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In My Room » 2004 »

Archive for May 9th, 2004

The Stanford Prison Experiment and Abu Ghraib

May 09, 2004 in Current Events


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This website concerning the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment has been making the rounds lately, as it’s lessons are very relevant to the current prisoner abuse scandals in Iraq.

For those unfamiliar with the Stanford Prison Experiment, 24 college students participated in a psychological experiment of prison life. These psychologically normal subjects were split into equal groups of guards and prisoners. There were no directions given to the guards as to how they should perform their jobs.

Over the next week, the behavior of the guards became increasingly sadistic, and the prisoners became equally despondent and powerless. The experiment was ended after less than a week.

A recent article in the NYT also explores the parallels between Stanford and Abu Ghraib. Everything that has happened in Army-run Iraqi prisons has already been observed at Stanford.