Born in 1933, Philip Zimbardo is a renowned and controversial American social psychologist who is fascinated by why people can sometimes behave in awful ways. Some psychologists believe people who commit cruelty are innately evil. Zimbardo disagrees. In his 2007 book, The Lucifer Effect, he argued that it is the power of situations around us that can cause otherwise good people to commit "evil", citing many historical examples to illustrate his point.
Why do we want to justify our decisions, even if they appear to be irrational? The answer lies in cognitive dissonance, the mental discomfort we experience when we hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time. In A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, first published in 1957, American social psychologist Leon Festinger investigates the problem. Festinger puts forward the idea that we have developed mechanisms to try to deal with the stress brought on by cognitive dissonance.
In the 1960s, researchers into human memory began to understand memory as operating under two systems. The first was a short-term system handling information for mere seconds. The second was a long-term system capable of managing information indefinitely. They also discovered, however, that short-term memory was not simply a filing cabinet, but was actively working on cognitive - or mental - tasks. This is how the phrase "working memory" developed.
Neurologist Oliver Sacks' 1985 book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat challenges the impersonal approach doctors took to patient care and paved the way for a new literary genre: popular science. At the time of its publication, neurologists and physicians relied mainly on clinical studies and their own expertise to set the course of treatment. Sacks found this inhumane and developed a very different approach, clearly demonstrated in The Man Who Mistook His Wife.