October 14, 2002
10:04 AM   Subscribe

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?
posted by pjgulliver (15 comments total)
I hadn't really thought about psychology/psychiatry since I took an intro freshman year. Does anyone know of other fascinating/disturbing/revealing experiments similar to these?
posted by pjgulliver at 10:08 AM on October 14, 2002

There's a good article about The Milgram Experiment by Ian Parker in issue 71 of Granta. Unfortunately, it's not online.
posted by liam at 10:23 AM on October 14, 2002

I'm a big Moritz Bleibtreu fan, and I thought Das Experiment was outstanding. Since it's a German movie, it was also interesting for historical reasons, not just psychologically. It asks, what does it take to turn people into fascist pigs? The answer seems to be, not a hell of a lot. But apart from all that, it's also a nailbiting ride, slick and fast. I highly recommend it.
posted by muckster at 10:47 AM on October 14, 2002

If anyone is interested in these kinds of experiments, I recommend reading The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson.
posted by caustic at 10:48 AM on October 14, 2002

Damn, two posts with the word "recommend". That doesn't sound very nice.
posted by caustic at 10:49 AM on October 14, 2002

The interesting result of this experiment to me is how easily a person is manipulated into harming others. It seems that there's a two part process: first, take away any accountability, and second, give them the means to do it.

I recall one similar experiment where psychologists brought in a test group of friend pairs, and a control group of strangers. One person was set in charge of delivering electric shocks to the other. They found that a person's friends are more likely to administer shocks than perfect strangers.
posted by cjoh at 10:51 AM on October 14, 2002

I haven't seen the film, but I saw one of the movie review shows talking about it. Weren't the guards pre-selected for their aggressive tendencies and the prisoners pre-selected for submissiveness? Given that, how surprising could it be that the experiment turned out the way it did?
posted by willnot at 10:56 AM on October 14, 2002

Well, the film is a film, so its not really a psychology experiment willnot. And no, in neither the film nor the the real experiment were people preselected. Placing individuals into roles as guards or prisoners was done randomly. In real life it was done by coin toss. In the film a computer randomly selected individuals.
posted by pjgulliver at 10:58 AM on October 14, 2002

Look, ma, we just MeFi'ed the fourth link!
posted by falameufilho at 11:17 AM on October 14, 2002

Now some irate professor from the UK is going to track me down.....
posted by pjgulliver at 11:27 AM on October 14, 2002

Here's what happens when future screenwriters take psych 101. Sooner or later, somebody will figure out how to adapt Pavlov's experiment on classical/operant conditioning to the silver screen -- who doesn't love movies with dogs?.
posted by bicyclingfool at 11:31 AM on October 14, 2002

This movie was so very bad. Predictable in every aspect, well, except perhaps the totally ludicrous "love" interest that was so dumb as to be almost unpredictable (who could predict a film maker foisting such rubbish on us?). I went out and saw it thinking the movie might have interesting new things to say about the original experiment on human behavior, instead I found the experiment's premise exploited to make stupid and boring hollywood-style crap. Gee, wasn´t it subtle social commentary the way Homicidal Guard started to brush his hair over in pseudo-hitlerian style? Bad bad baaaad.
posted by sic at 1:14 PM on October 14, 2002

Prior discussions of Stanford Prison Experiment and Milgram.
posted by dhartung at 2:09 PM on October 14, 2002

When I clicked the Essex University link, nothing came up. Is that part of the test? [Eerie music...]
posted by Jofus at 3:21 PM on October 14, 2002

Curses... I was going to post this exact same thing a couple weeks ago, but decided not to because the Stanford Prison Experiment was already discussed twice here. Well, congrats, pj.

Regardless, I think the original experiment is much more chilling than the movie, considering it actually happened, the subjects were a bunch of hippie kids, not the mooks in the film, and the experiment director was drawn in too, not just away as in the movie. Hobbes' State of Nature, indeed.

Crazy stuff.
posted by The Michael The at 4:45 PM on October 14, 2002

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