What happens to a person when he puts on a uniform? After the atrocities, committed by men in uniform during WW2, social psychologists in the 1950s and 1960s were fascinated by that question.
In numerous psychology textbooks you can read about the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, executed by researcher Philip Zimbardo.
It began on August 17, 1971. Zimbardo's primary reason for conducting the experiment was to focus on the power of roles, rules,
symbols, group identity and situational validation of behavior that generally would repulse ordinary individuals.
He told people: -QUOTE- "I had been conducting research for some years on de-individuation (anonymity), vandalism and dehumanization
that illustrated the ease with which ordinary people could be led to engage in anti-social acts by putting them in situations
where they felt anonymous, or they could perceive of others in ways that made them less than human, as enemies or objects," -END QUOTE-
The idea is, that changes in the situation can easily bring up the worst in people. For instance, you are a gentle bookkeeper in some dull office
and then you are put in a uniform and have become a bookkeeper and guard in Auschwitz. This could change the kind bookkeeper in a camp executioner.
The Experiment: 12 Students got the role of prison ward and another 12 got the role of prisoner. The prison wards got uniforms and dark glasses.
Here we go. Let's see what happens. And what was expected happened. After 6 days Zimbardo had to stop the experiment, because it all got out of hand. The prison wards became too sadistic.
But that is not at all the whole truth. To begin with, some of the experiment's findings have been called into question, and the experiment has been criticized for unscientific methodology and even possible fraud.
French academic and filmmaker Thibault Le Texier, in a 2018 book about the experiment, "Histoire d'un mensonge" ("Story of a lie"), wrote
that it could not be meaningfully described as an experiment and that there were no real results to speak of.
In response to criticism of his methodology, Zimbardo himself has agreed that the SPE was more of a "demonstration" than a scientific "experiment".
Le Texier published a peer-reviewed article which used videos, recordings, and notes from the experiment in Stanford University Archives to argue
that "The guards knew what results the experiment was supposed to produce ... far from reacting spontaneously to this pathogenic social environment,
the guards were given clear instructions for how to create it ... the experimenters intervened directly in the experiment,
either to give precise instructions, to recall the purposes of the experiment, or to set a general direction ...
in order to get their full participation, Zimbardo intended to make the guards believe that they were his research assistants.".
From his article. "Debunking the Stanford Prison Experiment." American Psychologist, Vol 74(7), Oct 2019.
Variants of the experiment have been performed by other researchers, but none of these attempts have replicated the results of the SPE.
That is the crisis in psychology. A lot of psychological tests and experiments are not replicable (a major scientific rule)
or when replicated they come with totally different result than the original test or experiment.
In the basement of Stanford it all went wrong, as Zimbardo noticed, "as a natural consequence of putting on a uniform", but that was rather wishful thinking than a scientific observation.
For the time being our question stays unanswered: How to explain that some normal humans are capable of indescribable atrocities toward their fellowmen?
Thank you for your attention again....
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
Rutger Bregman, "De meeste mensen deugen",, 2019
[13:14] herman Bergson: The floor is yours ^_^
[13:15] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): thankyou Herman
[13:17] theo Velde is offline.
[13:17] herman Bergson: Seems it doesn't make you wonder how normal students can become vicious prison wards :-)
[13:17] Jack Lust (jacklust): it seems to me that SL is a good example of what happens when people are anonymous
[13:17] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i wonder, but don't know waht to say
[13:17] CB Axel: I think putting on a uniform does change a person a bit.
[13:17] herman Bergson: Good point Jack
[13:17] Jack Lust (jacklust): or an avatar
[13:17] CB Axel: I know I was different in uniform than out of it.
[13:18] Jack Lust (jacklust): anonymity certainly makes people bolder here
[13:18] CB Axel: But, yeah. I wonder if anyone has studied human behavior in SL.
[13:18] Jack Lust (jacklust): no consequences to their actions most times can make them pretty awful
[13:18] herman Bergson: That's true, Jack
[13:18] Neel-The Seven (nik516): yeah, agreed. sometimes ego of uniform starts speaking louder than persons words
[13:19] herman Bergson: But why can people then commit atrocities which they actually abhor?
[13:19] herman Bergson: Is it really the wearing of a uniform?
[13:19] Jack Lust (jacklust): I think it's more because of the dark glasses you mentioned
[13:20] CB Axel: Not necessarily. I don't think it's just the clothes.
[13:20] herman Bergson: Btw...this prison experiment was in fact a hoax....
[13:20] iמʞαʞů (inkaku.capalini): i think anyone who can hurt others so deeply have something wrong, something broken, either mentally or in their upbringing. I don't think it has anything at all to do with the uniform but more the power and control they have been given
[13:20] herman Bergson: The wards were instructed to behave mean
[13:20] CB Axel: Well, then forget them. Think of the Nazis.
[13:21] Jack Lust (jacklust): I wonder how hard they had to be pushed though
[13:21] herman Bergson: Indeed Jack.....to begin with....
[13:21] bergfrau Apfelbaum: there are men who beat their women. At home and without a uniform. I think it's a matter of character.
[13:21] herman Bergson: And you don't need to assume that people who did those evil things were mentally not ok.....they were in general ok
[13:22] CB Axel: People who committed Nazi atrocities I don't think abhorred cruelty.
[13:22] Jack Lust (jacklust): an idealism like that is a whole other conversation, I think
[13:22] CB Axel: I just don't think they thought of the people they were killing as people.
[13:23] herman Bergson: Indeed CB....there lays the answer
[13:23] herman Bergson: Most hilarious .....The BBC started reality TV...I think it was 2001....
[13:24] herman Bergson: Like Big Brother house.....
[13:24] herman Bergson: They wanted to recreate the Stanford experiment....
[13:24] herman Bergson: That would be sensational they expected.....
[13:24] herman Bergson: result was 4 hours of dull TV.....
[13:25] herman Bergson: prison wards and prisoners stayed decent and friendly all te time :-)
[13:25] herman Bergson: No ward got mean or sadistic.....
[13:26] herman Bergson: The uniform had no effect
[13:26] Jack Lust (jacklust): we are social animals, so most people get along
[13:26] herman Bergson: Does anyone know the Milgram experiment?
[13:26] herman Bergson: Indeed Jack :-)
[13:27] Jack Lust (jacklust): but give some people power over the others and it can go wrong sometimes, but it really depends on the person
[13:27] herman Bergson: It is not really about power, Jack....
[13:28] herman Bergson: In the next lecture I'll present you the Milgram experiment and its conclusions....
[13:28] Neel-The Seven (nik516): in simple words, people don'r need uniform, they need cause....because nothing happens around without cause
[13:28] herman Bergson: they are somewhat disturbing, but give also a possible answer...
[13:28] herman Bergson: Indeed nik.....
[13:29] herman Bergson: You only have to figure out what kind of cause it need to be...
[13:29] herman Bergson: In the Milgram experiment people were asked to administer electro shocks to a student.
[13:30] herman Bergson: It was told to them that it was research regarding memory
[13:30] Jack Lust (jacklust): that should be interesting too
[13:30] Neel-The Seven (nik516): yes, I read about that somewhere, I am not sure but it was held by Yale university, right?
[13:30] herman Bergson: the "teacher" should punish the student if he made a mistake in reproducing lists of words....
[13:31] herman Bergson: Yes...was Yale University
[13:31] CB Axel: I've heard about that experiment. I don't remember the results.
[13:31] herman Bergson: the teacher could not see the student but he could hear him....his reactions on the electro shock
[13:32] herman Bergson: I'll tell you in detail next Tuesday CB :-)
[13:32] CB Axel: I'll look forward to it. :)
[13:32] herman Bergson: then we have a possible answer to the question how people are willing to hurt another....
[13:33] herman Bergson: Power isn't the right word, I think....
[13:33] herman Bergson: For that leaves the question WHAT gives the one power over the other?
[13:34] herman Bergson: which I'll answer next Tuesday too
[13:34] Jack Lust (jacklust): I will come back for that
[13:34] herman Bergson: But you are right Jack, we are social animals and most of us are OK :-)
[13:35] herman Bergson: You're always welcome :-)
[13:35] Jack Lust (jacklust): if you do things that get you kicked out of your social group, it leaves you disadvantaged, so we tend to be nice to each other
[13:36] herman Bergson: Indeed....and that has been observed in the !Kung people....a tribe in the Amazone if I am remembering well...
[13:36] CB Axel: So maybe it has to do with one social group being cruel to another social group.
[13:37] herman Bergson: There was a real terrible person in the group......at the end they killed him...everyone, men and women participated in the killing
[13:38] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): was it a relieve for the group?
[13:38] herman Bergson: The famous US vs. THEM belief, CB....
[13:38] CB Axel: Couldn't they have just kicked him out and let him try to survive in the jungle without them?
[13:38] Jack Lust (jacklust): the other option is exile, which used to basically mean a death sentence anyway
[13:38] herman Bergson: It is hardwired in our brain...
[13:39] CB Axel: Exactly, Jack.
[13:39] herman Bergson: Yes....for people need each other.....
[13:39] herman Bergson: You can experience the pain today due to the lockdowns everywhere
[13:39] CB Axel: I do believe that racial discrimination comes from our primitive brain.
[13:40] herman Bergson: I think so too
[13:40] CB Axel: From a time when we needed to protect ourselves from other families, tribes or what ever.
[13:40] herman Bergson: BUT homo sapiens is able to retrace his steps and change his attitude
[13:41] Jack Lust (jacklust): fear of what is different is something we can't seem to shake
[13:41] CB Axel: I'd like to think that our brains have evolved to overcome that primitive part and understand that that sort of behavior doesn't work any more.
[13:41] CB Axel: But I see it happening all the time.
[13:42] CB Axel: It's like we don't want to have to think. We just want to feel what our primitive selves feel.
[13:42] herman Bergson: Elisabeth mentioned a name....and a youtube clip
[13:42] iמʞαʞů (inkaku.capalini): we are only just moving into generations that are less discriminant
[13:42] herman Bergson: there it is explained.......
[13:43] CB Axel: I'll have to search back for that URL.
[13:44] herman Bergson: I'll try to find it...give me a sec...
[13:44] Jack Lust (jacklust): we definitely need to get better at being human
[13:45] bergfrau Apfelbaum is offline.
[13:45] herman Bergson: It is Robert Sapolsky https://youtu.be/frdX0srtuHs
[13:45] CB Axel: Oops. We lost Bergie.
[13:45] CB Axel: Thank you. I'll have to watch that.
[13:45] herman Bergson: YEs.....:-(
[13:46] herman Bergson: Yes it is worth watching him
[13:46] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): she'll be back
[13:46] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): homework for the next lecture
[13:46] CB Axel: :)
[13:46] herman Bergson: Rare but true this time :-)
[13:46] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): ツ
[13:47] CB Axel: I alway mean to go back and watch and read things mentioned here, but then I forget.
[13:47] CB Axel: I have the attention span of a squirrel.
[13:47] herman Bergson: Maybe a good moment to conclude our discussion
[13:47] herman Bergson: ^_^
[13:47] CB Axel: Yes. While I have that clip up in my browser!
[13:47] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation....
[13:48] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): thank you Herman
[13:48] CB Axel: Thank you, Herman.
[13:48] Jack Lust (jacklust): thanks herman, this was great
[13:48] Guestboook van tipjar stand: CB Axel donated L$100. Thank you very much, it is much appreciated!
[13:48] Guestboook van tipjar stand: JackLust Resident donated L$200. Thank you very much, it is much appreciated!
[13:48] herman Bergson: Class dismissed and go watch Youtube now, squirrels :-)
[13:48] CB Axel: Yes! Before I get distracted by gathering nuts.
[13:48] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): smiles
[13:48] CB Axel: Bye, everyone. Have a nice weekend. :)
[13:48] herman Bergson: Do go nuts CB!
[13:48] Jack Lust (jacklust): take care everyone!
[13:48] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): stay healthy CB
[13:49] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): eat nuts
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