History Journalism

The Psychology of Obedience to Authority: Lessons Learned from the Holocaust

Nazi Germany was a true source of critical inquiry for academics worldwide. The work of Adorno et al. about authoritarianism through psychoanalytic theory,  and the work of Stanley Milgram about obedience influenced by situational factors are at the core of modern forensic psychology practice. Authoritarianism can be described as an attitude spectrum encompassing all types of prejudices, that is, xenophobia; as well as extreme ideologies in regards to discipline and traditions, that is, conventionalism (McAvoy, 2012). This essay seeks to explore the studies conducted by the mentioned above pioneers of forensic psychology during the post-war period in relation to the holocaust events. 

Xenophobic conventionalism was the main motivation driving the mass assassination of innocent people during WWII. This inspired Sanford to invite Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik and Levinson to join his psychological investigation project in the US, and they became a team often cited as “Adorno et al.” due to Harvard alphabetical referencing rules. They were interested in uncovering the unconscious psychopathology of war criminals, and this led them to create the F-scale (McAvoy, 2012). Based on psychoanalytic theory, they administered questionnaires and interviews to the masses in order to validate their hypotheses which drew a  correlation between extreme childhood trauma and overboard adult attitudes to authority (McAvoy, 2012). The trials being held at Nuremberg, Germany, were a powerful motivator behind social psychology research after the war (Bayard, 2012). Stanley Milgram studied Adorno et al.’s work meticulously and was interested in understanding authoritarian obedience and how it related to irresponsible cruelty. After watching the globally broadcasted trial of Adolf Eichmann in television during 1961, Milgram realised that ordinary people were capable of committing great acts of violence when following orders (Banyard, 2012).  Through systematic procedures and pressure from authoritarian figures, a death toll that today approximates seventeen million minority individuals was achieved. Homosexuals, dissenters, jews, activists, disabled people, and foreigners; all brutally discriminated against and murdered (Holocaust Encyclopedia, 2019). Milgram designed a social experiment in order to better understand the link between conscience, executive obedience, and authority in organised war crimes.  

Adorno et al. (1950, p. V) saw prejudice as a mental health virus: “Even a social disease has its periods of quiescence during which the social scientists […] can study it […] to prevent or reduce the virulence of the next outbreak”. They devised the F-scale with its subscales of ethnocentrism, politico-conservatism, and antisemitism (McAvoy, 2012). They used both, quantitative and qualitative methods: “Individuals were studied by means of interviews and special clinical techniques for revealing underlying wishes, fears, and defenses; groups were studied by means of questionnaires” (Adorno et al., 1950, p. 12). Tests had statements with predetermined scores that individuals could agree or disagree with. The interviews allowed the researchers to double-check whether a participant’s general demeanor matched the anti-democratic scores. Nevertheless, the overall study was not enough to determine the direction of the effect of authoritarianism, nor could this predict whether someone with the potential for fascism would actually act on their attitudes and join a fascist movement (McAvoy, 2012). “The modification of the potentially fascist structure cannot be achieved by psychological means alone. The task is comparable to that of eliminating neurosis, or delinquency, or nationalism from the world” (Adorno et al., 1950, p. 975). 

Social psychologist Stanley Milgram was impacted by such results. He modified the F-scale that Adorno et al. had created (Milgram, n.d.).  After witnessing the trial of ordinary-looking Adolf Eichmann, Milgram (1962) wanted to understand the difference between free and forced obedience in everyday life. He (Milgram, 1965, p. 57) reported: “In its more general form the problem may be defined thus: If X tells Y to hurt Z, under what conditions will Y carry out the command of X and under what conditions will he refuse [?]”. Questions like these had led him to design the base condition to test 40 normal-looking young males in 1962. They each would arrive at Yale University and would be greeted by an experimenter wearing a white coat. An actor played the role of fellow participant.  Everything was standardised, from the laboratory, to the confederates, and the apparatus (Banyard, 2012). Participants were asked to administer potentially lethal electric shocks to the actor playing learner. The electric shock machine looked realistic, but was only a prop. Milgram found that indeed normal people had the potential to harm with some pressure from an authority figure. Milgram (1963, p. 371) called this phenomena “destructive obedience in the laboratory”. He then administered the questionnaires to ratify the participants’ valence. 

The studies conducted by Adorno et al. (authoritarianism) and Stanley Milgram (obedience) gave forensic psychologists much detail in terms of personality, situational factors/influences, authority, and compliance in the system  (Byford, 2017). Monetary incentives were offered to participants in both studies: “This was the only way to insure that the staff of the Study would not be conscience-stricken” (Adorno et al., 1950, p. 26). WWII was a common theme in both approaches: “Gas chambers were built, death camps were guarded, daily quotas of corpses were produced with the same efficiency as the manufacture of appliances […] Obedience is the psychological mechanism that links individual action to political purpose” (Milgram, 1963, p. 371). Both experiments were carried out in the US, made use of pen and paper questionnaires, and included qualitative assessments; although the conditions, apparatuses, and  procedures were completely different. The results were controversial enough to elicit a lot of attention from the general public in both cases. Adorno et al.’s work was criticised for being based on psychoanalytic theory, and for the risk of acquiescence response bias (McAvoy, 2012). Milgram’s work got him in serious ethical trouble due to what he was able to uncover about his subjects; and how this impacted their real life, identities, and reputations (Banyard, 2012). Both teams reported their findings through writing, although Milgram also created a documentary about his experiment (Obedience, 1962). 

As it can be observed, there are many substantial similarities between Adorno et al.’s and Milgram’s experiments, even if these are different when it comes to structure. One preceded the next, and one added to the other. Authority and its relation to obedience can be better appreciated by drawing a correlation between the two approaches studied above. The results shed light on personality, and how adult behaviour can be a result of individual differences, as well as of contextual circumstances. Adorno et. al studied the master, and Milgram studied the slave. The general conclusion? Both sides are equally dangerous. 


Adorno, T.W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D.J. and Sanford, R.N. (1950) The Authoritarian Personality, New York, Harper.

Banyard, P. (2012)  ‘Just following orders?’, in Brace, N. and Byford, J. (eds) Investigating Psychology, Oxford, Oxford University Press/Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 61-95.

Byford, J. (2017) ‘The importance of replication’, in McAvoy, J. and Brace, N. (eds) Investigating Methods, Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 47-82.

Holocaust Encyclopedia (2019) Documenting Number of Victims of the Holocaust and Nazi Persecution [Online]. Available at: (Accessed 2 April 2019)

McAvoy, J. (2012) ‘Exposing the Authoritarian Personality”, in Brace N. and Byford, J. (eds) Investigating Psychology, Oxford, Oxford University Press/Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 14-56 

Milgram, S. (n.d.). Modified “F” Scale, Opinion Questionnaire [Online]. Available at:|bibliographic_details|2089868 (Accessed 2 April 2019)

Milgram, S. (1962). ‘Free Obedience vs. Forced Obedience’ in Stanley Milgram Personal Papers [Online]. Available at: (Accessed 2 April 2019)

Milgram, S. (1963). ‘Behavioral Study of Obedience’, in Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, pp. 371-372 [Online]. Available at: (Accessed 2 April, 2019)

Milgram, S. (1965). ‘Some Conditions of Obedience and Disobedience to Authority’, in Human Relations, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 57-76 [Online]. Available at:|bibliographic_details|2082063 (Accessed 2 April, 2019)

Obedience (1962) Directed by Stanley Milgram [Documentary]. New Haven, Yale University. Available at: (Accessed 2 April 2019)

Journalism Science

The Developmental Trajectory: Theory of Mind (ToM)

The developmental trajectory is the progressive continuum through which a human ability develops in life (Hewson, 2015). For instance, research suggests that theory of mind (ToM)–  the ability to attribute mental states (e.g. false beliefs) that differ from one’s own to other people begins to develop around age 4- and becomes more complex/sophisticated with maturity (e.g. second order beliefs; Hewson, 201).  “It’s not until age 7 that we get what looks more like an adult [moral] response” (The Open University, 2019a). Furthermore, it is believed that when mentally disordered offenders (e.g. schizophrenes; Davey)- and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD; Lyndsay et al., 2018)- fail to understand other people’s mental states, they have a ToM deficit resulting either from childhood trauma which thwarted the normal developmental trajectory of executive functioning skills (Davey, 2018; Hewson, 2015); from biological/neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD; Mugno et al., 2018; Lyndsay et al., 2018), and/or from personality disorders such as psychopathy (The Open University, 2019b); therefore these people need special support tailored to their needs in adulthood to help them be independent, and to find happiness. Sometimes these needs are of criminogenic nature (Barker et al., 2017; Harkins et al., 2018), and this is why those lacking ToM are given attention and protection to prevent the potential escalation of maladaptive behaviours (Ward and Willis, 2018; Schug et al., 2018); as well as the risky methods for coping with stress (Taylor and Reeves, 2017). 


Barker, M.J. and Cooper, T. (2017) ‘Mindfulness’, in Vossler, A., Havard, C., Pike, G., Barker, M.J. and Raabe, B. (eds), Mad or Bad? A Critical Approach to Counselling and Forensic Psychology, London, SAGE Publications, pp. 238-250. 

Davey, G. (2018) Psychopathology, West Sussex, British Psychological Society and John Wiley & Sons, pp. 236-558. 

Harkins, L., Ware, J. and Mann, R. (2018) ‘Treating Dangerous Offenders’, in  Davies, G.M. and Beech, A.R. (eds), Forensic Psychology: Crime, Justice, Law, Interventions, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, pp. 547-570. 

Hewson, C. (2015) ‘Mindreading’, in Turner, J., Hewson, C., Mahendran, K. and Stevens, P.  (eds), Living Psychology: From the Everyday to the Extraordinary, Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 15-56.

Lindsay, W.R., Taylor, J.L. and Michie, A.M. (2018) ‘Interventions for Offenders with Intellectual Disabilities’, in Davies, G.M. and Beech, A.R. (eds), Forensic Psychology: Crime, Justice, Law, Interventions, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, pp. 603-628. 

Mugno, A.P., Malloy, L.C. and La Rooy, D.J. (2018) ‘Interviewing Witnesses’, in Davies, G.M. and Beech, A.R. (eds), Forensic Psychology: Crime, Justice, Law, Interventions, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, pp. 203-223. 

Schug, R.A., Gao, Y., Glenn, A.L., Peskin, M., Yang, Y. and Raine, A. (2015) ‘The Developmental Evidence Base: Neurobiological Research and Forensic Applications’, in Crighton, D.A. and Towl, G.J. (eds), Forensic Psychology, 2nd edn, West Sussex, British Psychological Society and John Wiley and Sons Ltd, pp. 115-128. 

Taylor, P. and Reeves, A. (2017) ‘Self-harm and Suicide’, in Vossler, A., Havard, C., Pike, G., Barker, M.J. and Raabe, B. (eds), Mad or Bad? A Critical Approach to Counselling and Forensic Psychology, London, SAGE Publications, pp. 268-281. 

The Open University (2019a) ‘TED Talk: Rebecca Saxe’ [Video], DD210 Living Psychology: From the Everyday to the Extraordinary.  Available at  (Accessed 21 September 2019).

The Open University (2019b) ‘8 Theories of mindreading difficulties’, DD210-19J Week 4: Mindreading Difficulties – Examples from clinical psychology [Online]. Available at  (Accessed 22 October 2019).

Ward, T. and Willis, G.M. (2018) ‘The Rehabilitation of Offenders: Good Lives and Risk Reduction’, in Davies, G.M. and Beech, A.R. (eds), Forensic Psychology: Crime, Justice, Law, Interventions, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, pp. 663-682. 

Journalism Opinion

Advances in Social Justice Can Only be Achieved Through Research that Challenges the Status Quo

According to the European Institute for Gender Equality (n.d.), psychological violence includes “isolation from others, verbal aggression, threats, intimidation, control, harassment […] insults, humiliation and defamation”. This essay discusses how challenging the status quo is key to advancing global development and peace by extrapolating research conducted by Oates, Edgar and Edgar, and Custance (2012); to recent world events. “Forensic psychologists […] are well placed to challenge inappropriate policies and practices” (Towl and Crighton, 2015, p. 9). 

The idea that  psychology could be used to design better systems is not new (Edgar and Edgar, 2012). Many people choose to ignore the deep side of policy, and instead attend to more superficial aspects, why is that? This type of selective attention is considered to be a form of bias (Seguin, 2016). Research conducted by psychologists in the 1950s and 1960s as explored by Edgar and Edgar (2012), gave light to how difficult it can be for the human mind to attend to several stimuli simultaneously. This might explain why individuals choose to overlook complex signals such as “injustice”, especially since the definition of “justice” is socially constructed (Faulkner, 2015). The meaning people extract from media stories influences the importance they attribute to such events; and this is shaped by their expectations, political memory filters, and cognitive styles (Edgar and Edgar, 2012; Değirmenci and Kaya, 2018).  For instance, although media coverage of Brexit gained full attention from the UK public, it generated confusion at the status quo level; eliciting confounding variables such as division, conscious racial prejudice, and ideologically driven violence (OHCHR, 2018). It can be said that such unpredictable uncertainty hit the nervous system of the UK (Mohdin, 2019; Bailey and Budd, 2019; Ishkanian, 2019), causing interference and overwhelming the collective capacity to process the magnitude of the situation at hand. 

The two-process theories of attention describe: (1) controlled attention as being conscious; and (2) automatic processing as being subconscious (Edgar and Edgar, 2012). Allocating cognitive resources to select what to attend to functions in a similar way to economies, where governments must select and prioritise meaningful aspects that need attending to. For instance,  there are problems that do not make it to the priority list in governmental debates, and what is considered a priority is always at the discretion of the legislature (GOV.UK, n.d.a). It is often the resulting circumstances that speak about whether the allocation of resources was appropriate. Broadbent’s (1958) model as explained by Edgar and Edgar (2012) highlighted how information is absorbed and filtered through the limited capacity channel after the senses discriminate inputs based on the stimuli’s physical properties or meaning; and how the mind can become overwhelmed with too much data. This resembles the information processing system of the state apparatus.  Some stories get magnified by the media, and others become peripherally encoded (Smith et al., 2018). This has been criticised by human rights defenders (Maier, 2019) as it is clear that media content and representation, as well as spoken words have an effect on societal behaviour (Edgar and Edgar, 2012; Kennedy, 2007), and  the audience can either allocate attention to the local media,  the global media, or both (Beck, 2018).  “Words have consequences, and ill words that go unchallenged, are the first step on a continuum towards ill deeds” (Theresa May gives speech on the state of politics, 2019). 

Bandura et al. (1963) cited in Oates (2012) demonstrated through the famous Bobo doll studies how exposure to violence can lead to aggressive behaviours. Several aspects of social learning (observing and copying other people’s behaviour) were explored, among which were: (1) the replication of violent behaviour  (imitative aggression); and (2) the selective replication of specific forms of behaviour (partial imitative responses) (Oates, 2012). In light of such evidence,  more researchers have added that overexposure to media violence also elicits social disinhibition and desensatisation (Oates, 2012; Marris and Thornham, 2000); increasing tolerance towards aggressive conceptual systems, attitudes, and predispositions.  Milgram (1960; 1963; 1965) explored the psychology of destructive obedience in everyday life  and Adorno et al. (1950) explored the role of authoritarian prejudice in society. Almost 70 years later, such retrogressive manifestations are resurfacing and permeating the status quo. 

For example, The Guardian has been reporting the topic of xenophobia in the UK, which has two convergent strands of continuity. On one hand, more people are exhibiting antisemitic attitudes similar to WWII (Mason, 2019), and on the other hand more whistleblowers are handing in evidence to The Equality and Human Rights Commission about such insular attitudes (Stewart and Jacobson, 2019). Moreover, with the proliferation of social media, monitoring online activity (Oates, 2012)  and ideologies (Paul and Dredze, 2017) is easy. Allington (2018, pp. 130-135) posited how a new subculture of antisemitic nationalism is growing through Facebook groups in the UK where comments such as: “Hitler had a valid argument against some Jews” are being disseminated.  This all goes hand in hand with Bandura et al.’s theories of social learning and imitation, which posit that exposure to aggressive or emotionally intense role models does influence the extent to which maladaptive behaviour is replicated (Oates, 2012). A good question to ask is: Are there any current world leaders exhibiting prejudice, and promoting psychological violence through their verbal behaviours? The cycle of enquiry is eternal (Pike, 2017). 

Harlow’s (1960) approach to understanding mother-infant attachment was unethical. He also verbally admitted to hating animals, using them, and feeling nothing towards them as shown by Slater (2004) cited in (Custance, 2012, p. 212). Many baby monkeys were intentionally psychophysiologically tortured for two decades in the laboratory for research purposes (Custance, 2012). Nowadays, this type of profile would be classed as sadistic, psychopathic (Moul et al., 2012; Pemment, 2013) and/or machiavellian (Czibor et al, 2017). Nevertheless, he (Harlow, 1960) found that attachment in rhesus macaques was based on emotional warmth, and proposed that humans bond similarly, ratifying Bowlby’s claims which had been informing UNCRC (1959) policy. These and more ethological findings were extended to human psychology through experiments. Custance (2012), building on Ainsworth’s work illustrated the immediate and long-term distress children experience when separated from their parents. She also heavily criticised Harlow’s methods and attitudes, explaining that subjecting animals to such conditions would now be illegal. Based on the UK’s Animal Welfare Act 2006 (c.45), owners of domesticated animals have a duty of care when it comes to providing a suitable environment and diet for their pets;  ensuring wellbeing and welfare; and providing protection from pain, injury, suffering and disease, especially when it can be prevented  (GOV.UK, n.d.). 

 Harlow experimented on monkeys because psychologically harming humans was illegal in the 1960s (Custance, 2012). Furthermore, It is now recognised that human rights are crucial to the advancement of psychology, and vice versa (Söderström, 2019).  Nonetheless, migrants and asylum seekers in the UK have been facing a psychologically violent (ILPA, 2016) reality; being made susceptible to pain, injury, suffering, disease and long-term mental distress due to legislative measures such as the Immigration Acts 2014 (c.22) and 2016 (c.19). These hostile environment policies were a legal reflection of socio-psychological violence with concomitant schadenfreude, and targeted discrimination (Webber, 2019; Williams, 2019). This was initially designed with the intention of thwarting and precluding asylum seekers’ desire to remain in the jurisdiction through enforced discomfort and destitution (Global Justice Now, 2018). Although the policies have recently been adapted and improved to include free healthcare for all (GOV.UK, 2019), some services are still being (unlawfully) denied to migrants by British individuals (EHRC, 2018): From welfare, to security, and the enjoyment of human rights (Webber, 2019). Therefore, it can be argued that domesticated animals have a better quality of life than asylum seekers; resulting in an environmentally degraded, and disadvantaged subculture (Oyserman, 2017). Consequently, UN Special Rapporteur, Professor Tendayi Achiume rigorously challenged the UK for its incongruency with the Equality Act 2010 (c.15; OHCHR, 2018). 

All of the above studied phenomena can be further extrapolated and triangulated to analyse the recent media scandal from the US which has received global attention (Kabaservice, 2019)  due to border enforcement agents allegedly separating migrant children from their parents, detaining them in slavish conditions at El Paso; whilst also denying them “trauma support […] clean water […] nutritious food”; and engaging in indignities such as forcing women to drink water from toilets (House Hearing Featuring AOC on Child Separation and Detainment, 2019). A congresswoman described the situation as a “manufactured crisis”, and many consider these measures to be “unnecessary” and “callous”.  Parental deprivation for a prolonged period of time can cause great harm (Custance, 2012); and the violation of human rights (UDHR, 1948; ECHR, 1950), and of the rights of the child (UNCRC, 1989) does too. This situation, by definition, is a form of state-sponsored psychological violence. Either challenging or complying with such moral crimes is at the discretion of every person’s free will (Milgram, 1963; 1965) and serves as a reference to understand the impact that policy has on individual lives, and the importance of making informed decisions. 

To summarise, challenging the status quo is crucial to advancing global development (Williams, 2019), and to understanding how current world events impact on individual and social lives. The media and the attention given to it play a crucial role in socio-behavioural dynamics, whilst also shaping personal and collective attitudes. This is why psychology must iteratively scrutinise what is already established to comprehend the consequences that arise out of public policy.


Adorno, T.W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D.J. and Sanford, R.N. (1950) The Authoritarian Personality, New York, Harper.

Ainsworth, M. S. (1979) ‘Infant–mother attachment’, American Psychologist  34(10), pp. 932–937 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 9 May 2019).

Allington, D. (2018) ‘Hitler had a valid argument against some Jews’: Repertoires for the denial of antisemitism in Facebook discussion of a survey of attitudes to Jews and Israel’, Discourse, Context & Media. Elsevier Ltd, 24, pp. 129–136 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 6 July 2018). 

Animal Welfare Act 2006 (c.45) [Online]. Available at (Accessed 15 July 2019).  

Bailey, D. and Budd, L. (2019) ‘Brexit and beyond: a Pandora’s Box?’ Informa UK Limited. Contemporary Social Science, 14(2) pp. 157–173 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 6 July 2019). 

Beck, M. R. et al. (2018) ‘Attending Globally or Locally: Incidental Learning of Optimal Visual Attention Allocation’, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. American Psychological Association, 44(3), pp. 387–398 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 17 July 2019). 

Council of Europe, European Convention on Human Rights, as amended by Protocols Nos. 11 and 14, ECHR, (4 November 1950) [Online]. Available at  (Accessed 15 July 2019).  

Custance, D. (2012) ‘Determined to love?’, in Brace, N. and Byford, J. (eds) Investigating Psychology, Oxford, Oxford University Press/Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 193-230. 

Czibor et al. (2017) ‘Male and female face of Machiavellianism: Opportunism or anxiety?’, Personality and Individual Differences. Elsevier Ltd, 117, pp. 221–229 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 11 July 2019). 

Davis, B.A., Laurence, J.A. and Williams, D.R. (2019) ‘Racism and Health: Evidence and Needed Research’, Annual Review of Public Health. Cape town: University of Cape Town,  40(1), pp. 105–125 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 29 June 2019).

Değirmenci, N. and Kaya, B. (2018) ‘Politics, Media and Power: Relationships within the Frameworks of Political Memory’, Styles of Communication, University of Bucharest Publishing House, 10(2), pp. 9–27. Available at (Accessed 14 July 2019). 

Edgar, H. and Edgar, G. (2012) ‘Paying Attention’, in Brace, N. and Byford, J. (eds) Investigating Psychology, Oxford, Oxford University Press/Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 325-359.

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Equality and Human Rights Commission (2018) Asylum seekers in Britain unable to access healthcare [Online]. Available at (Accessed 18 July 2019). 

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Faulkner, D. (2015) ‘The Justice System in England and Wales: A Case Study’, in Towl, G.J. and Crighton, D.A., Forensic Psychology, 2nd edn,  Oxford, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., pp. 17-31 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 19 July 2019).  

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Government of the United Kingdom (2019) NHS entitlement: migrant health guide [Online]. Available at (Accessed 20 July 2019). 

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Government of the United Kingdom (n.d.a) How government works [Online]. Available at (Accessed 19 July 2019). 

Harlow, H. (1960) ‘Primary affectional patterns in primates.’, The American journal of orthopsychiatry. Washington D.C., American Psychological Association, 30, pp. 676–684 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 1 May 2019). 

Harvey, A. (2016). ‘The Immigration Act 2016’, Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) [Online]. Available at (Accessed 15 July 2019). 

House Hearing Featuring AOC on Child Separation and Detainment (2019) Youtube video, added by NowThis News [Online]. Available at (Accessed 14 July 2019).  

Immigration Act 2014 (c.22) [Online]. Available at (Accessed 15 July 2019). 

Immigration Act 2016 (c.19) [Online]. Available at (Accessed 15 July 2019). 

Ishkanian, A. (2019) ‘Social Movements, Brexit and Social Policy’, Social Policy and Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 18(1), pp. 147–159 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 2 July 2019). 

Kabaservice, G.  (2019) ‘Trump and progressive Democrats want the same thing- and Pelosi is in the way’, The Guardian, 18 July [Online] Available at  (Accessed 18 July 2019). 

Kennedy, B.M. (2007) ‘THINKING ONTOLOGIES OF THE MIND/BODY RELATIONAL’, in Bell, D. and Kennedy, B.M. (eds), The Cybercultures Reader, 2nd edn, Oxon, Routledge, pp. 777-780. 

Maier, S. R. R. (2019) ‘News coverage of human rights: Investigating determinants of media attention’, Journalism, SAGE Publications Ltd, pp. 3-17 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 17 July 2019). 

Marris, P. and Thornham, S. (2000) ‘SECTION 4 RECEPTION, (I) FROM ‘EFFECTS’ TO ‘USES’ INTRODUCTION, Media Studies: A Reader, 2ns edn, New York, New York University Press, pp. 421-424. 

Mason, R.  (2019) ‘Swastika painted on buildings of Jewish Brexit party candidate’, The Guardian, 8 May [Online] Available at   (Accessed 13 July 2019). 

Milgram, S. (1960). Sketch for a Study of Obedience’, in  Stanley Milgram Personal Papers, Yale University [Online]. Available at (Accessed 13 July 2019). 

Milgram, S. (1963). ‘Behavioral Study of Obedience’, in Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, pp. 371-372 [Online]. Available at: (Accessed 2 April, 2019)

Milgram, S. (1965). ‘Some Conditions of Obedience and Disobedience to Authority’, in Human Relations, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 57-76 [Online]. Available at:|bibliographic_details|2082063 (Accessed 2 April, 2019)

Mohdin, A. (2019). ‘Ex-M16 chief: UK going through “political nervous breakdown”’, The Guardian, 6 July [Online]. Available at (Accessed 6 July 2019) 

Moul, C., Killcross, S. and Dadds, M. R. (2012) ‘A Model of Differential Amygdala Activation in Psychopathy’, Psychological Review. AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION, 119(4), pp. 789–806 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 11 July 2019). 

Oates, J, (2012) ‘Learning from Watching’, in Brace, N. and Byford, J. (eds) Investigating Psychology, Oxford, Oxford University Press/Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 103-137. 

Oyserman, D. (2017) ‘Culture Three Ways: Culture and Subcultures Within Countries’, Annual Review of Psychology, 68(1), pp. 435–463 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 30 June 2019). 

Paul, M. J. and Dredze, M. (2017) Social monitoring for public health [Online]. Available at (Accessed 2 July 2019). 

Pemment, J. (2013) ‘The neurobiology of antisocial personality disorder: The quest for rehabilitation and treatment’, Aggression and Violent Behavior. Elsevier Ltd, 18(1), pp. 79–82 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 11 July 2019).

Pike, G. (2017) ‘Drawing inferences’ in McAvoy, J. and Brace, N. (eds), Investigating Methods, Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 308-346.

Seguin, C. (2016) ‘Cascades of Coverage: Dynamics of Media Attention to Social Movement Organizations’, Social Forces, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 94(3), pp. 997–1020 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 17 July 2019). 

Smith, H.M.J., Ryder H. and Flowe H.D., 2018, ‘Eyewitness Evidence’, in Davies, G.M. and Beech, A.R. (eds), Forensic Psychology: Crime, Justice, Law, Interventions, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, pp. 175-192. 

Söderström, K. et al. (2019) ‘Human Rights Matter to Psychology – Psychology Matters to Human Rights’, European Psychologist, Hogrefe Publishing, 24(2), pp. 99–101 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 16 July 2019). 

Stewart, H. and Jacobson, S.  (2019) ‘Equality body contacts 100 Labour figures in antisemitism inquiry’, The Guardian, 12 July [Online] Available at  (Accessed 13 July 2019). 

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Towl, G.J. and Crighton, D.A. (2015) ‘Introduction’, Forensic Psychology, 2nd edn,  Oxford, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., pp. 1-13 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 19 July 2019). 

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Webber, F. (2019) ‘On the creation of the UK’s ‘hostile environment’’, Race & Class. London, England: SAGE Publications, 60(4), pp. 76–87 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 1 July 2019). 

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Book Review: Ted Bundy: Conversations With a Killer

Because simply watching the docuseries on Netflix is not enough, I decided to read the book by Michaud and Aynesworth (2019) which contains the transcripts from conversations with Theodore Robert Bundy, also known as the All-American Boy (Loftus and Ketcham, 1991).

This book provides real insight into Bundy’s psychological discourse, and it can be observed that his superego mainly served as a reminder not to get caught. He could not control his impulses, and this is why he left such a high death toll. His moral degeneracy can be appreciated in his described thinking process, where he expresses how he felt it was not difficult at all to maintain such secret life hidden away from the consciousness of those who were part of his personal circle: “I became expert at projecting something very different. That I was very busy. It is clear now, I think, that a huge part of my life was hidden from everyone – secret, as it were. It didn’t take much effort” (p. 16). One thing that can be noticed throughout the conversations is that Ted Bundy had a form of self-serving bias which was compounded by his belief about what he called the psychological “condition”. He expressed his states of narcissistic melancholia mixed with helplessness in relation to what can be described as his criminogenic, sadistic needs and the satisficing of these. He expressed that at times he would lay with the corpses he created until these were putrid.

What I find particularly difficult to comprehend when it comes to studying Ted Bundy as a prototypical psychopath is that at times some of the statements he made about his experience posited that he had the capacity to feel fear, which goes beyond the scope of primary psychopathy: “I thought I was going to die every night the first few days I was in jail back in October of 1975. I was scared to death! Daily. I thought they were going to kill me” (p. 23). Was he saying the truth? I don’t know. However, some of his other statements did reveal his malignant personality, such as when speaking about the way in which he perceived his victims as objects: “Except he is not killing a person. He is killing an image” (p. 65). Whose image? is the question I have. Psychodynamic theorists would of course instantly say that perhaps he wanted to recreate the image of the woman who he had the most contempt against, his own mother.

Bundy truly believed that this “condition”- as he called it- was to blame for all of his behaviour; nevertheless, unable to meet the M’Naghtan rules, he was not found to be eligible to claim criminal insanity and even prominent expert witnesses and forensic psychologists such as Elizabeth Loftus (1991) describe having been disturbed by his sophisticated mannerisms and inappropriate body language and responses to contexts. In other words, Bundy had a theory of mind (ToM) deficit, and a surplus of self-esteem. Moreover, his construct of reality was based on self-justifications and false beliefs. The way in which he described his “disease” in third person was as follows: “what’s happening is that we’re building up the condition and what may have been a predisposition for violence becomes a disposition. And as the condition develops and its purposes or its characteristics become more well defined, it begins to demand more of the attention and time of the individual” (p. 71). Such cluster of personality traits and behaviour is classed in the DSM-5 as antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

What’s interesting is that Bundy describes having been influenced by his peers’ concepts of the attractive woman when choosing his victims. This was perhaps the case because as a malignant narcissist, his desire to have complete control over such beautiful images meant that he needed to kill them in order to control everything about their interaction. According to Bundy he murdered his victims because he wanted to leave no living witness of his sexual atrocities. As the moral imbecile that he was, he even washed some of his victims’ hair and did their make up in order to have sex with their corpses until the rotting nature of death made it impossible to do so. This shows the utter perversion of this individual, and this is synthesised by his own words: “A certain amount of the need of that malignant condition had been satisfied through the sexual release. That driving force would recede somewhat, allowing the normal individual’s mental mechanisms to again begin to take hold” (p. 90).

What makes this a great book is that it is made up of transcripts mainly and this allows the reader to see the pathetically perverse side of Bundy that is so easily forgotten when watching his charming ways on camera right until the evening before he was finally executed in 1989. It truly feels like talking with this serial killer. A truly recommended reading for anyone interested in this particular case study or in understanding antisocial personality disorder more deeply.


Michaud, S.G. and Aynesworth, H. (2019) Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer, London, Mirror Books.

Loftus, E. and Ketcham, K. (1991) Witness for the Defense: The Accused, the Eyewitness, and the Expert Who Puts Memory on Trial, New York, St. Martin’s Press, pp. 61-91.


X0: Image Quote


Focquaert: Image Quote


Aurelius: Image Quote


Peterson: Image Quote


Smoking: A Mental Health Problem?

Smoking has been romanticized by the creative, television, and film industries. Smokers are often portrayed as good looking individuals who are charming, intelligent, and independent. Little is ever shown when it comes to chest imaging, the real repercussions of addiction and substance dependency; and the potential health complications such lifestyles could have. When it comes to forensic mental health, nicotine addiction can be considered as a form of self-harm. With a tremendous number of anti-smoking campaigns taking place globally, through which the effects of smoking are disseminated to nicotine consumers through the packaging of the product and through health services; it is understandable why smoking is now seen as a mental health problem and a maladaptive manifestation where the smokers, despite having awareness of the fact that tobacco has over 70 substances known to cause respiratory complications as well as cancer; exhibit addiction determinism when they choose to self-poison.

Doctors have found themselves in difficult positions when it comes to this particular form of self-harm and morbid maladjustment. “Pressures must be placed on governments […] Also, initiatives to make smoking an antisocial, unacceptable activity must be pursued to reduce the likelihood that smoking will be adopted by those predisposed to nicotine addiction, as well as those not predisposed […] With knowledge about the addictive potential of nicotine and the genetic predisposition to become addicted to nicotine, we can now be confident that the days of the authoritarian doctor are over. It is now no longer acceptable that a doctor simply demands that patients stop smoking before they receive further treatment. Smoking, and attempts to quit smoking, need to be regarded as conditions that require specific treatment. Not only do we have to ask all of our patients whether they smoke, and not only do we have to encourage all our smokers to quit smoking, we have to do it with the same clinical care and skill that we use to treat all diseases and health complaints in our patients” (Worsnop, 2003, p. 1339)

As someone who understands nicotine addiction, I have at times wondered why the product itself remains legal. Surely, that’s a truly genocidal industry which profits from the death and lack of self-control of its consumers. Furthermore, considering the fact that smokers are often people who do not understand the theoretical implications of smoking, and the potential respiratory prognosis of such habit; it can be said that all smokers are vulnerable individuals who are being neglected by the legislature and the jurisdiction they are a part of, and that such ignorance can easily become their funeral.


Worsnop, C. J. (2003) ‘Smoking’, Chest, 123(5), pp. 1338–1340. doi: 10.1378/chest.123.5.1338.


Smoking (PDF)


Burke: Image Quote

Visual Theory

Commercial Psychology


A psychological experiment conducted by the army through Eastman Kodak Company advertisements as explained by Robert Yerkes in 1912. 


Yerkes, R. M. et al. (1912) ‘The class experiment in psychology with advertisements as materials’, Journal of Educational Psychology. Warwick & York, 3(1), pp. 1–17. doi: 10.1037/h0072656.


The Class Experiment in Psychology- Robert Yerkes


Ellis Island


Ellis Island was an immigration station which opened in 1892 with the purpose of screening all immigrants to identify and exclude the ones having a mental deficiency. Because many of the workers at this island were passionate about the eugenics movement, they became ideologically extreme to the point where they felt it was their duty to single out disabled immigrants in order to prevent what they considered to be genetically inherited criminal behaviours. By the time the island closed in 1954, 12 million immigrants had been processed, many of them under the Immigration Act 1924. Ellis Island’s history provides humanity with a reference to what xenophobia, discrimination, and inequality are about.; and how white supremacy has existed since before the world wars.


Wikipedia: Ellis Island

Wikipedia: Immigration Act 1924

Byford, J., McAvoy, Jean and Banyard, P. (2014) Investigating intelligence, The Open University.