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The Stanford Prisoner Experiment - 40 Years On

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the it's-good-to-be-a-guard dept.

Science 175

cheros writes "It's now 40 years ago that the Stanford prisoner experiment went ugly so quickly it had to be aborted. Stanford has an interesting piece called The Menace Within that looks back on this momentous psychological experiment. From the article: 'What happened in the basement of the psych building 40 years ago shocked the world. How do the guards, prisoners and researchers in the Stanford Prison Experiment feel about it now?'"

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I read title as "Slashdot Prisoner Experiment" (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755102)

And it all started to make sense.

At least (-1, Troll)

dotmatrix1 (2370608) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755180)

At least they didn't have to wear these [thoughts.com]

Mod down (-1, Offtopic)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755238)

"Typical mac user" troll

I thought it was expanded.... (3, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755242)

I thought it was expanded to most modern IT departments ;-)

Re:I thought it was expanded.... (3, Insightful)

Demena (966987) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756226)

No not IT departments. But they did form a whole core fro it. The TSA. That is precisely why such petty bureaucrats are a menace to society.

Faked? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755254)

I've long come to suspect the "experiment" was a politically motivated fake to demonstrate fascist tendencies in humans. It doesn't ring true, nor has it ever been backed up by other experiments. Prison guard abuse is real, but the conclusions of the study are much too broad.

Re:Faked? (5, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755346)

Obviously you have no understanding of the nature of power and desire for it. It has been been well documented since ancient times. And the biggest "experiment" ever in 1920s-30s Germany has been written up in the most convincing manner by many psychologists.

It's too bad they say the experiment should never be performed again. Every student should be required to go through it, and maybe we can mitigate the revival of the savagery we are going through now. Simply reading up on it is not enough.

Re:Faked? (3, Insightful)

Demena (966987) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756260)

Actually it is repeated every day. I am pretty sure that is what happens to people employed by the TSA.

Re:Faked? (5, Informative)

Manos_Of_Fate (1092793) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756384)

You should check out the book The Wave, which is a fictionalized telling of a real experiment conducted by a high school teacher to help his students understand how something like the Holocaust could happen without anybody stepping in to stop it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wave_(novel) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Faked? (3, Informative)

gparent (1242548) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756824)

There's also a movie about that book, and it's pretty good.

Re:Faked? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36758316)

I read this book while on a family trip to Washington, D.C., shortly after visiting the Holocaust museum (which is, in fact, where my mom bought it -- in the gift shop -- and is it weird that the Holocaust museum has a gift shop? Even if the proceeds go to the museum?).

Perhaps that wasn't the best time to pick up a book that seeks to grossly oversimplify how fascism can slowly creep up and overtake a society of otherwise well-meaning people, but what with the blatant metaphors and bad, bad dialogue, I could never shake the impression that I was reading an after school special.

Then I read the back and discovered it WAS a novelization of an after school special, and all was made clear, but I still thought it was a pretty annoying book. More something to read to introduce the concept to children than enjoy as an adult -- good ideas, but terrible, terrible writing, characterization, everything.

Re:Faked? (4, Interesting)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756718)

It's too bad they say the experiment should never be performed again. Every student should be required to go through it, and maybe we can mitigate the revival of the savagery we are going through now. Simply reading up on it is not enough.

I've often wondered what would happen if the experiment were repeated with people who were aware of the original outcome. And I mean really aware of it, not just that they heard about it in passing. Would knowledge of how low people can sink keep them on the straight and narrow? If so, it could become a useful training exercise for prison guards.

Re:Faked? (3, Insightful)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757506)

Probably not. The shocking part about the Zimbardo experiment was not that guards are cruel; the shocking part is that there were no ground rules insisting that the "guards" be cruel. They could have chosen to play cards with the "prisoners" - given that they were mostly (all?) Stanford undergrads, they very likely knew some of them. Once you go to a real prison, the prisoners are just more scumbags you have to keep in line.

Re:Faked? (3, Interesting)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36758170)

I know how the experiment worked. It is established that people given power with no (or poor) guidance on how to use that power will abuse it. But if people are made acutely aware of that fact, will they think "Hey, I don't want to be like that" and make a conscious effort to control their own actions?

For example, if you give unlimited alcohol and no ground rules to a bunch of teens, they're probably going to get drunk out of their minds. But once they've learned about alcohol abuse, and gone to a few parties and seen how drunken idiots act, they'll drink more responsibly, simply because they don't want to be that guy. This experiment is repeated all across the country every year, and it seems to work out.

Ethics as key part of curriculum and civilization (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Bullard (62082) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757430)

I'm not sure if everyone should go though the experiment per se, but certainly societies would benefit if everyone was taught about it, and human behaviour and moral in general.

Germany in the 1930s and 1940s after the Nazional Sozialists had grabbed control of the government (and the media) is a very good case study of what happens when sections of population are labelled "enemies", "unfit" and eventually even sub-human. There the perpetrators had been brainwashed with a sense of injustice and anger over post-WWI suffering and the domestic "unfits" (based on propaganda definitions) were made scapegoats.

Yet repression and murder in even larger scale took place after the Nazi "experiment" - in the gulags and laogai under Stalin's and Mao's communist party dictatorships.

Arguably the Chinese were the most brutal in the treatment of their enemies (something to do with the traditional art of torture and the domestic imperial history there?). Under the territories invaded by Mao's red army the foreign enemies (like Tibetans, Mongolians and Uighurs) were easy to identify as they didn't share any of the sinized Han-people's charasteristics - they were also commonly treated as sub-humans for that very reason (Tibetans as devout buddhists were targeted for particularly brutal punishment), but after the initial phase of Chinese military expansion and consolidation something unique happened: Mao's "Cultural Revolution".

While the title sounds deceptively docile, the reality was anything but. Here, in mid-60s, Mao decided that "old thinking" had to go. All of it. A horde of young, maoism-indoctrinated youth were given the authority / order to challenge anything that could somehow be perceived to contradict the infamous Mao's red book. For about a decade _everyone_ was an enemy unless he or she could prove the Red Guards - often by committing acts of brutality against "other enemies" - his or her blind loyalty to the "cause" of New China. One of the saddest representations of this was the widespread turning of children against their own parents who had until then loved and cared for them! The loyalty towards one's family had to be destroyed as it threatened the absolute power of the Party.

After the Tiananmen massacre in 1989 that Party held an emergency meeting in Beijing and after coming to the conclusion that communism as a political doctrine or economic model simply wasn't effective any longer, they decided - internally - to switch de facto doctrines to Confucianism (as nationalistic philosophy) and... national socialism (adapted to globalist markets), with capitalist/corporatist carrots for the Party's inner core (the leading families of "PRC" are now fabulously wealthy!). Old communist propaganda is still being played out as a justification for the Party's "legitimacy" though, and such propaganda is still key part of everyday control in poorer inland parts of China and especially in the occupied territories annexed through military force. Foreigners are still depicted as criminals who haven't paid for their sins over the "humiliation of China", although various "domestic movements" there (not forgetting the bloody war by communists themselves against the Republic of China) account for the vast majority of human cost and every other once wholly western-ruled nation (incl. the multi-cultural India) has gotten over their past "humiliation". What does needing artificial external enemies say about China's ruling dictatorship itself?

Blind obedience, often in order to benefit oneself or to save one's own life, and the accompanying willingness to inflict suffering on others... it tends to go together with ignorance (then redefining) of morality (right vs wrong, perceived or imaginary injustice), absolute propaganda to shape the population's value models and numbing violence and abuse.

I believe we have enough examples of abuse of authority by now. What we need is to actually make learning about them, and morality and philosophy in general, a truly intergral part of education so that most people would recognize the warning signs early enough to stop such abuses from taking place in the first place. I don't recommend we should go about re-enacting cases of injustice and abuse, but a more thorough engagement and debate than mere voluntary reading of a boring chapter in a study book is probably required. In the presence of totalitarian propaganda it will be hard, but elsewhere ignorance should be no excuse.

Re:Faked? (4, Informative)

eln (21727) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755398)

It hasn't been backed up by other experiments because conducting such experiments violates modern standards of ethics (and in fact arguably violated the standards at that time as well). Similar effects have been observed in the field however, most famously at Abu Ghraib. Obviously those aren't properly controlled experiments, but until we decide as a society that subjecting people to lasting mental and physical harm in psychological studies is okay again, it's the closest we're likely to get.

Re:Faked? (2)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756316)

In Australia we lock up innocent[1] foreigners who come here illegally, so there is probably a lot to be learned from the behavior of guards and prisoners in that situation. Given the nature of their arrival the foreigners aren't necessarily already completely undamaged from a psychological point of view but i'm sure we can learn things from this situation... even if the thing we learn is that locking up innocent people isn't the best thing for their mental health.

[1] While it's possible that some of them come here illegally as a means to shortcut the legal means of coming here, a lot are tricked into coming here illegally by people smugglers or are children who have no choice but to come with their parents, so I think "innocent" is perfectly valid in this context.

Re:Faked? (2)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 3 years ago | (#36758756)

In Australia we lock up innocent[1] foreigners who come here illegally, so there is probably a lot to be learned from the behavior of guards and prisoners in that situation. Given the nature of their arrival the foreigners aren't necessarily already completely undamaged from a psychological point of view but i'm sure we can learn things from this situation... even if the thing we learn is that locking up innocent people isn't the best thing for their mental health.

I think you'll find that "locking up" people who enter the country illegally is a pretty consistent reaction by any functioning state.

all too real (4, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756918)

The simple conclusion demonstrated by this experiment is that, while sometimes people will live up to others' expectations for them, we we have an even stronger tendency to live down to what's expected of us. I think Richard Yacco (a "prisoner") made the most insightful comment in the article:

One thing that I thought was interesting about the experiment was whether, if you believe society has assigned you a role, do you then assume the characteristics of that role? I teach at an inner city high school in Oakland. These kids don't have to go through experiments to witness horrible things. But what frustrates my colleagues and me is that we are creating great opportunities for these kids, we offer great support for them, why are they not taking advantage of it? Why are they dropping out of school? Why are they coming to school unprepared? I think a big reason is what the prison study shows—they fall into the role their society has made for them.

Re:Faked? (2)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757584)

The modern rules you're referring to were specifically drafted in response to the Stanford Prison Experiment. A review board determined that they weren't violating any rules at the time, and suggested making new rules so it couldn't be repeated.

Re:Faked? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755634)

I've long come to suspect the "experiment" was a politically motivated fake to demonstrate fascist tendencies in humans. It doesn't ring true, nor has it ever been backed up by other experiments. Prison guard abuse is real, but the conclusions of the study are much too broad.

Check out the book Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland [amazon.com] by Christopher Browning [wikipedia.org] . Apologies for Godwinning this thread, but it is necessary.

Re:Faked? (4, Insightful)

yali (209015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756070)

There's faked and then there's faked.

If you mean "they made the whole thing up like the moon landing," then no. There's no reason to believe that kind of conspiracy.

But based on contemporary accounts, even from Zimbardo himself, it's pretty clear that he stepped well past his role as an objective researcher and became an active instigator -- appointing himself warden and egging on the guards. But even with that acknowledged, the fact that he was able to succeed so easily is part of what makes it an important demonstration.

I'm convinced that it was real (3, Insightful)

Okian Warrior (537106) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757560)

I don't think that the events of the experiment are in any way unexpected, with the exception of Zimbardo's girlfriend intervening.

I think quite highly of Zimbardo, so I don't believe it's his fault. It's because of all of our social conditioning.

We're never schooled in ethics. We're only occasionally *sometimes* told the difference between right and wrong, but overall we're just expected to know where these concepts are without a map. Breaking a promise is wrong, but when the principal wants to know something you promised to keep secret, see if he thinks ethics is a good excuse.

Schools teach compliance in a big way. Government and industry and pretty much everyone in charge will tell you that it's no use - there's nothing you can do. Be on the wrong side of a policeman, prosecutor, judge, politician, your boss, or the town council to see what I mean.

And even if anyone knows where the boundaries of ethics lie, there's no real chance to practice the decisions in the field. In any emotional situation your cognitive functions shut down and you rely completely on stored habits. That's a survival tactic - the stored programs can be executed very fast without spending any time to think - but it means that if you haven't set up any mental patterns to recognize injustice and speak out against it it won't happen during a situation where it's needed. Only after the fact.

People who practice role-playing in various forms (LARP, emergency training, EMT, police, navy seals) get around it by learning not to react emotionally and by making patterns which are useful because they've been thought out in advance.

So we have a big population which is schooled in compliance, where no formal ethical standards are taught and where ethical rules are often violated for any expedient reason. Drop some of these in a fearful situation and you're surprised that they don't react?

I'm surprised at the reaction of his girlfriend, and much more surprised that she *insisted* in the face of his resistance.

The Lucifer Effect (4, Interesting)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755270)

By the way, Zimbardo's book about it, The Lucifer Effect is absolutely fascinating. The way they all got so pulled into the experiment is just crazy. Luckily, Zimbardo's grad student girlfriend came around. You see Zimbardo got so pulled into his own role as the experimenter/warden that he lost site of the fact that the experiment had become extremely inhumane and he needed to stop it. They needed new eyes to come in and end it.

What is even more interesting than Zimbardo not ending the thing was the prisoners not ending it. After all, they weren't actually prisoners. They should have just walked away.

He also has a fascinating discussion on Abu Ghraib. He discusses the personalities involved in the events and how it led to it. (The sociopath who started it. His girlfriend Lindy England, who got pulled in. The leader of the facility who couldn't pull the situation under control and who's appeals to superiors fell on death ears.)

It is amazing that we do actually live in a world where people willing become slaves. This experiment gave us great insights into social psychology.

Re:The Lucifer Effect (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755372)

All of this would be very fascinating if the whole experiment hadn't been irreparably flawed from the beginning. Zimbardo essentially selected the people most likely to produce the result that would "confirm" his hypothesis.

The greatest insights that came from this procedure were insights into how easily people will assimilate a faux-science "finding" into popular psychology, especially when the result is "shocking" in a way that allows them to denounce the immorality of society.

Re:The Lucifer Effect (5, Interesting)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755594)

Zimbardo essentially selected the people most likely to produce the result that would "confirm" his hypothesis.

Which is the most chilling implication of the experiment! The idea that you can always find people willing to do harmful things while the rest stand aside is enough to undermine the whole concept of individual morality.

Together with the equally infamous Milgram experiment, which has been shown to be reproducible under all sorts of conditions, Zimbardo's work shows how humans, as basically non-'evil' beings, rationalize and perpetuate organized acts of evil. (How many times have you heard someone say, "If I don't do $BAD_THING, somebody else will. Maybe the best thing to do is for me to take the job, and try to change the system from within"?)

Re:The Lucifer Effect (1)

ToasterMonkey (467067) | more than 3 years ago | (#36758634)

Which is the most chilling implication of the experiment! The idea that you can always find people willing to do harmful things while the rest stand aside is enough to undermine the whole concept of individual morality.

Together with the equally infamous Milgram experiment, which has been shown to be reproducible under all sorts of conditions, Zimbardo's work shows how humans, as basically non-'evil' beings, rationalize and perpetuate organized acts of evil. (How many times have you heard someone say, "If I don't do $BAD_THING, somebody else will. Maybe the best thing to do is for me to take the job, and try to change the system from within"?)

Unites States Marines go through thirteen weeks of that stuff. It doesn't even make sense for prison operation because their goal is to rehabilitate civilians and it's not really sustainable anyway. It's too expensive, you'd have to rotate guards often because they will get weak eventually, and would require tons of training. The "prisoners" will adjust eventually. You can't permanently break someone's will and still be anywhere near the realm of merely 'questionable' ethics.

I think you guys are reading too far into the reasons for conducting the experiment, and what was genuinely learned from it.

Re:The Lucifer Effect (1)

Jiro (131519) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755664)

I'm reminded of Kitty Genovese. The popular wisdom about this case, exacerbated by a bad New York Times article, turned out to be pretty much false even though it has been used to denounce society for decades.

Re:The Lucifer Effect (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756400)

I don't think you need a study to allow you to "denounce the immorality of society". I'm pretty sure most people feel comfortable denouncing immorality whenever they see it.

Re:The Lucifer Effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755562)

What is even more interesting than Zimbardo not ending the thing was the prisoners not ending it. After all, they weren't actually prisoners. They should have just walked away.

Did you read TFA? Here's what Richard Yacco (one of the prisoners) says about precisely that:

"When I asked [Zimbardo's team] what I could do if I wanted to quit, I was told, "You can't quit—you agreed to be here for the full experiment." That made me feel like a prisoner at that point. I realized I had made a commitment to something that I now could not change. I had made myself a prisoner."

Of course this wasn't true; legally speaking, he could have quit, and if anyone (e.g. the guards) had tried to stop him after that, they would've moved into criminal territory. But don't underestimate the psychological barrier that merely being told "you can't quit" amounts to when you're already in a situation of powerlessness.

Re:The Lucifer Effect (3, Interesting)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755680)

But don't underestimate the psychological barrier that merely being told "you can't quit" amounts to when you're already in a situation of powerlessness.

Here's another good example [azcentral.com] of the same phenomenon -- in this case, the people who were told "you can't quit" bravely stayed in the game until they earned their own Darwin award.

People who criticize Zimbardo's experiment on the grounds that it was 'unscientific' or 'unethical' are missing the whole point. It may have been both unscientific and unethical, but it damned sure wasn't irreproducible.

Re:The Lucifer Effect (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755784)

People who criticize Zimbardo's experiment on the grounds that it was 'unscientific' or 'unethical' are missing the whole point. It may have been both unscientific and unethical, but it damned sure wasn't irreproducible.

Oh, of course it's reproducible. All you have to do is find the most sociopathic people you have at hand, brief them in such a way as to encourage abusive behavior, and lock them in a facility together with no access to the external world. Real easy. The criticism of his experiment isn't that it's not reproducible - the criticism is that he intentionally set up the experiment in order to achieve this result. The more important criticism is of people who point to his experiment as evidence that any particular prison facility which they're opposed to is destined to degenerate into the same kind of abuse. His experiment is legitimate, as long as the results are looked at in context; the conclusions which 90% of people will draw from his experiment, on the other hand, is complete bullshit.

Re:The Lucifer Effect (2)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755876)

So what's your take on Milgram?

The whole problem is, it's ridiculously easy to find those "most sociopathic" people you're talking about, and almost impossible to find people who will put themselves at risk to interfere with them. It's almost as if there's something in almost everybody that's open to the sort of behaviors observed by Zimbardo and Milgram, given the right leadership.

Re:The Lucifer Effect (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757250)

So what's your take on Milgram?

I thought I just gave it to you :p

The whole problem is, it's ridiculously easy to find those "most sociopathic" people you're talking about, and almost impossible to find people who will put themselves at risk to interfere with them.

It depends on the amount of risk, now doesn't it? A cop reporting on his coworkers risks stigmatization and a dead-end for his career, but there are still cops going to jail. A soldier reporting on one of his buddies risks pretty much the same, but we still have soldiers going up on murder charges for violating ROEs. The thing is, you need a system in which that kind of behavior is encouraged. You'll never see an Afghani cop or soldier turn in one of his superiors, because:

1. They're mostly corrupt, and it's more lucrative to just blackmail him.
2. The system encourages abuse of power.
3. Speaking out is very unsafe.

They've changed somewhat over the last 10 years, but these are still problems that plague them. That is the kind of society that humans naturally build - "liberal democracy" is an anomaly. So why would anyone be surprised by the Milgram experiment? In the absence of the type of social and legal order that our society imposes, people will fall back on their natural behavior, and those who are aggressive and violent will tend to take the lead.

Re:The Lucifer Effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36758446)

That c6gunner, one of the most pro-fascism posters on slashdot, would be so dedicated to denying that these experiments strongly indicate a streak of evil in most people is so predictable. Looking in that mirror is the last thing you could ever do.

Re:The Lucifer Effect (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755902)

It is amazing that we do actually live in a world where people willing become slaves. This experiment gave us great insights into social psychology.

This point is interesting in that a few very early philosophers have discussed this phenomena where some seek to be leaders while others seek to be led. I believe Archimedes argued that there is a natural paradigm for slave/master and Nietze that some men are just born better. It's unpleasant to consider, but we do live with these dichotomies to one degree or another.

Re:The Lucifer Effect (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756768)

That someone seek to be leader do not make them fit to be so.

Still, our nearest relatives among animals do live in groups structured around leaders and led. Not sure if that automatically makes the led slaves tho, as the led will pounce on the leader if they see a weakness.

As for Nietzsche, his writing was modified by his sister to fit certain German trends at the time, so i would be careful about referencing him depending on the source being the edited version or not.

Still, the ultimate question is if humanity is stuck in this track or can lift itself to a higher level...

Re:The Lucifer Effect (2)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757060)

I've always felt there were really three types - not just Nietzche's purported (I've never read it) "Master" and "Slave" but also a third type - "Creative". The creatives just want to create things - software, art, buildings, spaceships - and want to be neither master nor slave. Of the three types, creatives are probably the rarest.

But I'd also like to see these ideas explored from the perspective of hunters vs. farmers (ref.Thom Hartmann's books on ADD). Perhaps the master and slave are just two parts of the farmer phenotype, and this dichotomy does not apply to the hunter phenotype.

When crazy is average (4, Insightful)

manaway (53637) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756726)

The way they all got so pulled into the experiment is just crazy. Luckily, Zimbardo's grad student girlfriend came around.

This is one of the most fascinating insights: it's not crazy but typical. These were students who tested average on psychological exams (to the extent you can measure average), and still did these atrocious acts on people just like themselves. On fellow students whose only crime was the flip of a coin. Want further evidence? See the Milgram experiment [wikimedia.org] , where 2/3rds of people were willing to kill another person because an authority figure told them to. Not bad apples, not racists, not evil doers [wikimedia.org] , not terrorists, just people--you and me and our neighbors.

The experiments are no longer allowed in psychiatric studies, but are allowed in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Egypt (under Mubarak, not sure about now), Romania, Israel (where torture testimony is admissible), Afghanistan, and others. Where is Zimbardo's girlfriend now? You, me, our neighbors?

Re:When crazy is average (2)

Macrat (638047) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756940)

Want further evidence? See the Milgram experiment [wikimedia.org] , where 2/3rds of people were willing to kill another person because an authority figure told them to. Not bad apples, not racists, not evil doers [wikimedia.org] , not terrorists, just people--you and me and our neighbors.

You've never met my neighbors.

Re:When crazy is average (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757476)

Want further evidence? See the Milgram experiment [wikimedia.org] , where 2/3rds of people were willing to kill another person because an authority figure told them to. Not bad apples, not racists, not evil doers [wikimedia.org] , not terrorists, just people--you and me and our neighbors.

You've never met my neighbors.

So are they the sociopaths willing to randomly kill people, or are you willing to randomly kill them?

Re:The Lucifer Effect (0)

defaria (741527) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757978)

I really, really don't understand this. Is everybody so weak they can't fight for themselves?!? I know if I was asked to strip or shit in a bucket I'd be saying "Not for $15/day I won't". You know it's not a real prison. They would have to physically harm me to get me to do anything I didn't want to do and I'm sorry but I would never submit to such humiliation or say solitary confinement for no lousy $15/day. And if they did harm me I would fucking sue them. This story makes no sense!

Some of testimonies (0)

dotmatrix1 (2370608) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755274)

Its is really shocking [thoughts.com] even today, how low an ordinary human can get if given proper conditions.
In fact I had similar experience (not that extreme though) in Army.

Re:Some of testimonies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755352)

what the hell is up with this guy? can somebody gag him or something please

At least (-1, Troll)

dotmatrix2 (2370624) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755288)

At least they didn't have to wear these [thoughts.com]

Guantanamo Bay (4, Insightful)

Normal Dan (1053064) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755326)

Now imagine this same experiment being done for for several years instead of days and with no one to step in when things get out of hand.

Now imagine if the guards were told the prisoners were evil terrorists.

Re:Guantanamo Bay (1)

stms (1132653) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755648)

From the 8th grade to the time I graduated from high school I went to military school. When I was a junior in high school our psychology teacher showed us the documentary about the Stanford prisoner experiment we were all unsurprised by the results. When people are put in this kind of sometimes it's like this other times it's not. It all depends on the people who are in charge. More likely than not the people in charge at Guantanamo Bay know what their doing. I'm not trying to defend Guantanamo Bay I'm just saying that may not be an accurate portrayal.

Re:Guantanamo Bay (-1, Flamebait)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755686)

Now imagine if the guards were told the prisoners were evil terrorists.

And then what if they were?

Re:Guantanamo Bay (4, Insightful)

dmbasso (1052166) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755794)

Now imagine if the guards were told the prisoners were evil terrorists.

And then what if they were?

Now imagine you and some of your family were captured together with all the terrorists. Yeah, they are really terrorists! You and yours? Whatever, I don't give a fuck. Fuck you all.

Re:Guantanamo Bay (0)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755826)

There's no such thing as a terrorist.
Also, there's no such thing as evil.
Good night, and good luck.

Re:Guantanamo Bay (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756062)

and good luck.

So, does that mean there's luck in this world you live in?

Re:Guantanamo Bay (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757752)

Fortuitous happen-stance?
Certainly.

Re:Guantanamo Bay (1)

stdarg (456557) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757744)

There's no such thing as a terrorist.

Is that in the same sense that there's no such thing as a retail sales clerk and no such thing as a computer programmer?

Re:Guantanamo Bay (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757776)

No, in the sense that no one sees themselves as a terrorist, it's an external label, whereas some people see themselves as sales clerks or computer-programmers.

Re:Guantanamo Bay (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757370)

And then what if they were?

"More than a fifth of the approximately 385 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been cleared for release but may have to wait months or years for their freedom because U.S. officials are finding it increasingly difficult to line up places to send them, according to Bush administration officials and defense lawyers."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/28/AR2007042801145.html [washingtonpost.com]

Re:Guantanamo Bay (0)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755730)

Don't have to imagine it - happens in North Korea every day. Not sure I get your point, though.

Re:Guantanamo Bay (1)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755878)

His title?

Re:Guantanamo Bay (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756976)

Is unrelated?

Re:Guantanamo Bay (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756056)

Now imagine that this experiment was being conducted within the setting of a discussion group.

And imagine that some of us were given mod points and others not.

Re:Guantanamo Bay (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756750)

Gitmo wouldn't even be the worst of it because we know about Gitmo. Lawyers visit the prisoners and check out the living conditions. I would be terrified about the CIA-run dark sites in the ME and Europe. Imagine Gitmo but with less accountability. See, that's scary.

A least (-1, Troll)

dotmatrix3 (2370628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755328)

At least they didn't have to wear these [thoughts.com]

Watershed development (3, Interesting)

overshoot (39700) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755340)

Probably the most important social psychology experiment ever. It's totally transformed the way the United States is governed.

Re:Watershed development (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755530)

"Lacking <sarcasm> tags"

:-) I totally understand

Re:Watershed development (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756830)

This needs a mod "+1, bitter truth".

Re:Watershed development (0)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757566)

What is it? Using google all I can find are articles about irrigation management.

Al least (-1, Troll)

dotmatrix4 (2370630) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755364)

At least they didn't have to wear these [thoughts.com]

For those of us who are scratching our heads (5, Informative)

Meshach (578918) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755376)

Re:For those of us who are scratching our heads (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755726)

Those of you who are scratching your heads are totally uneducated. If you really had no idea what the Stanford Prison Experiment was, here are some other links you might find handy:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The [wikipedia.org]

Re:For those of us who are scratching our heads (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755928)

I'll admit I'm not the most educated, but I'm far from uneducated. This particular topic was never covered in any of the classes I took in high school or college. I admit I didn't finish college, but the fact remains I have never had heard of this before today. That doesn't make me any less, it just makes you an idiot for thinking it is common knowledge.

Re:For those of us who are scratching our heads (2)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756224)

It must be shocking to hear, but not everyone knows about the same topics as you, even if they are educated well in other areas. I'm going to say this only once, and say it very clearly. Fuck off with your snobbery, you stupid prick.

Re:For those of us who are scratching our heads (1)

ToasterMonkey (467067) | more than 3 years ago | (#36758326)

From what I briefly read, the conditions sound just like Marine Corps boot camp, and not a prison so much...

At least (-1, Offtopic)

dotmatrix5 (2370638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755434)

At least they didn't have to wear these [thoughts.com]

At least (-1, Troll)

dotmatrix6 (2370650) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755526)

At least they didn't have to wear these [thoughts.com]

Re:At least they didn't wear goatse? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755586)

Wearing goatse sounds really uncomfortable...

Drugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755590)

Now imagine the same experiment being done when none of the participants are smoking pot or doing other drugs.

Re:Drugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36756794)

Imagine a prison where none of the guards are smoking pot or doing other drugs. Just because you imagine it doesn't mean it exists. I'm positive that no prison exists in the US that has a 100% drug-free workforce, and fairly sure there isn't even one with a 75% drug-free workforce. And I'm not even including those with prescriptions to opiates (oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc.)

Patrick McGoohan (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755642)

I am not a number, I am a free man

Re:Patrick McGoohan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755918)

Yes, you are # 243626.

TSA (4, Interesting)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755684)

This experiment is being conducted right now by the TSA.

Re:TSA (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756506)

Actually, there are interesting parallels... when flying internationally, you try to catch a nap, only to have the attendants come by at the most inopportune times to offer you a snack/pillow/etc. By the time you land, you're generally suffering sleep deprivation. You then complete your business, and attempt to get back on your flight, still not having recovered from sleep deprivation and jet lag -- and are confronted with the TSA.

It's not as severe as the SPE, but the general traits reflected in the prisoners and wardens have disturbing parallels... and could explain why some passengers freak out in an airport for apparently very little reason (not speaking the language probably doesn't help things).

Re:TSA (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756862)

Not to mention being woken up hourly by the fuckwit a few seats over who keeps hitting the stewardess-summoning button, or by the stew who keeps getting into his baggage which is stored right above your head.

Red-eye from O'Hare to Glasgow, /then/ I had to deal with HM Customs, whose agent was just as rude as TSA's equivalent.

French Torture Show (4, Informative)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755750)

Oh.. but it has been repeated recently...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8571929.stm [bbc.co.uk]

This is from 2010.

Re:French Torture Show (3, Informative)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756244)

That's a recreation of the Milgram experiment, not really the Stanford one.

Re:French Torture Show (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36756546)

That's an exact re-ecnactment of the Milgram experiment, not the Stanford experiment. Which is quite different.

Movie (3, Insightful)

Warlord88 (1065794) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755770)

The German movie Das Experiment [imdb.com] is based on this experiment. Although they exaggerate quite a lot towards the end, first few days of the movie are real. Overall, an entertaining watch.

Re:Movie (5, Informative)

yali (209015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755944)

For the record, Zimbardo has objected to Das Experiment's portrayal of his experiment, on the grounds that (a) it isn't clear which parts are reenactments and which parts are fictionalized, and (b) in his view the movie doesn't properly explain why the study was scientifically important. Read his side of it here. [apa.org]

Re:Movie (1, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756054)

Zimbardo can go on and on about the experiments scientific important, but he is wrong.

It was so poorly designer, got so out of control, and had no controls that any data is useless to anyone with the sole exception of people looking at what not to do in an experiment.

Re:Movie (1)

GuldKalle (1065310) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757842)

You are contradicting yourself: If people are looking at the SPE for things not to do, something relevant must have come out of it.

Re:Movie (1)

Squiggle (8721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36757846)

Agreed, this is a tragic mistake of an experiment.

What they were looking to test can't be found in a prisoner/guard role-playing session. Considering that none of the guards or inmates had any actual experience in a jail (and the guards had no training before starting the experiment) they were basing all of their role-playing of their roles on entertainment... by definition full of conflict and drama. Like reality television, those involved quickly started competing for attention, fending off boredom and simply pushing the bounds of "the game".

Re:Movie (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36758130)

Electing Zimbardo, who overreached and mismanaged the experiment he is infamous for, as the president of the American Psychological Association kind of discredits the whole field, don't you think? It's kind of like electing Fidel Castro the president of the Human Rights Association.

Re:Movie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755976)

It was a German movie. According to German culture, there were no exaggerations in the film. (ok, ok, I kid, I kid)

Re:Movie (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#36756454)

Strangely, the German movie based on "The Wave" suffers from the same problem.

Why surprising? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755860)

After the Milgram Experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment) of 1961, were the SPE results so surprising?

Probably not new hypothesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755908)

I'm no psychologist and I know many psychologists have reviewed the experiment, so I'm pretty sure many of them already considered, and probably dismissed, this possibility: maybe the guards acted so badly not because they were in a position of power but bbecause they were in a game where no action would have long term consequences. The "it's just a game" and "it's just for fun" are extremely common excuses for inacceptable behavior.

Re:Probably not new hypothesis (2)

cheros (223479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755996)

You might want to read the article then - that was an initial theory but turned out not to be true..

half hour video, worth watching (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36757070)

lots of archival footage from 1970 plus interviews from 2002
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=677084988379129606

Abu Ghraib (4, Interesting)

formfeed (703859) | more than 3 years ago | (#36758294)

When the abuse in Abu Ghraib became public I was surprised by the reactions. Not the shock and/or denial by the public. But the way the soldiers were singled out as a "few bad apples" by people higher up in command.

How apparently normal, non-sadistic, average 20 year olds turned into sadistic guards was classic Zimbardo. I immediately thought of Zimbardo's prison experiment: There doesn't need to be a direct order, all it takes is an environment with unspecific rules and guards wanting to fulfill their role.

Not to defend the soldiers involved in the abuse, but Zimbardo is pretty well known. Either people in charge didn't have the proper skills to set-up a clear structure that would prevent this or they deliberately counted on it to happen, being later able to deny any responsibility and scape-goat the "guards".

Dr Who (1)

aztec1430 (242755) | more than 3 years ago | (#36758686)

Why does Zimbardo look like the Master?

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