Alright, today we talk about the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. It, it really is for anybody who's taking a Psychology course you can usually say Stanford Prison Experiment and they know exactly what you are talking about. It's that level of infamy. but it also makes a really, really important point. That I think we all have to keep in mind. whenever we see someone do something that we think we would never do, because the Stanford Prison Effect is all about your, and Stanford Prison Experiment, is all about the power that context has in shaping the way we behave. Let's just talk about it, because once we go through it, we can make that point more and more clear. Alright, here it goes. Week 6 Lecture 4, why good people do bad things? And you see I've kind of stolen that from a book that I will highlight here, a book by this man Zimbardo. So Zimbardo as a, as a much younger psychologist and then it's Phyllis Zimbardo by the way then pictured here. decided to do this interesting experiment. Now this was in the 60s and Zimbardo was really interested in authority. and the whole interaction I guess between people who have some authority and those that, who do not. Again the 60s, you know think of that rebellious time. Zimbardo was in Stanford, so, you know, west coast, you know, all your notions of 60s and, and hippies and psychedelic music and whatever you want to think about. That's the context in which these experiments occurred, and this is actually an ad for the experiment. Male college students needed for a psychological study of prison life. $15 per day for one to two weeks. This sounded pretty good to a lot of people, because, I mean basically you just were going to come in and either be a prisoner, or be a guard for two weeks, getting 15 a day per day. So it's kind of like okay, even if I'm a prisoner, I just sit around and sell all day for two weeks and I make a little pocket full of money, not bad. Beginning August 14th, which is my birthday, by the way, kind of cool. for further information, off you go. So this was just posted in the newspaper and people applied. And they would come in and they would meet Phil Zambardo. who is by the way is a very well known figure within psychology. Very well known also for his teaching and his writing. So really bring psychology to everybody I guess. So, good He, he's written a number of books and I, and I highly recommend anybody interested in Moore checking a lot of what Phil Zimbardo has done. He's also got a lot of TV shows and things like that. all right, now here's the critical thing. These individuals came into the lab, now I'm going to highlight this for a couple of reasons. We're going to see it in a, in a number of experiments. Well, when they came into the lab, they were just young men. but, they were then randomly assigned to play the role of either guard, or prisoner. they weren't told which at first, so they just came in and talked and applied and, and somewhere Phil Zimbardo flipped a little coin or whatever and decided for each member whether they were going to be a guard or a prisoner. Now, here's the important issue with, with random selection or random assignment. The important aspect of it is that if you really randomly make somebody adopt either the prisoner role or the guard role, there's no reason to suspect there would be any other systematic difference between those groups. So we don't expect, for example, to have all the aggressive people become guards and all the submissive ones prisoners. That would be kind of odd if we're just flipping a coin for that to happen. We hoped that the randomness will create two groups of people who are not really systematically different in any way. And so now the experiment will, if, if we ultimately see differences in behavior of these two people, we can assume those differences are due to the experimental context. Not due to some pre-existing difference. So if we took all the tall people and made them guards, and the shorter people, and made them prisoners. Well then we might be worried that there's something else at play. You know, something that is related to height. But when you do it randomly, you can feel pretty comfortable that whatever you ultimately see, came about because of the experiment itself. So now in this experiment, people were just came in, they did their interview. They were randomly assigned to a group, they didn't know which but then, when the experiment was about to begin, the guards were all first called in. And they were given outfits, like what you see. you know, just sort of guard like outfits, various paraphernalia. And the critical bit of paraphernalia was the sun glasses. this is always seen as really important in, in these situations. because, it gives you a mask, as it were, allows you to wear an alternative persona of the sort. And so, this is how the guards were all equipped and then later on that same day the police force that were in on this they wanted to make it as real as possible so they went and arrested the prisoners at their homes, so they literally came to the prisoners' homes as part of the experiment. And arrested them, brought them to the police office, put them through the whole, you know, pictures, fingerprints, booking kind of activity. And then ultimately brought them to Stanford a basement in Stanford that was set up like jail cells. So a bunch of rooms were converted so that this area ultimately became the Stanford prison. Okay, the prison in the, in the basement of the psychology building of Stanford. prisoners were equipped with shirts like this with numbers and the guards were again equipped as, as seen. Very little instruction was given to them, except for the following. So Zimbardo cast himself as the Superintendent of the prison, that the man ultimately in charge. but he really led with a weak hand, so to speak. What he wanted to do was see how these participants trying to fit into the situation. What did they do? And so, the guard's role was literally to keep order. They were told, you know, these are prisoners. And your role is to control the prisoners. Keep them in line. Make sure they do the things they have to do. And the prisoners, of course, were just prisoners. and so, Zimbardo kind of set that up and let it run. And early on things went kind of weird, everybody thought it was kind of a bit of a joke, you know, who's a prisoner, who's a guard. In fact a lot of people when they were interviewed afterwards said they were kind of hoping at the beginning to be a prisoners. They thought that prisoners would be an easier thing to be but over time, a bunch of weird things happened. and, and you're kind of seeing some of these things depicted here. The guards, at first, the prisoners were kind of joking with them, and being subordinate, insubordinate, I guess. and they weren't taking the whole thing seriously, and at some point, the guards, and especially one guard, let me go back, especially this guy, who's become relatively famous. At some point decided hey, I'm a guard. I'm going to exert some control. and so he started getting very tough. Very authoritative with the prisoners. And then the other guards slowly started to follow his lead. So over time, they would start to ask the prisoners to do a bunch of things. Like turn to the wall and put their hands there. You would ask them to count out. They had to count numbers. They have to stand for a long time in a, in a given position push ups, sit ups, you know, all that kind of stuff. So denying them bed sheets when they went to bed at night. It's if they were misbehaving they would remove their bed sheets so they would start to do things like that, it escalated. There was an area that was sort of a closet and they would put people in there if they were misbehaving and lock them in there for awhile like a solitary confinement kind of thing, and it actually got to the point where at point, at one point they made them strip naked have bags over their head. They could only ever response to their number not their names so they deinviduated them. and, and it really kind of got underhand. in fact you know at some point some of these patients started to have nervous breakdowns. And we're talking about two days into the experiment here. Not very far in but it really escalated. The guards started to act more and more guard-like, the prisoners really started to act more and more oppressed. and show those feelings and the weird sort of subtext to the whole story is that, Zimbardo kind of looked on. And he looked on in amazement and, and in fascination of what he was seeing. He was kind of saying, well this started out as two random groups of people. And then suddenly, you see a prison culture emerge. And you see one group of people, suddenly acting very nasty, very aggressive, very authoritative Authoritative. And they weren't that when they came in. They were 60s California kids. but suddenly they were transforming into a much more, I don't know whether you want to call it evil, but certainly, they certainly bullied these people. They certainly did a lot of nasty things to the prisoners to the point where they were causing some prisoners real psychological trauma. and, and that was the fascinating thing. And at some point, you know, the famous story is that Zimbardo's girl friend at the time came in, and he wanted to show her what was going on with pride. Like look at what I've created in just two days, look what's happened here. And like he really didn't create it, it was, he just created. The context but look at what this context has created, and he thought it was amazing. She thought it was horrific. When she saw prisoners going to the washroom naked with a bag over their head, in a line, having to follow the orders that these guards were laying out. She thought this was immoral and wrong and that the experiment should stop and essentially had a fight with Zimbardo on that front. you know him actually apparently accusing her of really not being a good psychologist if she didn't see how fascinating this was and, and her I think counter accusing him of not being a very good human being if he couldn't see how horrific it was. and eventually he did and he shut it down. but know, the, thee remnants of that experiment lives on. In fact Zimbardo himself, recently published a book called The Lucifer Effect, where he makes the following startling connection. It's really startling when you think about it, but he said when the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal was breaking in America and we were seeing those images of what American soldiers were doing to Iraqi prisoners, he immediately when he saw those image thought of the standard prison experiment. It looked to him like the exact same thing was going on The bullying, the people, you know, that were stripped naked with bags over their head, nasty things being done to them. And so he said, you know, this is the standard prison experiment. It's just a real prison. But it's the same phenomenon. What is that phenomenon? This is the critical point. The phenomenon was that the context >> Encouraged and rewarded that sort of behavior. That sort of aggressive, nasty behavior. That evil kind of behavior. And he argues, in this book, that that's the same thing going on in Abu Ghraib. And the reason that It's an important thing to realize is that what ultimately happened in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal is that two or three soldiers were labeled as bad apples, as the ones that caused all the evil. They were charged, they were put in jail. Zambardo does not argue that they should not be charged. He, he agrees that, you know anybody who conducts evil should pay the price. But, what he also argues, is that the people that created that context, also should pay the price. And, he says those people go right up you know, as far as the Vice-President, and maybe even the President in the, in that case. That they all created a context. Much like he had, and they put these guards in this situation where they were asked to, say, soften up prisoners and things like that and then ultimately, the context in which these people were in permitted and maybe even encouraged evil behavior, and. And when we're in that context, this is the larger, scarier point. When we're in that context any of us might do the same, you know but we're back to almost thinking Milgram, right? But Milgram, it was an authority figure standing over you. In the case of the Stanford Prison Experiment, it's the actual context we find ourselves in and it's that context encourages. A certain kind of behavior, and if everyone around you is okay with you being this bully, this tough, this nasty kind of person and especially if they encourage it, then it's going to come out. And it may come out of a lot of people. We may suddenly see a dark side of people because of the context, and, you know, in Zimbardo's effect, this is a core part of why Even good people can perform evil acts. And that when we think about it, think of the context and the person, we can't, it's naive and simple-minded to just blame the person, and to just focus on the person. That if we want to prevent evil, we have to also consider the context, and we have to make sure that if evil contexts are created then those responsible for creating those contexts, should also be responsible for the evil. Big idea. and, you know, if you kind of roll it in with Milgram and things like that, you imagine now an evil context with an authority figure telling you what to do, then maybe you get a picture that explains things like Nazi concentration camps. and, and, similar kinds of situations in life. So yeah. Powerful stuff. Powerful experiment. Again, this is one of those experiments that you're not really going to appreciate until you see it, and here's a couple of opportunities to see it. footage from the actual experiment, so you should check those out. there is in fact a Stanford Prison Experiment Website. There's a website that literally shows you all about it, tells you all about it, you should really check that out. And then there's an interesting there's a number of interesting things that you'll find on YouTube as well and you'll, and you'll have snippets of them here where they talk a little bit about interviews with the people including that very tough guard. He was very willing afterwards to talk about the experience, the transformation that he kind of felt he went through. And what he ultimately thinks about all that, so there's fascinating stuff in there as well and some of that mentioned in the BBC after story, so check it out, I guarantee you, you will, you will leave these videos thinking a little differently about how you think about evil and the situations in which it emerges... So interesting, cool if not somewhat dark. Alright yeah we're going to continue talking about context in the next one but in a slightly different way way that maybe is more related to things you see in your everyday life. and something specifically called the bystander effect. So come on back for the next lecture. We'll talk about that.