The Invasion From Mars: A Study In The Psychology Of Panic

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Transaction Publishers, 1940 - Psychology - 224 pages
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On Halloween night 1938, Orson Welles broadcast a radio adaptation of the H. G. Wells fantasy, The War of the Worlds. What listeners heard sounded so realistic that at least a million were frightened by word that "strange creatures" from Mars had landed in central New Jersey and were "unleashing a deadly assault." Several thousand were so terrified they ran into the streets, drove away in their cars, or called the police for information about how to escape. Why did so many panic when the circumstances reported were so improbable? That is just the question Hadley Cantril, then a young social psychologist, set out to answer.

Originally published in 1940, The Invasion from Mars remains a classic. The broadcast provided a unique real-life opportunity to explore why the relatively new medium of radio could have such an effect. Using a mix of research methods, Cantril shows that the impact of the broadcast had less to do with what went out over the air than with the "standards of judgment" people did or did not use in evaluating what they were hearing. This book is of continuing value to those interested in communications and mass behavior.

"One of the most fascinating, illuminating and provocative social documents that have been brought to public attention for some time."--New York Times Book Review, April 28, 1940

"The dramatic account brings into sharp focus those factors in the situation and from the individuals conducive to critical appraisal or contagious panic behavior."--Muzafer Sherif, 1966

Hadley Cantril (1906-1969) was chairman of the Institute for International Social Research. Earlier he founded the Office of Public Opinion Research and was Stuart Professor of Psychology at Princeton University. He was author of nineteen books and monitored public opinion for the executive branch during World War II. Albert H. Cantril, son of Hadley Cantril, is an independent public opinion analyst. Among his books are Reading Mixed Signals: Ambivalence in American Public Opinion about Government (with Susan Davis Cantril). He also worked on the White House staff during the Johnson administration and later served in the Bureaus of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and Public Affairs of the Department of State.

 

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Contents

THE BROADCAST
3
It Was Something Terrible
45
THE NATURE AND EXTENT OF THE PANIC
47
It Didnt Sound Like a Play
65
HOW THE STIMULUS WAS EXPERIENCED
67
Wed Better Do Something
85
DESCRIPTION OF REACTIONS
87
I Figured
109
Being in a Troublesome World
151
THE HISTORICAL SETTING
153
My Background
165
THE INDIVIDUAL CASE
167
Jitters Have Come to Roost
187
WHY THE PANIC?
189
MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION
207
INTERVIEW SCHEDULE
211

CRITICAL ABILITY
111
Im So Worried
125
CONDITIONS INHIBITING CRITICAL ABILITY
127
TABLES
221
INDEX
223
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