posted on Jan, 15 2013 @ 08:46 PM
Anyone interested in the psychology behind the Stanford Prison Experiment should read The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo. It's a retrospective
account of the experiment written by the psychologist who conducted it.
The message behind the book, and the experiment, is that virtually everyone is capable of seeminly "evil" acts, but situational factors are more
accountable in explaining why (sometimes over a lifespan) than dispositional factors. This isn't as depressing as people may think, as it works the
other way, i.e. everyone can also be a hero if placed in the right situation, and it teaches people not to judge a person's behaviour based on their
personality (dispositional factors), but think about the situations that have lead to up to that person committing crimes or pathologies, (at the same
time, this does not make it an excuse for committing immoral acts).
Two main factors that seem to influence people into acting immoral are 'dehumanisation' and deindividuation. Dehumanisation occurs when people
become convinced that another person is below them, or lower than human. This is often a tool of propaganda employed by dictatorships and was a tactic
employed by the Nazi's, who regularly associated the Jews as rats.
De-individuation occurs to people when they are part of large crowds. In a large crowd, people appear to lose their sense of awareness and are
protected by higher levels of anonymity. Deindividuation was seen as a major influence into the shocking behaviour of the guards in the prison
experiment, as the guards immersed themselves into their group, which reinforced their behaviours into becoming progressively worse. This also seemed
to effect Zimbardo himself, as it was not him who stopped the experiment, but his girlfriend Christine Maslach.