[Marxism] Why Ordinary People Torture…(Science)

Rod Holt rholt at planeteria.net
Tue Dec 7 23:30:27 MST 2004

I submit the following from *Science* magazine with only one comment. 
When the Abu Ghriab scandal hit the news, I expected an outpouring of 
articles such as this, but there was really very little, considering how 
easily the writings of social psychologists can be twisted around. See 
the NYTimes editorial, June 30, 2004; The famous, well documented 
*Lancet* article of August 21, 2004 (available in full through 
marxmail); The NY Times article in mid-May on various academic studies 
titled *Abu Ghriab at Stanford.* I suspect the *Stanford* article is 
based on the Milgram studies described in S. Milgram, Obedience to 
Authority (Harper & Row, New York, 1974).
The full *Science* article, available free 
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5701/1482, has 48 
footnotes and references, some of which might be useful.
Why Ordinary People Torture Enemy Prisoners
Susan T. Fiske, Lasana T. Harris, Amy J. C. Cuddy
Accounts of prisoner abuse and other institutional violence often blame 
a few isolated individuals, but social psychology emphasizes social 
contexts, which can make almost anyone oppress, conform, and obey in 
abetting destructive social behavior. In this Policy Forum, 
meta-analyses demonstrate the quantitative reliability and import of 
social contexts. Moreover, recent data show that initial reactions to 
low-status, oppositional outgroups may involve disgust and contempt, 
consistent with abuse. Together, social pressures and social prejudices 
help explain the recent abuse scandals.
The authors are respectively Professor of Psychology and two doctoral 
students, Psychology and Neuroscience; Princeton University, Princeton 
NJ 08544-1010, USA.
E-mail: sfiske at princeton.edu; ltharris at princeton.edu; acuddy at princeton.edu

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