World as Laboratory: Experiments with Mice, Mazes, and Men

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9780809074648: World as Laboratory: Experiments with Mice, Mazes, and Men
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Deeply researched, World as Laboratory tells a secret history that’s not really a secret. The fruits of human engineering are all around us: advertising, polls, focus groups, the ubiquitous habit of “spin” practiced by marketers and politicians. What Rebecca Lemov cleverly traces for the first time is how the absurd, the practical, and the dangerous experiments of the human engineers of the first half of the twentieth century left their laboratories to become our day-to-day reality.

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About the Author:

Rebecca Lemov teaches history and anthropology at the University of Washington. This is her first book.

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Lemov, a historian and anthropologist, addresses nearly a century of study into "human engineering," the idea that behavior can be modified through manipulation of the surrounding environment. The social implications of such research are important, but equally worth pondering, she suggests, is what it tells us about "the impulse for scientific experimentation" and how far scientists will go to indulge it. Some of her most intriguing passages deal with individual researchers like fear specialist O. Hobart Mowrer and sociologist John Dollard and how their theories—their career paths, even—were shaped by their emotional conditions. But Lemov balances this personal approach with close consideration of the major institutions involved, tracking the effect of grants handed out by the Rockefeller Foundation and digging into the vast archives of Yale's anthropological database (all the more remarkable for being entirely on paper). She also reports on the government's interest in the field, including the CIA's encouragement of research designed both to combat and refine psychological torture. Lemov's final charge, that "many people continue to suffer from the use of these techniques" as deployed by consumer surveys and political polls, needs substantiation, but her historical argument is both eye-opening and persuasive. (Dec.)
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9780809098118: World as Laboratory: Experiments with Mice, Mazes, and Men

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ISBN 10:  0809098113 ISBN 13:  9780809098118
Publisher: Hill and Wang, 2006
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