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The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)

What are the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or a guard?  That was what the Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo wanted to know when he devised his now infamous experiment back in 1971.  Twenty-four Stanford student volunteers played the roles of guards or inmates in a simulated prison.  When the "guards" became abusive and sadistic, and the "prisoners" compliant, things got out of hand and the experiment was abruptly stopped after one week.  Zimbardo himself was implicated for his role as the "superintendent" and for letting unethical practices happen.  As one article puts it, "The results of the experiment have been argued to demonstrate the impressionability and obedience of people when provided with a legitimizing ideology and social and institutional support."  This fictionalized version of the experiment premiered at the 2015 Sundance festival.  If it's not creepy enough for you, parts of the original experiment were filmed and are available on YouTube.  Or, you can read Zimbardo's book version called The Lucifer Effect (2008), which includes comparisons with Abu Ghraib.

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