PERSONAL: Born in Budapest, Hungary. Education: Yeshiva University, B.A., Ph.D., 1969.
ADDRESSES: Home—Baltimore, MD. Offıce— University of Maryland, Mathematics/Psychology 334, 3416 Olympia Ave., Baltimore, MD 21215. E-mail— [email protected]
CAREER: Social psychologist. University of Maryland Baltimore County, professor of social psychology. G. Stanley Hall lecturer, American Psychological Association, 2001.
AWARDS, HONORS: J. R. Kantor fellowship, Archives of the History of American Psychology, 1998-99.
Contemporary Social Psychology: Representative Readings, F. E. Peacock (Itasca, IL), 1976.
(Editor) Personality Variables in Social Behavior, L. Erlbaum (Hillsdale, NJ), 1977.
(Editor) Obedience to Authority: Current Perspectives on the Milgram Paradigm, L. Erlbaum (Mahwah, NJ), 2000.
Also contributor of chapters to numerous books on social psychology; contributor of articles to journals, including Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychology Today, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Journal of Social Psychology, Personality & Individual Differences, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and Teaching of Psychology.
SIDELIGHTS: Thomas Blass is a professor of social psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and is considered one of the foremost experts on the life and work of pioneering psychologist Stanley Milgram. Best known for his obedience studies undertaken during the early 1960s, Milgram also pioneered research in the social networks known as the "six degrees of separation," as well as the area of urban psychology.
Born in Budapest, Hungary, Blass grew up during World War II and witnessed the costs of blind obedience to authority. While he was a Holocaust survivor, over half a million other Hungarian Jews were not so lucky. Surviving the war, he went first to Austria, then to Canada, and from there to study in the United States, where he has since remained. He earned a doctorate in social psychology in 1969, and thereafter developed an interest in the work of Milgram. This interest led him to edit selected papers on Milgram and then to write a biography of the psychologist in The Man Who Shocked the World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram.
Published in 2004, The Man Who Shocked the World details Milgram's career, including his controversial 1961 experiment in which participants believed they were delivering electric shocks to other "participants" to enhance learning. In reality, the experiment was set up in order to see how far people would go in following orders, even if such orders cause real and visible pain to others. In the experiment, an authority figure would tell these "teachers" to increase the level of shock administered to "students," who visibly exhibited pain. Though no electric shock was being administered, the terrifying result of the experiments was the level to which people would obey authority, continuing to "shock" others despite their own conflicted feelings about the action required of them.
The high point of Milgram's career, this experiment likely cost the young psychologist his tenure at Harvard University, and though he went on to create other compelling studies, his obedience experiment remains the work for which he is best known. Milgram died at age fifty-one.
Robert Levine, writing in American Scientist, felt that Blass captures the complexities of Milgram's life and achievements in a "penetrating, thought-provoking biography." Danielle Max noted in the Jerusalem Post that The Man Who Shocked the World provides a "revealing glimpse into both the world of academia and the mind of a gifted scientist." Although a reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that the book provides an "unsatisfyingly superficial portrait" of Milgram, the critic added, however, that Blass does a "workmanlike job of describing Milgram's research and its significance." Choice reviewer W. A. Ashton noted that Blass has "created an extremely readable book by combining an interesting biography with a thorough, but not technical, review of Milgram's work in social psychology." Cary Cooper concluded in the Times Higher Education Supplement that The Man Who Shocked the World "is well-written, with mountains of information, insights, discoveries, and reflections, and is a must-read for any behavioural scientist."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Scientist, July-August, 2004, Robert Levine, review of The Man Who Shocked the World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram, p. 368.
Chicago Sun Times, August 1, 2004, Sandra G. Boodman, review of The Man Who Shocked the World, p. 14.
Choice, November, 2004, W. A. Ashton, review of The Man Who Shocked the World, p. 567.
Jerusalem Post, October 11, 2004, Danielle Max, review of The Man Who Shocked the World.
Journal of Social Psychology, June, 1996, Thomas Blass, "The Milgram Obedience Experiment," p. 407.
Library Journal, E. James Lieberman, review of The Man Who Shocked the World, p. 129.
Personnel Psychology, winter, 2004, Wayne Harrison, review of The Man Who Shocked the World, pp. 1081-1084.
Psychology Today, March-April, 2004, Erik Strand, review of The Man Who Shocked the World, p. 83.
Publishers Weekly, March 8, 2004, review of The Man Who Shocked the World, p. 65.
Spectator, June 12, 2004, Jonathan Sumption, review of The Man Who Shocked the World, p. 49.
Times Higher Education Supplement, October 1, 2004, Cary Cooper, review of The Man Who Shocked the World, p. 26.
Times Literary Supplement, December 10, 2004, John Darley, review of The Man Who Shocked the World.
Washington Post Book World, July 25, 2004, Sandra G. Boodman, review of The Man Who Shocked the World, p. T8.
Basic Books Web site,http://www.perseusbooksgroup.com/ (November 3, 2004), "Thomas Blass."
Offıcial Stanley Milgram Web site,http://www.stanleymilgram.com (November 3, 2004).
UMBC Psychology Department Web site,http://www.umbc.edu/ (November 3, 2004), "Thomas Blass, Ph.D."