A Demonstration That Such Can Occur. Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment

There has been Very much discussion in the last week about the study, and suggestions that because the participants were somehow encouraged or suggested to act in some particular way, that the study is no longer interesting or informative.

As I see it, this is a mistake.

The study is both interesting and informative, because it shows that with a couple of days and some appearance of authority people will do things they know are wrong to people they know are innocent.

That in its self is ridiculous and crazy informative and definitely worth talking about. And probably thinking more about how to avoid.

But instead there have even been suggestions that because the participants were coached the study is no longer pure, A similar criticism is leveled at Milgram’s pretend shock experiments. Yes, the study probably cannot say anything fundamental about human nature, or maybe it does. But the study is informative and interesting in any case, because such a situation can be created within even a week. Probably faster if one really trained in it.

This has serious implications for.. everything. Pretty much every leader follower relationship in the world. Teams, businesses, labs, cults, and the military. People with even pretend power (such as a research assistant or lab PI) can make people do things they might not otherwise do (e.g., Questionable Research Practices, beating people). Maybe it doesn’t hold so well because they were paid very well, but I am not sure.

 

tldr; the study shows that such a situation can be created even quite easily, and I don’t think this changes depending on coaching or what.

 

Advertisements

One comment

  1. “The study is both interesting and informative, because it shows that with a couple of days and some appearance of authority people will do things they know are wrong to people they know are innocent.”

    I think the Zimbardo findings might well be the most replicated finding in all of social psychology!

    I mean if several of the narratives of the past few years relating to all that is wrong in psychological science are correct and to be believed, apparently psychological researchers massively “abused” and/or “tortured” data and/or scientific values and principles just because some “authority” (e.g. reviewer, editor, mentor, teacher) told them to do so.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s