Tuesday, October 23, 2018

George R. Mastroianni's "Of Mind and Murder"

George R. Mastroianni was trained as an experimental psychologist and conducted empirical research in a variety of areas related to human performance as an Army scientist. He taught a variety of subjects in psychology at the US Air Force Academy in twenty years of classroom teaching, and now teaches leadership in the Psychology of Leadership Program at Pennsylvania State University.

Mastroianni applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Of Mind and Murder: Toward a More Comprehensive Psychology of the Holocaust, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Of Mind and Murder occurs at the end of a chapter on the methods psychologists and others have employed in studying the Holocaust. The discussion on this page focuses on the difficulties that may be encountered when scholars in disciplines such as psychology and history cross disciplinary boundaries, as when psychologists take sides in historical disputes or historians favor particular psychological explanations for human behavior in their work over others. There often are subtleties and complexities within disciplinary discourse opaque to the “outsider” that, when brought to light, can enrich and balance discussions that take place at the boundaries or intersections of disciplines.

Surely someone has previously noted the conceptual relationship between the “Page 99 Test” and holography: if you cut a hologram into many pieces and choose one (say, the 99th ) the image reconstructed will be the same one seen had the hologram been left intact, albeit with less resolution and detail. Books are not holograms, though, and had we chosen pages 299 or 399, each of which contain only lists of references, the exercise would have been less informative. Of Mind and Murder discusses many specific topics that are not found on page 99: page 199, for example, addresses the roots of prejudice and racism in basic human cognitive adaptations, the ways we perceive and think about the world, that lead us to categorize and classify the objects and people we find in it.

But the “Page 99 Test” applied to this book does capture one vital and global characteristic of the work: Of Mind and Murder self-consciously attempts to be a psychological book that includes, respects, and sometimes confronts the perspectives of those in other disciplines, especially history, in understanding the Holocaust. Along the way, there is also a fair amount of confrontation with psychological perspectives, both old and new.
Learn more about Of Mind and Murder at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue