Interesting study from Stanford in NYT.
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  1. #1

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    Interesting study from Stanford in NYT.

    Fine Line Between 'Normal' and 'Monster'
    '71 Simulation Assigned College Students as Guards, Prisoners for Two Weeks

    By JOHN SCHWARTZ, The New York Times

    (May 6) - In 1971 researchers at Stanford University created a simulated prison in the basement of the campus psychology building. They randomly assigned 24 students to be either prison guards or prisoners for two weeks.

    Within days the "guards" had become swaggering and sadistic, to the point of placing bags over the prisoners' heads, forcing them to strip naked and encouraging them to perform sexual acts.

    The landmark Stanford experiment and studies like it give insight into how ordinary people can, under the right circumstances, do horrible things including the mistreatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

    What is the distance between "normal" and "monster"? Can anyone become a torturer?

    Such questions, explored over the decades by philosophers and social scientists, come up anew whenever shocking cases of abuse burst upon the national consciousness, whether in the interrogation room, the police station or the high school locker room.

    Hannah Arendt coined the phrase "banality of evil" to describe the very averageness of the Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann. Social psychologists pursued the question more systematically, conducting experiments that demonstrated the power of situations to determine human behavior.

    Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo, a leader of the Stanford prison study, said that while the rest of the world was shocked by the images from Iraq, "I was not surprised that it happened."

    "I have exact, parallel pictures of prisoners with bags over their heads," from the 1971 study, he said.

    At one point, he said, the guards in the fake prison ordered their prisoners to strip and used a rudimentary sex joke to humiliate them.

    Professor Zimbardo ended the experiment the next day, more than a week earlier than planned.

    Prisons, where the balance of power is so unequal, tend to be brutal and abusive places unless great effort is made to control the guards' base impulses, he said. At Stanford and in Iraq, he added: "It's not that we put bad apples in a good barrel. We put good apples in a bad barrel. The barrel corrupts anything that it touches."

    To the extent that the Abu Ghraib guards acted, as some have said, at the request of intelligence officers, other studies, performed 40 years ago by Dr. Stanley Milgram, then a psychology professor at Yale, can also offer some explanation, researchers said. In a series of experiments, he told test subjects that they were taking part in a study about teaching through punishment.

    The subjects were instructed by a researcher in a white lab coat to deliver electric shocks to another participant, the "student."

    Every time the student gave an incorrect answer to a question, the subject was ordered to deliver a shock. The shocks started small but became progressively stronger at the researcher's insistence, with labels on the machine indicating jolts of increasing intensity up to a whopping 450 volts.

    The shock machine was a cleverly designed fake, though, and the victims were actors who moaned and wailed. But to the test subjects the experience was all too real.

    Most showed anguish as they carried out the instructions. A stunning 65 percent of those taking part obeyed the commands to administer the electric shocks all the way up to the last, potentially lethal switch, marked "XXX."

    Dr. Charles B. Strozier, director of the Center on Terrorism and Public Safety at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said the prison guards in Iraq might feel that the emotions of war and the threat of terrorism gave them permission to dehumanize the prisoners.

    "There has been a serious, siesmic change in attitude after 9/11 in the country in its attitude about torture," Dr. Strozier said, a shift that is evident in polling and in public debate. In the minds of many Americans, he said, "it's O.K. to torture now, to get information that will save us from terrorism."

    Craig W. Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was one of the lead researchers in the Stanford experiment, says prison abuses can be prevented by regular training and discipline, along with outside monitoring.

    Without outsiders watching, Professor Haney said, "what's regarded as appropriate treatment can shift over time," so "they don't realize how badly they're behaving."

    "If anything," he said, "the smiling faces in those pictures suggest a total loss of perspective, a drift in the standard of humane treatment."

    Experiments like those at Stanford and Yale are no longer done, in part because researchers have decided that they involved so much deception and such high levels of stress four of the Stanford prisoners suffered emotional breakdowns that the experiments are unethical.

    05-06-04 11:18 EDT

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company.

  2. #2
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    It would be interesting to know if everyone became a sadist, which I doubt, and what were the psychological traits of those that did and didn't start abusing those under their control when given the oppurtunity.

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    you can probably find out here:

    http://www.prisonexp.org/

    There is a slide show.

    Oddly, I was talking to a vietnam vet today about the iraq torture pics, and he brought up Milgram. I brought up the prison experiment.
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    Makes you wonder about war

    I can see people treating others like dogs and less than human and that it would be a thin line.

    Just look at how strong and mature I think I am, yet if some little thing doesn't go my way or traffic is bad, I'm in the dirt. It's quick and humbling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flip Flash
    Fine Line Between 'Normal' and 'Monster'
    '71 Simulation Assigned College Students as Guards, Prisoners for Two Weeks

    By JOHN SCHWARTZ, The New York Times

    (May 6) - In 1971 researchers at Stanford University created a simulated prison in the basement of the campus psychology building. They randomly assigned 24 students to be either prison guards or prisoners for two weeks.

    Within days the "guards" had become swaggering and sadistic, to the point of placing bags over the prisoners' heads, forcing them to strip naked and encouraging them to perform sexual acts.

    The landmark Stanford experiment and studies like it give insight into how ordinary people can, under the right circumstances, do horrible things including the mistreatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

    What is the distance between "normal" and "monster"? Can anyone become a torturer?

    Such questions, explored over the decades by philosophers and social scientists, come up anew whenever shocking cases of abuse burst upon the national consciousness, whether in the interrogation room, the police station or the high school locker room.

    Hannah Arendt coined the phrase "banality of evil" to describe the very averageness of the Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann. Social psychologists pursued the question more systematically, conducting experiments that demonstrated the power of situations to determine human behavior.

    Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo, a leader of the Stanford prison study, said that while the rest of the world was shocked by the images from Iraq, "I was not surprised that it happened."

    "I have exact, parallel pictures of prisoners with bags over their heads," from the 1971 study, he said.

    At one point, he said, the guards in the fake prison ordered their prisoners to strip and used a rudimentary sex joke to humiliate them.

    Professor Zimbardo ended the experiment the next day, more than a week earlier than planned.

    Prisons, where the balance of power is so unequal, tend to be brutal and abusive places unless great effort is made to control the guards' base impulses, he said. At Stanford and in Iraq, he added: "It's not that we put bad apples in a good barrel. We put good apples in a bad barrel. The barrel corrupts anything that it touches."

    To the extent that the Abu Ghraib guards acted, as some have said, at the request of intelligence officers, other studies, performed 40 years ago by Dr. Stanley Milgram, then a psychology professor at Yale, can also offer some explanation, researchers said. In a series of experiments, he told test subjects that they were taking part in a study about teaching through punishment.

    The subjects were instructed by a researcher in a white lab coat to deliver electric shocks to another participant, the "student."

    Every time the student gave an incorrect answer to a question, the subject was ordered to deliver a shock. The shocks started small but became progressively stronger at the researcher's insistence, with labels on the machine indicating jolts of increasing intensity up to a whopping 450 volts.

    The shock machine was a cleverly designed fake, though, and the victims were actors who moaned and wailed. But to the test subjects the experience was all too real.

    Most showed anguish as they carried out the instructions. A stunning 65 percent of those taking part obeyed the commands to administer the electric shocks all the way up to the last, potentially lethal switch, marked "XXX."

    Dr. Charles B. Strozier, director of the Center on Terrorism and Public Safety at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said the prison guards in Iraq might feel that the emotions of war and the threat of terrorism gave them permission to dehumanize the prisoners.

    "There has been a serious, siesmic change in attitude after 9/11 in the country in its attitude about torture," Dr. Strozier said, a shift that is evident in polling and in public debate. In the minds of many Americans, he said, "it's O.K. to torture now, to get information that will save us from terrorism."

    Craig W. Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was one of the lead researchers in the Stanford experiment, says prison abuses can be prevented by regular training and discipline, along with outside monitoring.

    Without outsiders watching, Professor Haney said, "what's regarded as appropriate treatment can shift over time," so "they don't realize how badly they're behaving."

    "If anything," he said, "the smiling faces in those pictures suggest a total loss of perspective, a drift in the standard of humane treatment."

    Experiments like those at Stanford and Yale are no longer done, in part because researchers have decided that they involved so much deception and such high levels of stress four of the Stanford prisoners suffered emotional breakdowns that the experiments are unethical.

    05-06-04 11:18 EDT

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company.
    Sounds like a variation on the Jane Elliot "Brown eye/Blue Eye" experiment. Interesting.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
    Friedrich Nietzsche

  6. #6
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    Makes me wonder

    why you think "treating others like dogs" is bad treatment? Is that how you would treat a dog in certain circumstances?? Honestly?

    All Gods creatures deserve humane treatment. (Except mosquitos and houseflys, they deserve no mercy)



    Quote Originally Posted by Flip Flash
    I can see people treating others like dogs and less than human and that it would be a thin line.

    Just look at how strong and mature I think I am, yet if some little thing doesn't go my way or traffic is bad, I'm in the dirt. It's quick and humbling.

  7. #7

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    You have to wonder about war and what it does to people?

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    Quote Originally Posted by czardonic
    You have to wonder about war and what it does to people?
    To be an effective combat soldier you have to find a way to rationalize the brutality. The Norse Berserkers used to be a pretty fearsome bunch...basically going insane when they went into battle and doing what it took to win the war. When they returned to the village they were given a wide berth and allowed to decompress for as long as it took them to reassimilate back into "normal" society. In modern warfare we ask soldiers to do unspeakable things and then to return home like nothing happened. No wonder many veterans have mental problems or turn to drugs and alcohol to cope.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
    Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Which begs so many questions about the wisdom of these wars for "liberation" it makes my head hurt.

    You can either win the battles, or you can win the hearts and minds. Pick one and say goodbye to the other forever. If you can't choose, stay the **** home.

  10. #10

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    How do you

    win over the heart and mind of osama bin laden.

    I'd like your thoughts on that.

  11. #11

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    You don't.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by czardonic
    Which begs so many questions about the wisdom of these wars for "liberation" it makes my head hurt.

    You can either win the battles, or you can win the hearts and minds. Pick one and say goodbye to the other forever. If you can't choose, stay the **** home.
    That's way too simple a philosophy. It's not an either/or every time. The Allies liberated many countries in WWII through devastating warfare and still managed to win hearts and minds. In Japan, they gave up war completely!

    Not all wars were Vietnam.

    Your point is valid, that winning hearts and minds is important, but winning the battles does exclude winning hearts and minds.

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    Maybe be it has to be way too simple, lest we fool ourselves into ignoring the likely -- if not inevitable -- product of trying to find the perfect balance.

    For that matter, post-WWII Japan is way too complicated to serve as an example for other occupations.

  14. #14
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    I'm not a psychologist, but I can fake it!

    Let's not be formal, you can call me hoo

    I know some psychology (including this stuff) because I am a social psychologist by training, even if it is from the sociology end of things. Heck, I've even done lab experiments myself!

    IIRC, Milgram and Zimbardo's prison experiment are two of the BIG reasons we have the protections we have today for study participants. Back in the day, there was little to no oversight. Now there are Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) that oversee this and make researchers jump through all sorts of hoops. All risks and benefits are laid out, along with steps taken to minimize any risks as much as possible. There is NO way these experiments could fly today.

    As for the experimenter becoming part of the study, there is nothing wrong with that per se. There are methods (such as Participant Observation) that require it. In the prison experiment, it was not a big issue because the experiment was not an experiment... it was a study. Classic experiments have a treatment and control group, this did not. This also did not have repeated trials. So the number of cases under study in the prison experiment is 1. Not a lot of stats you can do on one case!

    The reason to keep the researcher out is to keep the number of variables under control. But if they participate, and do it the same for every case (or the same for each control, and different but consistant for the treatment group), then it is not an issue.

    So if I tell one subject they are working with a woman in the next room, but tell another they are working with a man, I am introducing a variable to the situation of gender. But I would have to say EXACTLY the same words to both people other than the gender manipulation, otherwise the control goes out the window. I can't chat with them, because the difference in chat might cause an effect, and I would not know if the effect I measure is from the gender manipulation, or my chatting variation between subjects.

    I hope that makes sense.
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  15. #15
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    No white coats.

    But I do use a clipboard on occasion. Never underestimate the power of a clipboard.

    Yeah, Zimbardo got caught up in the study. Though that is a lack of control, it does show the power of the situation to affect people's judgement.

    Now, as for control, you can do lots to increase that. You can video tape instructions, that way everyone gets the same message every time. Even without that though, after you repeat the same script time and time again, you do develop a VERY consistant way of saying things and even consistant body language.

    The big trick to getting control is random assignment of subjects to conditions. If you do that, any non-controlled variables (eye color, political party, favorite foods, etc) should be randomly distributed between conditions. If they are randomly distributed, then any effects of those variables should also be randomly distributed between conditions, cancelling each other out. In other words, you should get statistically even numbers of Republicans in each condition. That way, there is no SYSTEMATIC bias to worry about. And you can focus on the (hopefully) large effects of your theoretical variables of interest.

    The power of randomness comes in very handy. And that is something you can't use in manufacturing... at least not in any way I can think of.
    .
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