[xmca] Zimbardo / bad apples in situations / Stanford prison exp. & Abu Ghraib

From: Tony Whitson (twhitson@UDel.Edu)
Date: Mon Nov 28 2005 - 20:03:02 PST

Since there was a thread on this at the time, I thought this might be of
  -- Tony

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Philip G. Zimbardo, professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford University who is widely credited for popularizing psychology through the PBS-TV series ˙˙Discovering Psychology,˙˙ will discuss ˙˙The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil,˙˙ at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 6, in Pearson Hall auditorium.

The talk, which shares a title with a new book that Zimbardo is writing, will begin with a presentation of slides and video footage of prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

˙˙The lecture will focus on understanding the process involved when ordinary people get caught up in a situation that leads them to behave in ways that can be described as evil,˙˙ Zimbardo, who testified as an expert witness for one of the prison guards, said.

Zimbardo will draw parallels between the Iraq abuse and the landmark ˙˙Stanford Prison Experiment˙˙ that he led in 1971. In that experiment, a planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life using college students had to be ended prematurely after only six days when the guards became sadistic and the prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.

˙˙The abuses at Abu Ghraib were based on the sadistic tendencies of a few bad apples,˙˙ Zimbardo said. ˙˙An alternative perspective that I promote is to understand the dynamics of the social situation in which those kinds of behaviors emerge, so what I do is focus on understanding the bad apple that can transform good people into bad apples, then I take it to a higher level to say, ˙˙Who created that situation in Abu Ghraib?˙˙˙˙

Zimbardo said a report by James Schlesinger, who chairs the four-member advisory panel appointed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to investigate allegations of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, ˙˙makes explicit the parallels between the prison experiment and the abuses at Abu Ghraib and says that the Stanford prison experiment should have been a forewarning to the military about possible dangers of abuses of power.˙˙

Zimbardo said the talk will help the audience understand that almost any person can be led to behave in ways that are alien to human nature by powerful situational forces.

˙˙Secondly, we underestimate and fail to appreciate the power of seemingly simple external forces around us, like whether we are in a group or alone, whether we are anonymous or identifiable, whether we have a sense of personal responsibility or diffused responsibility, and whether there is an authority figure trying to persuade us to engage in certain behavior.

˙˙The last and most important thing is an appreciation of how fascinating human behavior is, especially the transformation of human behavior; what makes good people do bad things, what makes bad people sometimes do good things, or how can we make bad people do good things,˙˙ Zimbardo said.

Zimbardo, an internationally recognized scholar, educator, researcher and media personality, recently received the 2005 Havel Foundation Vision 97 Award. The annual prize is awarded ˙˙to an individual whose work has made a major contribution to broadening human horizons, drawing attention to lesser known phenomena and contexts, integrating science into the general culture and promoting alternative human views of the world, the universe and fundamental questions of existence.˙˙

His best-selling book, Psychology and Life, the oldest, continuously published textbook in psychology, is now in its 17th edition. He served as president of the American Psychological Association in 2002 and president of the Western Psychological Association from 1983-2001. He is the chairperson of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents (CSSP).

Zimbardo earned his honors bachelor˙˙s degree in psychology and sociology/anthropology at Brooklyn College in 1954. He received his master˙˙s and doctoral degrees at Yale University in 1955 and 1959, respectively. Zimbardo, who has been at Stanford since 1968, previously taught at Yale, New York University, Barnard College and Columbia University. He has taught introductory psychology to tens of thousands of students since 1957.

˙˙The goal in all of my teaching and all of my writing is to convey to the general public the fascination and excitement of psychology,˙˙ Zimbardo said. ˙˙Psychology is about people, it˙˙s about human relationships, and research in psychology helps us understand human motivation and social dynamics. You want audiences to see the relevance of psychological knowledge in their own life.˙˙

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