Saturday, September 27, 2008

Zimbardo - harrowing but relevant video

My son is doing a GCSE in Psychology and has just covered Milgram and Zimbardo. So it was timely that this serious, psychological explanation for toxic debt, Abu Ghraib and commonplace evil dropped into my in-box. 

Watch the great Zimbardo explain why the Stanford Prison Experiment can explain much of what we now witness as evil. The Abu Ghraib sequence is truly horrifying, way beyond the sanitised images we saw on TV. They shock the audience into a deep, disturbed silence. However, the denouement is wonderful with an amazing story about an ordinary guy who does an extraordinary thing. Fantastic talk.

I couldn't help thinking that our current financial woes, a true evil, have been inflicted upon us in a social atmosphere of greed, with no counterbalance of whistleblowing or heroism. However, this explanation was quickly overpowered by other thoughts, along the lines of cutting off their greedy mitts and offering them free glasses of champagne. I've met far too many bankers, lawyers and city types in my lifetime and despise the idea that we should be bailing them out, without making them pay back what they've stolen. Since when did robbing the poor to pay the rich become the norm?


Unknown said...

Hi Donald, I watched Zimbardo's Ted Talk out of interest to see how it compared to his talk for Authors @Google (

Though I think the Aothors @Googl talk is a touch too lengthy, he at least gets the time to develop his themes and focus on delivery. By contrast, I thought that the Ted talk was too rushed (iaw TED's guidelines) and that he could've focussed on key points rather than squidging an 80min talk into 20...

Out of interest, I wonder if you've balanced Zimbardo's views with a look at Prof Alex Haslam's work on 'The Experiment'. My understanding is that a chief criticism from Haslam is that Zimbardo has never published his findings/data in peer reviewed journals - their conclusions on the development of the 'bad barrle' appear really quite different.

The hour with Authors @Google is certainly worth it.


Donald Clark said...

The Haslam work is interesting as it pointed to well known weaknesses in the methodology and lack of peer-reviewed presentation. However,it was 40 years ago and lots of confirmatory social psychology has confirmed the obedience, conformity issues in human nature.

Donald Clark said...

The wikipedia entry 'Stanford Prison Experiment' has more ddetail on criticisms of the experiment.