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The Stanford Prison experiment is in criticism. The researchers are supposed to have animated too hard.

Stanford Prison Experiment: Evil! Evil?

The Stanford Prison experiment is in criticism. The researchers are supposed to have animated too hard.

Stanford Prison Experiment: Evil! Evil?

What does a 47-year-old experiment with 21 participants say about where evil comes from? The attempt was made to explain Holocaust and was compared to torture in Abu Ghraib. He is one of most famous in psychology at all: The Stanford Prison Experiment. In 1971, psychology professor Philip Zimbardo imprisoned ten students in basement of Stanford University and guarded eleven or students. The situation quickly escalated, trial was canceled after six days. The common conclusion: prison situation has made perpetrators of arbitrarily selected "guards" – so evil is in everyone.

But now doubts about experiment are growing, over which several films were shot. In meantime, original tape recordings are accessible. The director and social scientist Thibault Le Texier has just written a book about it: Histoire d'un mensonge, "story of a Lie". It was he who drew attention of researchers to a particularly interesting scene, namely conversation between "warden" and one of "wardens" used by Zimbardo.

"We want to be able to enter world with what we have done and say ' look, that happens when guards behave like this... ' But in order to be able to say this, we need guards who behave like this, "says director to warden. So he should be a "hard guard". The warden replies, "I'm not very hard." Then director said, "Well, you have to wake it up in you."

This article comes from time No. 29/2018. Here you can read entire output.

The experimenters would have directly intervened to get guards to assume ir role and to act hard, researchers from Alexander Haslam and Stephen Richer write in ir analysis, which y published in advance in online archive PsyArXiv.

The behaviour of prisoners did not seem to be always auntic. One of m, Douglas Korpi, allegedly suffered a nervous breakdown. Now author Ben Blum quotes him in digital magazine medium like this: "Every clinic doctor would have noticed that I have fact."

Haslam and Richer were already 17 years ago involved in a repetition of experiment for BBC. The original result was not confirmed at time, because guards were holding back.

The two psychologists also question anor attempt, which is repeatedly quoted when it comes to evil in man: The Milgram experiment of 1961. In it, participants had supposedly put extreme electric shocks on instruction of scientists. Blind obedience is source of evil, was common conclusion. However, Haslams and Reicher's analysis showed that many subjects refused to distribute furr electric shocks when y received simple orders. However, head of study told m that it was important for experiment to continue, y did. The participants did not obey blindly, but believed to do something important, two critics argue.

"Detainees" at Stanford Prison Experiment © PrisonExp.org

Thus, two experiments are part of a large number of psychological experiments that are being questioned. Recently, it had also taken famous marshmallow test, which is supposed to measure self-control. A repetition study, which included social origin of children tested, found little benefit for those who could cope with a candy.

It doesn't always mean that a study is utter nonsense. But it shows that you have to look closely at what was actually investigated and how a result came about – especially in very famous experiments, of which only result is widely known.

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