It describes — in the form of stories, complete with characters, plot, and emotional insights — the 10 psychology experiments Slater regards as the most significant or interesting of the 20th century. The criticism has focused on Slater's research methods and writing style.
The use of creative non-fiction and Slater's highly personalized narrative style are unusual in a book about science, and the work has garnered some hostile reactions, mostly from the psychiatric or clinical psychology community, some of whom have disputed quotations she has used, or have criticized her understanding of the studies she wrote about.
Her books, essays, and articles, often taught in college classrooms, collapse the wall between scientific jargon and literary narrative. She holds two degrees in psychology: a Masters from Harvard University and a Ph. She served as the guest editor for interviewer rode in buses, trains, and cabs to locate the writer in the tiny town of Harvard, Massachusetts, where she had just moved.
We talked in her office, a cozy room furnished with her seventeen-year-old desk and a daybed.
When I graduated, I really buckled down and started to try, in earnest, to learn the art and the craft of writing. My biggest frustration was that, most of the time, I had no idea how to drop down into that place where you can spin words and images and themes, and everything feels true. It wasn’t until my late twenties when I thought, “It’s like driving a car.” I always wanted to be just in fifth gear, but you have to learn to drive in first, second, third, fourth, and reverse.
Then I started to put less pressure on myself to get to that special place. You went down a set of stairs, and the superintendent was there chomping on cigars, and the apartment was dingy.He relates how, during Slater's discussion with Harvard University psychologist Jerome Kagan, she recalled how Kagan had suddenly dived under his desk to illustrate a point about free will.But Kagan told Corfield that he had done no such thing, and in fact had only suggested that he could do so if he wanted.Slater's attorney has responded to the criticism by accusing some psychiatrists and psychologists of having mounted a "vindictive effort" and "vendetta" against her, and of "sniping" at her on David Corfield, a philosopher of mathematics writing in The Guardian, questions the veracity of the book's reported speech.During the fellowship, part of the Program on Science, Technology and Society in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, her area of study was neuropsychology, psychiatric care, medical technologies, and medical ethics.Farhad Manjoo, a writer for Salon.com, observed that it was 'a genuinely compelling read'. Skinner's work on behaviorism; Stanley Milgram's demonstration of how ordinary people can be influenced to obey authority; David Rosenhan's 1972 experiment in which eight people feigned mental illness then gained admittance to psychiatric hospitals; Harry Harlow's experiments with monkeys and motherhood; and Bruce Alexander's Rat Park, where laboratory rats addicted to morphine turned the drug down when given a better life.Her 2004 Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century, a description of psychology experiments "narrated as stories," Criticism has focused on Slater's research methods and on the extent to which some of the experiences she describes may have been fictionalized.Other awards Slater has won include the 1993 New Letters Literary Award in creative non-fiction, and the 1994 Missouri Review Award, and her work was included in The Best American Essays of 19.For one of the resulting essays, “On Being Sane in Insane Places,” Slater walks into a psychiatric emergency room and claims to have a false symptom—an auditory hallucination of the word “thud”—thereby risking confinement.Members of the international academic community railed against Slater’s methods, but she went on to win the 2005 Bild Der Wissenschaft Award in Germany for most groundbreaking science book of the year. A former Knight Science Journalism Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Slater won a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 2004.