Psychology of Imprisonment

The Stanford Prison Experiment web site features an extensive slide show and information about this classic psychology experiment, including parallels with the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. What happens when you put good people in an evil place? Does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph?

How we went about testing these questions and what we found may astound you.

Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended prematurely after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.

Additional commentary at neurophilosophy:

When the Abu Ghraib scandal was exposed, the Bush administration insisted that the perpetrators were just “bad apples”. However, it soon emerged that, far from being an isolated case, the systematic abuse that occurred in Abu Ghraib was common-place, and had been sanctioned from above.