ERIC Number: EJ766029
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Mar-30
Reference Count: N/A
Revisiting the Stanford Prison Experiment: A Lesson in the Power of Situation
Zimbardo, Philip G.
Chronicle of Higher Education, v53 n30 pB6 Mar 2007
When he conducted the Stanford prison experiment, Philip G. Zimbardo wanted to know who would win--good people or an evil situation--when they were brought into direct confrontation. The situation won; humanity lost. Out the window went the moral upbringings of the young men involved in the experiment, as well as their middle-class civility. Power ruled, and unrestrained power became an aphrodisiac. Power without surveillance by higher authorities was a poisoned chalice that transformed character in unpredictable directions. In this article, Zimbardo argues that most people tend to be fascinated with evil not because of its consequences but because evil is a demonstration of power and domination over others. The Stanford prison experiment is but one of a host of studies in psychology that reveal the extent to which human behavior can be transformed from its usual set point to deviate in unimaginable ways, even to readily accepting a dehumanized conception of others, as "animals," and to accepting spurious rationales for why pain will be good for them. Implications of this research to the criminal justice system are discussed.
Descriptors: Universities, Experiments, Group Dynamics, Social Behavior, Context Effect, Antisocial Behavior, Psychological Studies, Correctional Institutions, Simulation
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: http://chronicle.com/
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: California