The Social Psychology of Genocide: What Turns Good Men and Women Into Murderers
Reasons To Examine This Topic • All of us will be touched by genocide • Psychologists have skills and have developed a knowledge base not available to politicians, journalists, historians, etc • Chance to talk about where we are going as well as where we have been
Salem Witch Trials • In 1692, 20 were executed in Massachusetts
Turkish-Armenian Genocide • 1.5 million of 2.5 million Armenians in Turkey were exterminated between 1915 and 1923. • "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
Cambodia: Killing Fields • Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge kill 1.7 million (21% of population)
Rwanda • In 1994, within 100 days 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus are exterminated
Holocaust • Six million Jews (67% of Europe’s population) were exterminated • Others: Roma, mentally retarded, mentally disturbed, 3 million Soviet POWs, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Communists, Socialists
William Shirer • Pioneering foreign correspondent • Wrote Berlin Diary • Wrote Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
William Shirer’s Analysis • Why did so few Germans resist working in the concentration camps? • A summation of western history since the Magna Carta • Implies that a German-style concentration would not flourish in the US, Britain, France, Italy, etc
Adolph Eichmann • Supervised trains during the ‘Final Solution’ • Imprisoned in American POW camp • What kind of person would contribute to the deaths of millions? • Captured by Israelis in 1961, tried and executed.
Hannah Arendt and Adolph Eichmann • Arendt was a prominent social philosopher employed by the New York Times to cover the Eichmann trial • Summarized her conclusion in Eichmann in Jerusalem: On the Banality of Evil
Adolph Eichmann and Arendt’s Hypothesis • Slightly above average intelligence, no sign of pathology on psychological tests, good organizer • Other than during the ‘Final Solution’ there is no evidence of criminal activity • Viewed himself as a good soldier who believed that not one Jew died because he was born • Arendt’s Hypothesis: In obedience to authority the average person will commit extreme anti-social actions such as mass murder.
Questions Involving Genocide • Will genocide be a consistent state of affairs during the next several decades? • Under what conditions should the US intervene to prevent genocide? • To what extent should color, culture, religion and economics matter? • What social conditions lead otherwise good women and men to kill their neighbors?
William Calley • Led massacre of 300 unarmed women, children, and elderly • Sentenced to life at hard labor • Served 5 months and was pardoned by Nixon • Married and living a ‘normal’ life outside of Ft Benning, GA
Hugh Thompson • put his guns on Americans, said he would shoot them if they shot another Vietnamese, had his people wade in the ditch in gore to their knees, to their hips, took out children, took them to the hospital... • Awarded Soldier’s Medal in 1996 • Living a ‘normal’ life
Theories of Obedience to Unjust Authority • Shirer: Germany lacked a democratic history • Arendt: Flaw in human character • Milgram: A social psychologist looks at obedience
Milgram’s Baseline Procedure • 63% shock to the limit (STL)
Ethical Criticisms of Milgram’s Work • No true informed consent • Participants experienced significant stress • Long-term negative effects on self-worth
Milgram’s Response To Ethical Criticism • Extensive debriefing • After session discovered learner was not harmed • Participants were free to leave • No evidence of permanent psychological harm
Follow-up of Milgram’s Participants • 80% reported that they were “Very Glad” or “Glad” they participated. • 15% had “No Strong Feelings” • Just over 1% were “Sorry” or “Very Sorry” • 80%said more research of this kind should be done. • 74% said they learned something of lasting value.
How To Get Good Men and Women To Murder Their Neighbors • Get them to say: • I hate or • I would never