their affairs in front of her in a disrespectful manner without acknowledging their own lack of respect for those they're experimenting with?

This isn't the first time social psychologists have disregarded the possibility that they might be harassing the people they use as psychological research experiments; over ten years ago a group of social psychologists or sociologists conducted experiments to determine how racists some people might be where "households received wrong-number telephone calls that quickly developed into requests for assistance," from "callers, who were clearly identifiable from their dialects as being black or white." (Edited by Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005 p.141-3)

A close review of many of these experiments should raise major doubts about whether or not their own prejudices are clouding their judgement when conducting the experiments, which would taint any results, and if records aren't accurate enough it maybe difficult if not impossible to recognize the problems, potentially making these experiments useless. There should also be doubts about whether some of the unwitting subjects took the situation seriously, especially if the acting by the researches is exaggerated and they think it is some kind of a a prank. There is at least one documented case where this ahs almost certainly happened and there are probably more.

On the reality show "What Would You Do?" John QuiƱones routinely uses members of the public as research subjects and for entertainment purposes without asking their permission. Since they control the way it is presented they attempt to portray themselves in a positive light while they glorify some people caught by surprise and shame others. The best psychologists almost certainly wouldn't participate in such a show at all; and even if they were willing to ABC almost certainly wouldn't want them since they might raise serious questions about the ethics of using random people as research subjects without permission and shaming those that don't conform to the norm while glorifying those that go along with the agenda of those controlling the show.

One of the shows includes an off-duty cop that has a hard time believing that there is a father talking about buying liqueur for his children and thinks it must be a joke, and rightfully so, and only when they persist does he take it seriously and threaten to arrest him. Unfortunately when they come forward and tell him the truth he doesn't raise questions about the legitimacy of their activities, at least not that the show is willing to present to the public.

These experiments have little if any real scientific value and when they do present them to the public they don't inform them about more effective research. Instead these shows could and almost certainly are being used to study how to manipulate the public and keep them distracted from more important issues.

As indicated previously much more manipulative and dangerous studies have been done in the past including those on Whitey Bulger and Ted Kaczynski. Some of these studies took place over a longer period of time and, in some cases they took place on prisoners who could be coerced into participating. Ironically by enrolling them in these studies it turns out that in\stead of rehabilitating them and making them less violent the government conducted activities that almost certainly did the opposite and since they followed this up by trying to cover up their tracks they did little or nothing to learn from tehir mistakes and ensure that it wouldn't happen again aside from ending some of the most extreme experiments.

Whitey Bulger agreed to participate in and experiment for Dr. Carl Pfeiffer and, "What they were not told is that the LSD injections were part of an effort, sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to develop a mind-control weapon. Project MKUltra. {Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice By Kevin Cullen, Shelley Murphy p.54-6) Whitey Bulger wasn't the only prisoner that was experimented on that almost certainly turned out more violent as a result; the CIA also experimented on John Stanley Faulder, a Canadian who had been convicted in 1977 of murdering Inez Phillips, an oil heiress, Robert Renaud, and many others according to "CIA Shrinks & LSD" by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair and numerous other sources, including congressional testimony that came out in the seventies during the Church Committee hearings among other disclosures about CIA activities.

Ted Kaczynski Was also used for mind control experiments. There is no conclusive evidence, that I know of, to indicate that they involved LSD; however the records of this experiment and many others were at least partially destroyed so Cockburn and St. Clair had good reason to speculate about this possibility. Alston Chase goes into a little more detail about what the experiment did involve in the following excerpts from an article from the Atlantic:

Harvard and the Making of the Unabomber by Alston Chase

In the fall of 1958 Theodore Kaczynski, a brilliant but vulnerable boy of sixteen, entered Harvard College. There he encountered a prevailing intellectual atmosphere of anti-technological despair. There, also, he was deceived into subjecting himself to a series of purposely brutalizing psychological experiments -- experiments that may have confirmed his still-forming belief in the evil of science. Was the Unabomber born at Harvard? A look inside the files .....

Through research at the Murray Center and in the Harvard archives I found that, among its other purposes, Henry Murray's experiment was intended to measure how people react under stress. Murray subjected his unwitting students, including Kaczynski, to intensive interrogation -- what Murray himself called "vehement, sweeping, and personally abusive" attacks, assaulting his subjects' egos and most-cherished ideals and beliefs.

My quest was specific -- to determine what effects, if any, the experiment may have had on Kaczynski. This was a subset of a larger question: What effects had Harvard had on Kaczynski? In 1998, as he faced trial for murder, Kaczynski was examined by Sally Johnson, a forensic psychiatrist with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, at the order of a court. In her evaluation Johnson wrote that Kaczynski "has intertwined his two belief systems, that society is bad and he should rebel against it, and his intense anger at his family for his perceived injustices." The Unabomber was created when these two belief systems converged. And it was at Harvard, Johnson suggested, that they first surfaced and met. She wrote,

During his college years he had fantasies of living a primitive life and fantasized himself as "an agitator, rousing mobs to frenzies of revolutionary violence." He claims that during that time he started to think about breaking away from normal society.

It was at Harvard that Kaczynski first encountered the ideas about the evils of society that would provide a justification for and a focus to an anger he had felt since junior high school. It was at Harvard that he began to develop these ideas into his anti-technology ideology of revolution. .....

This requirement, the manifesto continues, has given rise to a social infrastructure dedicated to modifying behavior. This infrastructure includes an array of government agencies with ever-expanding police powers, an out-of-control regulatory system that encourages the limitless multiplication of laws, an education establishment that stresses conformism, ubiquitous television networks whose fare is essentially an electronic form of Valium, and a medical and psychological establishment that promotes the indiscriminate use of mind-altering drugs. Since the system threatens humanity's survival and cannot be reformed, Kaczynski argued, it must be destroyed. Indeed, the system will probably collapse on its own, when the weight of human suffering it creates becomes unbearable. But the longer it persists, the more devastating will be the ultimate collapse. Hence "revolutionaries" like the Unabomber "by hastening the onset of the breakdown will be reducing the extent of the disaster." .....

Francis Murphy, the Prescott Street proctor, was a graduate student who had studied for the Catholic priesthood, and to Kaczynski it seemed the house was intended to be run more like a monastery than a dorm. .....

..... Ted Kaczynski insists that the Kaczynski home was an unhappy one and that his social isolation came about because his parents pushed him too hard academically. David and Wanda say that theirs was a happy and normal home but that Ted had shown signs of extreme alienation since childhood. When family members squabble, it is almost impossible for anyone -- least of all an outsider -- to know who is right. And the Kaczynskis are squabblers. .....

.... Meanwhile, Turk seemed -- to Kaczynski, at least -- to become increasingly cold, critical, and distant. .....

.... During the war Murray served in the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, helping to develop psychological screening tests for applicants and (according to Timothy Leary) monitoring military experiments on brainwashing. In his book (1979), John Marks reported that General "Wild Bill" Donovan, the OSS director, "called in Harvard psychology professor Henry 'Harry' Murray" to devise a system for testing the suitability of applicants to the OSS. Murray and his colleagues "put together an assessment system ... [that] tested a recruit's ability to stand up under pressure, to be a leader, to hold liquor, to lie skillfully, and to read a person's character by the nature of his clothing.... Murray's system became a fixture in the OSS." .....

Before the war Murray had been the director of the Harvard Psychological Clinic. After the war Murray returned to Harvard, where he continued to refine techniques of personality assessment. In 1948 he sent a grant application to the Rockefeller Foundation proposing "the development of a system of procedures for testing the suitability of officer candidates for the navy." By 1950 he had resumed studies on Harvard undergraduates that he had begun, in rudimentary form, before the war, titled "Multiform Assessments of Personality Development Among Gifted College Men." The experiment in which Kaczynski participated was the last and most elaborate in the series. In their postwar form these experiments focused on stressful dyadic relations, designing confrontations akin to those mock interrogations he had helped to orchestrate for the OSS. Complete article

Both Ted Kaczynski and Whitey Bulger started out with problems before they were subject to these experiments; however it is virtually guaranteed that instead of attempting to a dress these problems the experiments only escalated their propensity towards violence. The CIA was studying how to control others and their subjects became more authoritative and violent as well; and they also learned to try to control others through violence when they were no longer under the control of the CIA researchers.

These experiments about how people would react to violence also have a lot of similarities to the Obedience to Authority experiments and what they called the Stanford Prison Experiment; however as I attempted to point out in Philip Zimbardo, Lucifer Effect, Stanford Prison Experiment and Corruption or Bias in the American Psychological Association these were probably also part of the CIA experiments to develop indoctrination processes for military recruits and to obtain obedience rather than to warn people not to obey when given unethical orders. Research by Professor Alfred McCoy supports this conclusion; he has provided a good case indicating that both Stanley Milgram and his professor Irving Janis, who came up with the theory of "Groupthink" were working for the CIA. Substituting Zimbardo, who is the only one still alive makes the case even stronger; and he admits that it was the Office of Naval Research that funded his research despite the fact that he claims to have been an anti-war protester.

Some of the students that participate in these experiments almost certainly believe that they're being used for a good cause and some of the efforts that follow them might actually do so. However this research is available to all that look for it and the mass media is hardly even trying to inform the public about how they manipulate them. Instead they consult with people that use this research to learn how to more effectively manipulate the public. This research could also be used by advertising psychologists, and political psychologists as well as military psychologists that are involved in indoctrinating efforts for their own separate purposes.

Until we have major media reform the only people that hear much if anything about this research will be a minority of reasonably well educated and sincere people and those that want to use to to manipulate the public, who regrettably have more employment opportunities if they do so. The majority of the public will know little or nothing about it unless that minority of sincere people spread the word at the grass roots level.

The following are some related articles, including sources for this post:

Swedish 'social experiment' shows people ignoring domestic abuse in a lift 11/14/2014

Social Experiment Reveals How People React When Domestic Violence Happens In Public 11/19/2014

This Is What Happens When The Public Sees A Woman Abusing A Man 05/23/2014

Watch How Passersby React To Domestic Violence In Public 10/07/2014

Ted Kaczynski

Arthur Miller "The Social Psychology of Good and Evil" 2005

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