Was the Stanford Prison Experiment a sham?

I could have sworn there was a thread somewhere about the replication crisis in psychology, but I can’t find it now. Perhaps it was all in the shoutbox. Anyway, here’s an article:

Was the Stanford Prison Experiment a sham? Our Q&A with the writer who exposed the celebrated study


Now, the guy is a journalist, so one should take anything he says with as big a grain of salt as you take anything a shrink says… :slight_smile:

What I find peculiar is that reality seems to bear out the conclusions of the prison experiment, even if the experiment itself was flawed. Or does it? Was Abu Ghraib the result of uniquely evil individuals? Or weak people who couldn’t refuse illegal orders? Did senior personnel ever actually order that the abuses take place?

One really needs to do a new Stanford experiment, except the thing is now so well known it would be difficult to get hold of subjects who don’t realize what it’s all about. Plus, there are probably ethical concerns.

My own experience in education suggested to me that a great deal of trouble results from systemic, institutional problems rather than individuals deliberately doing evil or just not caring. If going against the grain can cost you your job, there is a lot of pressure on you to conform, and just go through the same mindless facsimile of education as everyone else, even if you know or suspect that the school is actively doing harm. And this can happen even in institutions where every single individual is actually quite sincere and genuinely trying to do the right thing. Presumably it is much worse when there are a few poisonous individuals thrown into the mix.

The more I see of humans, the less I understand them… :slight_smile:

If you go on this experiment alone, every prison would be a death trap. Even a few weeks would be too much to endure, or are prison guards the world over exceptionally well trained? I think it was a sham.

It seems to me that Ben Blum sporadically got a little high on his own hype here and there. Still, his contentions raise several valid concerns about the SP experiment, many of which also bedevil much of psychological research in general. I raised some of them recently in this thread—which I believe is the one brianvds was seeking.


Good point. On the other hand, there have been prisons (Alcatraz comes to mind) where utter brutality prevailed. And in properly run modern prisons, perhaps they make a point to prevent the guards from having absolute power over inmates.

Mefiante: that was indeed the thread I had in mind. Well, whatever: now we have a thread where we can bash dem shrinks. :slight_smile:

Oh be nice!!! Im a shrink!

Not to worry: we only bash the bad ones. :slight_smile: