Three months ago, Psychology Today blogger Susan Krauss Whitbourne posted an essay entitled The Rarely Told Story of Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment. I eagerly read it in the hope that it would reveal some heretofore relatively unknown truth about this famous experiment. But, in fact, the essay is simply a summary--a well written one--of the experiment that takes at face value Phillip Zimbardo’s and his colleagues’ conclusions. In the introduction to the essay, Whitbourne states that the experiment is “Depicted in movies, television and of course all introductory psych textbooks…” It’s true that Zimbardo’s experiment is one of the two or three most famous experiments in the history of psychology. But it’s not true that it’s depicted in all introductory psychology textbooks. I’m the author of one such textbook (which is now in it’s 6th edition and is used in many colleges and universities). One of the questions I’m frequently asked about the book by professors who teach from it is, “Why don’t you include Zimbardo’s prison experiment, like all other textbook authors do?”Here’s why, the results of the famous Stanford Prison Experiment have a trivial explanation. See also, The lie of the Stanford Prison Experiment [more inside]
Studying obedience and conformity: The Stanford Prison Experiment has been discussed many times before (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and has been made into a number of movies. Now you can watch the incredible review film made by the experimenter, with extensive documentary footage, post-experiment interviews and commentary: The Stanford Prison Experiment. [google video, 50 mins]
Mass. school punishes students with electric shocks "They can be shocked for behaviors including ’failure to maintain a neat appearance’, ‘stopping work for more than 10 seconds’, ‘interrupting others’, ‘nagging’, ‘whispering and/or moving conversation away from staff’, ‘slouch in chair’ ' I have spoke before of American Enantiodromia. Further, Thomas Moore wrote in Dark Eros: The Imagination of Sadism , that in any culture that does not acknowledge it's skeletons, --it's sins, if you will-- will have that imagination played out in real life.
The ways of Sade are not limited to bedroom and scenes of bondage or porno theaters or forbidden books. Any aspect of culture, from the great to the small, insofar as it is engaged in issues of power has therefore Sadean qualities. Furthermore, since life is never perfect, every aspect of culture will know the split of power into torture and suffering, dominance and submission, or sentimentality and cruelty.I wont editorialize anymore than I have, but I can't help but wonder, When did psychological abuse become entertainment? or has it always been thus? Also see: N.Y. report denounces shock use at school. I look forward to your Parallax View.
So, I saw an interesting film this weekend. Here's a great site about the experiment on which it was based. Here's another equally disturbing experiment. Or you can just have fun running some psychological test on yourself. But, at the end of the day, who are we? Of what are we capable?
the BBC recreates the stanford prison experiment. First episode is being aired now, (slightly late post, sorry 'bout that). The original experiment was discussed on mefi here.