While looking up an article idea for the third blog, I ran across an article about experiments that showed psychology experiments that "proved humanity is doomed". While many of the experiment were looked over in the conformity discussion session, we didn't discuss the experiment that had the most dramatic impact on me this semester.
The article mentioned from above can be seen here.
The Stanford Prison Experiment conducted by Zimbardo had a chilling effect on me the first time I read about it. In the experiment, students were chosen to be prisoners while other students were selected to be guards. Zimbardo assumed the role of superintendent. The experiment was run for only six days, and in these few days, the students strongly conformed to their roles. The guards quickly let their responsibilities get out of hand, and Zimbardo allowed the experiment to continue. Even when the prisoners revolted, the guards didn't reconsider the experiment. In fact, the guards took further measures to subdue them physically and psychologically.
A documentary on the experiment can be seen here.
Throughout the experiment, the prisoners weren't actually prisoners, nor were the guards anything more than students. However, given the roles that they assumed, their reactions were genuine and harsh. They wanted the prisoners to feel as if they were imprisoned. Moreover, the guards wanted the prisoners to respect their authority.
Whereas the Asch Conformity Experiment and Candid Camera stunts were almost humorous in their premises, the Stanford Prison Experiment is borderline scary. While I disagree with the use of experiments such as these, this experiment shows so much of the human condition.
I want to remember what I took to heart from this experiment in five years. I want to remember how these people lost themselves, and as a result, these students harmed others. There is an evil that humanity is capable of when they lose themselves, and I want to remember that I must remain in the moment.
Theorist Claude Shannon has a maxim: "The enemy knows the system." Zimbardo will not be the last person to create a system that produces this breed of evil. Therefore, when a person like Philip Zimbardo puts the power into your hands, he knows the system. Be present in the moment. Don't become their system. Be the good in the world.