The Stanford Prison Experiment

There are some things which are worth knowing which are outside the realm of Physics.

I have often thought it questionable to brand a specific generation of Germans as morally (and by implication genetically) inferior because of their role in the holocaust. It’s not to excuse what happened, but rather to acknowledge that if you or I were living in those circumstances in that period, chances are we wouldn’t have acted any differently, and we need address what that says about us.

The Stanford Prison Experiment carried out in 1971 illustrates this better than anything else I can think of.  I have been showing it to my senior classes over the last day or two of term. Hopefully it will encourage some of them to ask questions.

Initial feedback was very positive.
One more reason why it’s crazy not to have youtube in schools.

The clips get taken down and others post them back up from time to time, so do a search for “Stanford Prison Experiment” on youtube.

This is a variation on the above; it’s a talk from Dr Philip Zombardo, who co-ordinated the experiment in 1971.

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. In this book, Philip Zimbardo summarizes more than 30 years of research on factors that can create a “perfect storm” which leads good people to engage in evil actions. This transformation of human character is what I call the “Lucifer Effect,” named after God’s favorite angel, Lucifer, who fell from grace and ultimately became Satan.
From Youtube



  1. I have updated the post and replaced the links with another, but this is part and parcel of the vagaries of Youtube. Do a search for “The Stanford Prison Experiment” for more.

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