Posted by Jay Livingston
Social psychology, in graduate school, turned out to be much different from what my undergrad teachers had led me to believe. I was expecting Goffman, Erik Erikson, the Meads (George and Margaret). Instead, grad school took me to the world of the social psych experiment.
At the time, I thought it was all trivial and manipulative. I said as much at the time. The intellectual forebears of experimental social psychology, it seemed, were “Beat the Clock” and “Candid Camera.” (Those too young to remember the former can find clips on YouTube. Here are some screen grabs.)
Only after Stanley died did I become aware of our mutual admiration for Allen Funt, creator of Candid Camera. I consider Funt to be one of the most creative, intuitive social psychologists on the planet. For 50 years he has been contriving experimental scenarios in which ordinary people face a challenge to their usual perceptions or functioning. He manipulates situations to reveal truths about compliance,conformity, the power of signs and symbols, and various forms of mindless obedience.**Bud Collyer, eat your heart out.
*From Obedience to Authority: Current Perspectives on the Milgram Paradigm, Thomas Blass, ed., 2009.
** For another view on “mindless obedience” in experiments, see this earlier post.