Experiments with People: Revelations from Social Psychology

By Robert P. Abelson; Kurt P. Frey et al. | Go to book overview

10
Pitfalls of Purpose:
Ironic Processes
in Mood Control

“The best-laid schemes of mice and men / Often go astray / And leave us nought but grief and pain / For promised joy!”

—Robert Burns (1759–1796), Scottish poet


BACKGROUND

As the hit movie Ghostbusters careers toward its conclusion, its four reluctant heroes—Spengler, Venkman, Stantz, and Widdemore—find themselves facing off against an evil demigod. In a rasping voice, the demigod addresses them:

Subcreatures! Gozer the Gozerian, Gozer the Destructor, Volguus Zildrohar, the Traveler, has come! Choose and perish!

The Ghostbusters wonder what these ominous words might mean. Spengler is the first to catch on. He explains to the others that Gozer is about to bring about a calamity of cosmic proportions. However, the precise form this calamity will take depends on whatever they are currently thinking about. Frantically, the Ghostbusters yell at one another not to think of anything. A moment later, however, Gozer declares:

The choice is made! The Traveler has come!

With matters going from bad to worse, Venkman angrily demands to know who thought of something. Both Spengler and Widdemore protest their innocence. All eyes turn slowly to Stantz. He whimpers in self-defense:

-114-

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