The unfair treatment of prisoners.


Something that was very upsetting to read about in Chapter 13 was the concept of deindividuation, and how this can be observed in the Stanford Prison Study and the real-world example of Abu Ghraib. Deindividuation is defined as the tendency of people to engage in atypical behavior when stripped of their usual identities, and according to the textbook it is a very common behavior of prison guards.
In the Stanford Prison Study, Philip Zimbardo and colleagues performed an experiment in which they assigned 12 males to the role of prisoner and 12 males to the role of guard. After only six days, the men assigned to the role of guard had exhibited aggressive and violent behavior toward the prisoners, who had also conformed to their respective role. In the real-world example of Abu Ghraib, U.S. soldiers were reported placing bags over Iraqi prisoners' heads, arranging them in human pyramids for their amusement, and more. According to Zimbardo, however, the fiasco was a product of situational forces.
Another real-world example, in which foreign war prisoners were treated poorly by U.S. soldiers, occurred under the Bush administration in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A few of the tactics used by these soldiers included sleep deprivation, prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, and more. Although what happened in Guantanamo Bay is similar to the events that occurred at Abu Ghraib, I had to wonder whether this could have been caused by situational forces, or if the soldiers took part in these kinds of actions as an act of "revenge" for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.



It's very interesting to me how quickly people will conform with others or adapt to their roles like in the Stanford prison study. The fact that it took only 6 days for them to change shows how little will power individuals have. The situational forces in Guantanamo Bay probably played a major role in how they were treated, especially when the prisoners were involved in something against the U.S.

I treatment of the prisoners by the prison guards in Guantanamo Bay probably had to do with situational forces, the environment they were in and the belief that the prisoners were Muslim and might have been involved in the 9/11 attacks. I wonder if discrimination occurs in prisons? If race, gender or religion matter to prison guards or if they see prisoners as a large homogenous group.

This topic is particularly interesting because all of the examples referenced involve regular U.S. citizens committing acts of torture or otherwise undesirable behavior. We all identify ourselves as members of a country that often can "do no wrong", yet these horrific things still happen. Many people will say that in a certain situation they would never stoop to acting the way others did, but these examples make me question whether that is really an accurate assessment, or if we all might eventually succumb to environmental pressures under the right circumstances.

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This page contains a single entry by kiell002 published on April 23, 2012 7:30 PM.

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