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The following program is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant he made from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Can human behavior be manipulated. A program from the series human behavior social and medical research produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service with special assistance from the Mental Health Research Institute of the University of Michigan. These programs have been developed from interviews with men and women who have the too often unglamorous job of basic research. Research in medicine the physical sciences the social sciences and the behavioral sciences. OK you know you will hear what may seem like a strange or an unfamiliar sob. These are the sounds of the participants off it is laboratory or clinic where the interviews were recorded. The people you will hear today are Dr.
James Miller Dr. Ralph and Dr. Anatol Rapaport of the Mental Health Research Institute of the University of Michigan and professors in various departments of the university. You will also hear Dr. R. Duncan Luce of the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Raymond Bauer of Harvard University. And my name is Glenn Phillips from a pamphlet issued by a committee appointed by the government. This quote appears we must assume the probability of a breakthrough in the control of the attitudes and beliefs of human beings through exceptionally effective educational techniques drugs manipulation of motives or some as yet unrecognized media. This could be a weapon of great power in communist hands unless comparable advances in the West produce effective countermeasure. This suggests a possibility of human manipulation. First Today we hear from a
roundtable discussion consisting of Dr. Ralph your rod. Dr. James Miller and Dr. Anatol Rapaport. My question what the doctors here are is there a chance however remote it may be that further advancements in the science of human behavior could lead to manipulation of the population by a few not only a chance but a certainty not only in the future but in the present not only with science but without science. Human beings are always manipulating others. People in power positions always manipulate more people. The only question is whether the manipulation can be done so much more efficiently is to be much more drastic and whether one can have any color. Mechanisms of control and guidance to ensure that by and large the manipulation is more for good than from harm. I don't this doesn't shouldn't sound sinister to hope when we raise
children in school. We are manipulating her thoughts we are indoctrinating and we are and culture writing them with our particular culture our set of values in our body of information and it's pretty hard after one has gone through this early childhood experience to shift dramatically tends to remain in these in our churches in our politics and in everything we do there is. Influence of the many by the few. Now what I think you are getting at is the kind of thing under the scary headlines of Hidden Persuaders brainwashing you all less and these things are also done. These things will be done more and more effectively. And I don't think there is any question whatever that. As the advance of knowledge indicates more clearly the architecture of the universe the way things
interact and we understand these processes. It also becomes possible to interfere with them. And when man knows how to manipulate these things he is going to do it. Now what I would violently disagree with is the notion that this implies to me that he sense that manipulation is bound to do harm. I think that we are continually learning how to manipulate more effectively. In fact we just got into a discussion of educational techniques. She's a matter of applying behavioral science on a wide scale effectively to help children to learn more effectively. Sure nobody would quarrel with that at all if there is any parlor it would be what they are taught. What kinds of things. They are brought to work. There is always a danger as I see it not stop a moment see if my colleagues disagree that as you get more and more power it is easier for this power to get
concentrated in few hands. This is true in the material sense when you have. Tanks and airplanes and that on bombs it's pretty hard for a country to revolt against a master when a Master has and they don't. It would have been perfectly possible for some kind of gangster government such as that of Germany had it overcome other countries to be essentially impregnable for. Who knows how many centuries. And if we achieve this I certainly hope we will. Essentially one world and one government. There is always potentially the danger of a small number of people getting control. But this is more likely to happen in the material the physical basis than in terms of controlling the mind and I'm not worrying about things like truth pills or sedatives or implanted electrodes or soma in the
Huxley and sensor or any thing of the day. These more dramatic maneuvers although they are also conceived. However I also point out that there are many countries such as the United States and England some of the other European countries in which military coups have not been the rule and taking over government share. There. It is possible to have built into the preditions and the institutions of a. Devices which strongly protect against misuse of this kind of power actually made would come back to this. I'm just promoting the notion about how to apply behavioral science and applying the truth detector technique in order to very much minimize the chance of an unwanted war. Assuming nobody wants a war on you longer by you having leaders of state not going
to need to prove when they make public statements that really mean. I think this will great little international attention. You don't live in any of the other offer your feelings I mean if u lation. It seems to me that there's a subtle ethical problem underlying all these discussions and problem on which there is not agreement one group of people believe perhaps with the progressive educators of our time and of the 1920s that any influence brought to bear on a person may. Cause him to lose his freedom of self determination and if he has a child or in the formative stages of life more or less permanently in an undesirable fashion therefore pressure should not be brought upon either children or adults by other individuals. There's another group that feels that this is an underestimation of the strength of
character of the ordinary child or human being that people are able to distinguish between pressures and conscious or unconscious. The Hidden Persuaders which are against their interests and those which are. In their interests as they conceive their own interests in other words that there are within the average human being a child or a dog. Adequate mechanisms for defending themselves against these pressures and that therefore it is quite appropriate for. Other human beings to use influence as whatever influences they can legally and properly bring to bear in the open marketplace of ideas or conceivably even in the open marketplace of drugs to alter behavior. Now this is a question I think which is unresolved at the level of ethics of philosophy. And when as since individuals both scientists and laymen do divide very strongly on this liberal and
progressive attitude if you want to call it that versus another attitude which permits certain forms of compulsion without looking on them as being inappropriate we will probably have a long discussion over many years on this issue before its final result. I would like to raise the question whether indeed the power of the people who are convention you considered to be in the position of power is really as clear cut and absolute as it sometimes seems. It is certainly possible to argue that even the most powerful dictator simply cannot do certain things. He is a dictator only to the extent that he has. Some commitment on the part of the population to go in a certain general direction. And as long as he goes in that direction then of course there is a great deal that he can indicate as to how this direction is to be taken. But I strongly suspect that this power is has certain natural limitations which are not even the recognized that is what seems to be a
power wielded by authorities is really a reflection of secular growth trends that take place in a given culture in a given historical period so that these trends in turn are initiated and Rian of course there is action and harsher absolute and I guess now I mean Germany can go one way or another it's going both of course or Hitler must have had something to do I mean if I merely emphasizing that it works both ways and so does he. There's the scientific investigation of human behavior it also has potential in both directions. It does give people in power the potential for manipulating large masses of population by understanding the prime movers of human behavior. It also gives the people a means of resisting this kind of manipulation. Note for example how literacy how it works in both directions at the time it was thought and this thought was entirely justified that the spread of literacy worked for the first time in history introduced the notion of intellectual freedom. And so we did.
But then this very literacy then permitted those who wield the powers of mass media to impose their will seemingly on populations through the control of these mass media. So it is with the with the scientific investigation of human behavior. It may be both ways. It is it may in the certain sense give the power wielders ability to manipulate populations but it may also give populations the ability to resist such manipulation. It is not the same as with the physical means of coercion because these can certainly be concentrated. The tanks can certainly be controlled by a few people and you simply can't go out in the market and buy yourself a tank. But as far as ideas are concerned these are very much more difficult to have a monopoly on. Dr. Rappaport Dr. Miller and Dr. Gerard of the University of Michigan were recorded during a roundtable discussion regarding the possibility of human manipulation. For further discussion we turn to Dr. R. Duncan Luce of the University of Pennsylvania. Again from our original
interview my first question was perhaps you do the same thing you try to always relate. Most other things to your own profession. I foresee. The possibility that here is this vast and tremendously powerful. Thing known as the communication media particularly radio and television. To get right to the heart of an individuals so to speak to harden the individual mind. In the hand of. A charlatan Hitler and Mussolini. This could be controlled in such a nature that they could indeed control the behavior. The decision of human beings could at least manipulate manipulate seriously. It should be no question it's been done in the past continues on various parts of the world to some extent all for advertising. That is just how much controller it
is. Why would let us say one medium such as radio is I think very difficult to measure. But it is a problem. The question and what the scientists to say about it is very limited. It is an ethical problem. On the other hand I'm enough of the Senate to feel that if it indeed it is left entirely at the ethical level there's relatively little little hope that that it's going to be under ice control. I think that various bits of history political history suggest that you get the desirable result when the situation is using here. We've constructed so that the people through their own self-interests
governments through your own self-interest make certain decisions and that you are left entirely people or governments to make decisions on ethical grounds which may very often go in opposition to their personal desires. Then I would hope that there are cities who did that. I think of a recent book that was nicer. Oscar Morgan Stanleys has written on the question of national defense and title in which he attempts to use some of the kind of thinking that has taken place in the study of decision processes to analyze what our international relations problem is a particular problem. Control of certain nucular
weapons. He more than than many people who write on political science has completely eliminated from his his considerations the ethical issues. Well I should restate that he has not attempted to rely on people. Goodness in getting in making the right decisions he has made the assumption and I think this is a reasonably well justified assumption that people will tend to do what seems best from their point of view in the light of the information they have. And that while from certain ethical points of view these decisions may seem to be on at all. It is very unwise to assume that this is going to motivate people to make the right decisions just pointing out that it's an ethical will
have relatively little effect and that one had better arrange the situation in a factual situation so that in this case your enemy is forced to make decisions that produce the results you want. He's first to make them from his own self-interest not from consideration what is or isn't after everybody on all strata of life until the day. Is it always right to democratically or not always always right or just. For everybody's best advantage is that people be left free to make their own decision. I've created a feel on an almost impossible question to answer. People are obviously not in general less free to make their own decisions in any complete sense than if you talk about decisions. There is some measure of freedom plied there is a choice. Pretty clearly
we don't have almost never we have complete freedom of choice other people will be involved and will attempt in various ways to limit our freedom in an attempt to get goals that they're interested in their circle of democracy operates on this principle. One is it's not free to vote for anyone who wants to there's always an initial narrowing down of possible candidates whose general get down to two candidates. So in some sense we don't have very much freedom at all to choose between two of them. Frequently we complain about the choices all too often between two not very good candidate. So we didn't even end in a democracy one doesn't have anything like complete freedom all all sorts of constraints on some cases not very severe stories of literature is concerned we have a good deal of freedom as long as is the obscenity laws are satisfied.
Certain political constraints are badly violated but often wondered about the rationalization of the human being. Now he has two or three or four decisions he can possibly make. He may know what the decision that he should make would be but he's going to rationalize that and why he should make one of the other three and he always ends up not all ACE but in many cases ends up making the one that is most beneficial to him for the moment not for any long range goal. I think we're all all psychologists are pretty aware of people's ability to rationalize. And it it does pose a terrible problem. Even in very simple experimental situations one usually gets something in some sense objective observations on the subject
but one isn't tempted very often to talk to the subject afterward. Ask him what he understood of the situation and what he was doing and so forth and subjects are always quite ready to comment on what they were doing and explain how they had approached the situation. I would find it very difficult to know just what sense to make of these remarks to give you because in part. Their lack of understanding of this is what they've been doing it is is fascinating they say frequently there are verbal reports don't mesh Anatol well with the observations and secondly various things we observe. Some of it rather casual observations are not so casual suggests that the subjects certainly are able to rationalize almost anything they do make it sound really
quite plausible. And it's not at all evident that these rationalizations have very much to do with the behavior of the human being has this disparately has this strong desire to appear rational in the eyes of other human beings and will very rarely admit that he was doing something without any real analysis of what the situation was he always insisted that he has made some very clever analysis of what the situation is even though the objective data suggests that this may not be the case. I'm not saying that it isn't that it doesn't sometimes it does but he never wants to be caught in the position of not understanding it. And so he will he will always have some some neat verbal explanation
and one doesn't know what to make of this sign of an indication of some neurotic psychotic tendencies or is it purely and simply human nature that everybody indulges. Well I'm not a clinician so I I really couldn't speak to any authority on this but I'm inclined to think we're all like this and I. It's it's really fairly rare for him indeed to that his ignorance of what he's been doing that it's just what we seem to find it intolerable to to admit to him and another person that we don't understand something you don't know quite know what we do why this is whether it's cultural I know people get enough information off of you to a certain subject some of the time that some people don't get enough information. There's an awful lot of information available about when they are sober. I don't see how you can answer yes or
no. Depends on what we're talking about. Most decision makers most of the time feel that they don't have enough information. One of the sort one of the problems in any bureaucracy is getting the information that exists in the in the organization to the right people at the right time so that you can see from the decision maker when it worked and sometimes the problem is to go out and get more information. He had all sorts of information intelligence gathering services that are designed just for this purpose. Of course there's the issue of the valuation of it but it seems to be particularly in high level decision making. There's a tremendous flow written material. Evaluating the quality of this significance of extraordinarily difficult I probably know decision maker he's ever
satisfied that he has enough information. But this is not unlike the way the military commanders satisfied that he has enough equipment and supplies. He was once more. And obviously there has to be there are other considerations that will limit the amount of information a person is allowed. Permission is expensive. The decisions you're going to have to be made with uncertain and incomplete information. Sometimes the wrong decision will be made. There's a risk involved here but it's a question of how much you're willing to pay to reduce the risk. Sometimes you get the point. Two issues in turn the more and more information you get to the decision itself becomes more difficult. It is certainly true that attempting to piece together to assimilate integrate large quantities of information is very difficult. It is much easier to have
only one relevant piece of information to a decision than to have a hundred relevant and possibly conflicting pieces of information. The desire for added information is always I think the hope that you will get something that is very sharp and clear and make the decision essentially autumn that the idea of having enough information is using it in a way that you would be able to replace a human decision maker by a machine that can process this in from. Sure you don't use a machine when information is uncertain it's limited their use. You feel that a human being with his experience with his ability to evaluate information may be able to make a better decision than the machine. But but once you get highly precise information and particularly large large quantities of it are involved then your tendency is to say one way or another go to machine decision making the human
decision maker has faults and virtues says his virtues are a realty to take somewhat vegan incomplete information and still arrive at a decision is difficult to get. Designed machines can do this effectively. Professor Raymond Bauer addressed himself to the question Are people really capable of free thought. His comment was there are conditions under which people are free to accept incoming information and to accommodate their attitudes to them and the situation. And there are cases in which there are not. It is my very deep felt belief. In the whole study of attitude change that we've taken to change too much for granted. If you read the research literature the assumption is that if you expose the individual to proper information under proper circumstances that it is a natural.
Outcome of the situation. That he will accept the information that you give him and he will change his attitude in the direction you suggest. I say I think this is implicit in the research which has been done. The ironic thing is that the weight of the research literature indicates that the effect of attitude change is. Really a rather unusual state of affairs and if you try and look at the situation of. A human being. Faced with the complexity of the world with which he deals you can see why change takes place as rarely as it does. Attitudes are in a way a device for simplifying the world. And nobody would be able to operate in a world with its full complexity without some reduction of information. So. It is just as natural for a person to resist new information as it is
for him to accept that there is as much functional reason. For him to be disturbed by this new information as to welcome and we wish to thank Professor Raymond Bauer of Harvard University Dr. James G Miller Dr. Ralph Girard and Dr. Anatol Rapaport of the University of Michigan and Dr. R. Duncan Luce of the University of Pennsylvania for their participation on this program concerning manipulation as Doctor said in his first statement. Human behavior has been is being and will be manipulated. But as all have agreed science gives to the individual the knowledge to resist on warranted attempts to manipulate them. Next week you will hear Dr. Russell a cough. Dr. and Mrs. Bernard diamond Dr. Harry Calvin Jr. Dr. Ralph W. Tyler Dr. Raymond Butler once again Dr. Max F. Milliken and Dr. Alex babblings
Behavioral science research
Ethics of human manipulation
Producing Organization
University of Michigan
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program explores the ethics of human manipulation. Guests are: Ralph W. Tyler, Ph.D.; Philip Q. Roche, M.D.; Jack W. Dunlap, Ph.D; R. Duncan Luce, Ph.D.; and Raymond A Bauer, Ph.D.
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A documentary series on behavioral science and its role in understanding human health.
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Host: Cowlin, Bert
Interviewee: Tyler, Ralph W. (Ralph Winfred), 1902-1994
Interviewee: Roche, Philip Q.
Interviewee: Luce, R. Duncan (Robert Duncan)
Interviewee: Bauer, Raymond Augustine, 1916-1977
Interviewee: Dunlap, Jack
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-36-23 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:48
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Chicago: “Behavioral science research; Ethics of human manipulation,” 1961-11-12, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 2, 2021,
MLA: “Behavioral science research; Ethics of human manipulation.” 1961-11-12. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 2, 2021. <>.
APA: Behavioral science research; Ethics of human manipulation. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from