Blog: Bad Apples or Bad Barrels? - 2010-11-21
I'm reading a fascinating book: The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Phil Zimbardo, the Stanford professor who conducted the famous Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971. A good one to add to your reading list.
In this experiment, he took a group of college boys, carefully tested them to ensure there was no sign of mental illness, sociopathy or sadism, then randomly assigned them to play the roles of guards and prisoners in a mock prison set up in the basement of Stanford's Jordan Hall. After just days, the experiment spiraled out of control, with the guards ultimately submitting the prisoners to sadistic abuse far beyond the needs of role playing, and the prisoners descending into very real depression and apathy. In The Lucifer Effect, Zimbardo describes the experiment in detail, correlating it with much later research by himself and others, including his work with Abu Ghraib prison guards.
Of course, as I was reading the book, my mind went to my own experiences at the Int Base, which were eerily similar to the abuses, degradation and mind games carried out by the SPE "guards."