Prison Life - The Stanford Experiment - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 03-18-2005, 08:26 AM
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The Stanford Prison Experiment took place in 1971. It was a classic psychology experiment that simulated prison life in order to demonstrate what can happen to people who are humiliated and degraded over a period of time. I thought that this is still very much relevant today given the much publicized Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.



It just amazes me that there are people who still think that prisons are like some kind of tax payer supported vacation camps with unlimited access to TV and other perks.



http://www.prisonexp.org/





A quote from a prisoner at an Ohio penitentiary after being in solitary confinement for an inhumane length of time:



"I was recently released from solitary confinement after being held therein for thirty-seven months. The silence system was imposed upon me and if I even whispered to the man in the next cell resulted in being beaten by guards, sprayed with chemical mace, black jacked, stomped, and thrown into a strip cell naked to sleep on a concrete floor without bedding, covering, wash basin, or even a toilet....I know that thieves must be punished, and I don't justify stealing even though I am a thief myself. But now I don't think I will be a thief when I am released. No, I am not rehabilitated either. It is just that I no longer think of becoming wealthy or stealing. I now only think of killing -- killing those who have beaten me and treated me as if I were a dog. I hope and pray for the sake of my own soul and future life of freedom that I am able to overcome the bitterness and hatred which eats daily at my soul. But I know to overcome it will not be easy."
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#2 Old 03-18-2005, 12:48 PM
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Very sad!
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#3 Old 03-18-2005, 01:07 PM
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Taking a step back and generalizing further, I think that the Stanford prisoner experiment shows the corrupting force of hierarchical social relations, and how they can influence even nice, well-meaning people into commiting cruel acts.



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#4 Old 03-18-2005, 01:08 PM
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There is a movie of this experiment, too.



It's very fascinating. Social psych teaches people to be a bit more humble and not to assume that, "I'd never do that!"



http://www.cba.uri.edu/Faculty/della...ks/Milgram.htm is another scary one.



Note that neither of these experiments would be permitted today. We have since set up IRB's which have strict ethical standards and would not tolerate either of these studies.
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#5 Old 03-18-2005, 01:18 PM
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It's very fascinating. Social psych teaches people to be a bit more humble and not to assume that, "I'd never do that!"



Very good point, Thalia! I think it is all too easy for us toassume that we would react in a certain way, but until we have experienced situations first hand, we can not really know.



It takes a life time to learn to know yourself, and even then, the knowledge is at best fragmentary.
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#6 Old 03-18-2005, 01:25 PM
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Taking a step back and generalizing further, I think that the Stanford prisoner experiment shows the corrupting force of hierarchical social relations, and how they can influence even nice, well-meaning people into commiting cruel acts.



ebola





Exactly.
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#7 Old 03-18-2005, 01:33 PM
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Taking a step back and generalizing further, I think that the Stanford prisoner experiment shows the corrupting force of hierarchical social relations, and how they can influence even nice, well-meaning people into commiting cruel acts.



ebola



Good Gawd! I think I agree with ebola!!



I would really like to know more about WHY this kind of breakdown in human decency occurs in situations like this, the Milgram study, riots and other mob psychology situations. I, like most of us, can't imagine a situation where I would treat a person the way the "prisoners" in the study were treated, yet I'm as human as those students were.



Anyone know a good book or link that goes into what's actually happening in the brains of these nice guys turned sadists?







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#8 Old 03-18-2005, 01:38 PM
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There is a movie of this experiment, too.



It's very fascinating. Social psych teaches people to be a bit more humble and not to assume that, "I'd never do that!"



http://www.cba.uri.edu/Faculty/della...ks/Milgram.htm is another scary one.



Note that neither of these experiments would be permitted today. We have since set up IRB's which have strict ethical standards and would not tolerate either of these studies.





I'd really be interested in seeing the movie. Did you see it?
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#9 Old 03-18-2005, 04:23 PM
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I've heard some horrible things about what goes on in prisons and in even just county jails.



I have enough family that's ended up on the "wrong side" of the law, and the things I've heard have chilled me to the bone.



Many correctional officers seem to be just sadistic people - whether they were that way when they started or if they became that way, I don't know. I know 2 very nice people that are on their way to becoming co's and it really makes me wonder if they'll become corrupt and sadistic too. Our whole society is set up around a "punishment" model, rather than a "rehabilitation" model, and that surely doesn't help fix the attitude of the co's.
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#10 Old 03-18-2005, 04:49 PM
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I learned about that study in my social psych classes in college. It's pretty scary! Even the nicest humans have a pretty ugly dark side.



To generalize even further - I think this same phenomenon is why so many slaughterhouse/farm workers become abusive to the animals.
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#11 Old 03-18-2005, 06:04 PM
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I've heard some horrible things about what goes on in prisons and in even just county jails.



I have enough family that's ended up on the "wrong side" of the law, and the things I've heard have chilled me to the bone.



Many correctional officers seem to be just sadistic people - whether they were that way when they started or if they became that way, I don't know. I know 2 very nice people that are on their way to becoming co's and it really makes me wonder if they'll become corrupt and sadistic too. Our whole society is set up around a "punishment" model, rather than a "rehabilitation" model, and that surely doesn't help fix the attitude of the co's.



We have a family friend who is a Corrections Deputy for Riverside County, but we knew him for several years before he took that job. All of us (myself, my fiancee, and the kids) have all noticed a big change in him over the last couple of years that he's been in the jail. He used to be a very sweet person. Always contientious of others. Now, he's pretty much a bully and Anita and I really don't like having him around much. Every time he comes over, he laughs and jokes about which inmates he's humiliated.



There's very much a bully culture in law enforcement, generally, but I think it's worse in the Prison/Jail environment. I had another friend who worked as a CD in San Diego County. His pet name for inmates was "the turds." I think this kind of dehumanizing attitude is common. I did not know him before, as I did our family friend, so I can't say what HE used to be like, however.







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#12 Old 03-18-2005, 06:05 PM
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To generalize even further - I think this same phenomenon is why so many slaughterhouse/farm workers become abusive to the animals.



That's a REALLY good point.







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#13 Old 03-19-2005, 12:20 AM
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While I don't think any thief or petty criminal should be treated that way, I still won't lose any sleep over what happens to a violent offender in prison. People like that creep who confessed in Florida tonight make my blood boil and I hope he gets what's coming to him.
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#14 Old 03-19-2005, 12:51 AM
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This is what I was talking about in another thread not so long ago and no one knew what I was on about!!!!!
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#15 Old 03-19-2005, 01:47 AM
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I would really like to know more about WHY this kind of breakdown in human decency occurs in situations like this, the Milgram study, riots and other mob psychology situations. I, like most of us, can't imagine a situation where I would treat a person the way the "prisoners" in the study were treated, yet I'm as human as those students were.



Anyone know a good book or link that goes into what's actually happening in the brains of these nice guys turned sadists?





The Rev



I think it is a mistake to lump together the prisoner experiment and the "obedience to authority" experiments. While they have some similarities,

as far as I know, they show different things.



Short article by Milgram excerpted from his book:



http://home.swbell.net/revscat/perilsOfObedience.html



See also:



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment



His main book is called Obedience to Authority.



http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/006131983X/



Milgram's main findings contradict the way you put your question. The experiments did not show that nice people were turned into sadists. They showed that most ordinary people simply did not have the inner "resources" to resist authority; they simply obeyed, acting out of a sense of duty, not sadism.



He writes:





Quote:
Indeed, it is highly reminiscent of the issue that arose in connection with Hannah Arendt's 1963 book, Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt contended that the prosecution's effort to depict Eichmann as a sadistic monster was fundamentally wrong, that he came closer to being an uninspired bureaucrat who simply sat at his desk and did his job. For asserting her views, Arendt became the object of considerable scorn, even calumny. Somehow, it was felt that the monstrous deeds carried out by Eichmann required a brutal, twisted personality, evil incarnate. After witnessing hundreds of ordinary persons submit to the authority in our own experiments, I must conclude that Arendt's conception of the banality of evil comes closer to the truth than one might dare imagine. The ordinary person who shocked the victim did so out of a sense of obligation -- an impression of his duties as a subject -- and not from any peculiarly aggressive tendencies.



This is, perhaps, the most fundamental lesson of our study: ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.

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#16 Old 03-19-2005, 01:55 AM
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Note that neither of these experiments would be permitted today. We have since set up IRB's which have strict ethical standards and would not tolerate either of these studies.



What is an IRB? Do you have a link to these?



Some people have suggested that the "ethical" prohibitions on these kinds of experiments were merely devices to have them stopped because most people did not like their findings. In other words, it becomes "unethical" to discover or publish unpleasant truths.
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#17 Old 03-19-2005, 05:35 AM
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I think the key to this issue is the language you hear.



You often hear "jail, prison...etc", not "correctional facility "



You hear "sentence, did his time, paid his debt to society, deserves to be in jail, country club prison ...etc"



All of these indicate to me that people think of jail as punishment, which we do, rather then as "correctional" facilities where it is more about solving a problem..........changing someone to stop committing crimes.........then punishing someone.



I think it would be hard, but I think the first step as a country is to change the way we think about jail time. If we could stop thinking of it as revenge and more like "fixing" someone or a problem different approaches to actually making jails true correctional facilities might help.



There are many criminals who can't be changed, but I think there many who could be.........or at least not made into hardened criminals..........if the prison system is changed.

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#18 Old 03-19-2005, 05:42 AM
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I learned about that study in my social psych classes in college. It's pretty scary! Even the nicest humans have a pretty ugly dark side.



To generalize even further - I think this same phenomenon is why so many slaughterhouse/farm workers become abusive to the animals.



There was a fairly good tv movie a few decades ago about a high school history class.



The students couldn't accept their teachers point that WWII era Germans were people just like them and that facisim could happen in the U.S. The history teacher began manipulating them the way the Nazis manipulated the Germans. Instead of the swastika the teacher used a picture of "the wave" ( a wave ).



When the students started to change he shut the whole thing down and showed them how they had changed.



It was pretty good.

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#19 Old 03-19-2005, 05:51 AM
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We have a family friend who is a Corrections Deputy for Riverside County, but we knew him for several years before he took that job. All of us (myself, my fiancee, and the kids) have all noticed a big change in him over the last couple of years that he's been in the jail. He used to be a very sweet person. Always conscientious of others. Now, he's pretty much a bully and Anita and I really don't like having him around much. Every time he comes over, he laughs and jokes about which inmates he's humiliated.



Interesting post!



Modern psychological stuff aside, there have been thousands of years of religious thinkers, authors of literature, philosophers, political thinkers etc who have noticed that humans are social animals and what the power of a peer group can do to shape who a person is to the point that these thinkers strongly emphasized that one of the most important things a person who is seeking to improve him/herself can do is to make a conscious choice as to which people they have surround themselves with in their daily life.



One of my favorites is an old Russian saying that goes something like "Be careful who you are enemies are because that is who you will become ".

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#20 Old 03-19-2005, 06:54 AM
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We also would have to change how we feel about race.



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#21 Old 03-19-2005, 11:39 AM
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What is an IRB? Do you have a link to these?





An IRB is an internal review board. These are ethical comittees in a university or other institution that all researchers have to submit a proposal for prior to doing their research.



In Canada, people also have to submit their proposal for review to the tri-council for approval. The tri council is a joint effort of the national research council, the social sciences and humanities council and the natural sciences and engineering council. I think you have to submit to them if they have given you a grant for your research- but those places are where all the publically funded research money comes from.



They make sure that you are following all their manadates and they will make suggestions if there is a way to improve the ethics of your research.



This is a link to their policy statements

http://www.ncehr-cnerh.org/pwrpnt/section_x/



I think it is really similar to the US.

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#22 Old 03-19-2005, 12:41 PM
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I'd really be interested in seeing the movie. Did you see it?

I saw movies of both studies, and downloaded one of the Milgram study through bit torrent. Maybe I can set up a new torrent of the milgram one. (see below) Not sure how to get the stanford one. Those educational movies are usually very expensive.



ETA- I was right. The stanford video is $100!

http://www.prisonexp.org/video.htm
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#23 Old 03-19-2005, 02:25 PM
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>>I think it is a mistake to lump together the prisoner experiment and the "obedience to authority" experiments. While they have some similarities,

as far as I know, they show different things.>>



I would say that the two experiments are complimentary, one showing the function of hierarchy at the top, the other showing its function at the bottom, and both delivering a highly critical picture.



>>Anyone know a good book or link that goes into what's actually happening in the brains of these nice guys turned sadists?

>>



Are you talking about neurophysiology? If so, well, we are nowhere near that level of sophistication in our science. Give it another 150 years.



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