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Celebrating Heroism 
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Post Celebrating Heroism
I bring this up here because Zimbardo mentions it again in the beginning of this chapter. I am not sure which section it was originally discussed in.

About the McDonalds employees being suckered by the phone caller into commiting sexual acts...would ANYONE here fall for that. I just cannot see myself falling for that at all. I mean, what would you have to be thinking (or incapable of thinking more likely) to succumb to that? I do not reject the data Zimbardo presents that this has happened many times...but I just cannot relate to this as being possible to happen to me...along with the rest of the studies. How could any thinking person be duped into doing this by an anonymous phone caller?

Mr. P.


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Thu Jan 03, 2008 4:27 pm
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I think that the question isn't really a useful one to make, if only because we can't provide any useful answers.

I know that I can't conceive of a situation where I would fall for the trick, but I also know that any of those people who fell victim to the malicious callers would have said the exact same thing had you asked them before they fell for it.

The lesson to be learned from the evidence Zimbardo presents seems to be that when you take people out of their normal environments and place them in a novel situation, they will act in ways that they never imagined possible.

Had we never heard of this scam, it is for sure that some of us would fall for it, others would not, but what we can be certain of is that our own self beliefs are not a reliable indicator of how we would have acted.



Thu Jan 03, 2008 7:59 pm
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I guess I am alone then, as usual, in knowing that I would not fall for that kind of scam. I dont fall for any scams. I know that many do though...I was surprised one day when a close friend told me, excitedly, that Bill Gates was going to give her money if she forwarded an email. She was so serious about it....

But I disagree about the question being useless. Because why is my question useless when the opposite one Zimbardo is proposing is not?

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Thu Jan 03, 2008 8:43 pm
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What do you mean by the opposite question? I'm not entirely certain.

I think that one of the valuable aspects of Zimbardo's approach is that he focuses on the "barrel" and not the "apples". A person who is a good prison guard in one situation is a terrible one in another. Maybe you're right Nick and you'd not fall for the same scam that the McDonalds employees fell for, but if the con took another form, I'm certain you could be made to do something that others would regard as utterly ridiculous.

The more valuable question to ask in what scenarios humans are liable to behave dangerously or foolishly. If people appreciate that their free will exists within a context and that situations, particularly novel ones, exert a powerful, counterintuitive influence over our behaviour, then they will be a little less likely to make mistakes like the one Zimbardo mentions.



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Niall001 wrote:
Maybe you're right Nick and you'd not fall for the same scam that the McDonalds employees fell for, but if the con took another form, I'm certain you could be made to do something that others would regard as utterly ridiculous.


How are you 'certain' of this?

Mr. P.


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Thu Jan 03, 2008 11:44 pm
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Mr. Pessimistic wrote:
Niall001 wrote:
Maybe you're right Nick and you'd not fall for the same scam that the McDonalds employees fell for, but if the con took another form, I'm certain you could be made to do something that others would regard as utterly ridiculous.


How are you 'certain' of this?

Mr. P.


I'm working off the functional assumption that you're human.



Fri Jan 04, 2008 7:31 am
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Niall001 wrote:
Mr. Pessimistic wrote:
Niall001 wrote:
Maybe you're right Nick and you'd not fall for the same scam that the McDonalds employees fell for, but if the con took another form, I'm certain you could be made to do something that others would regard as utterly ridiculous.


How are you 'certain' of this?

Mr. P.


I'm working off the functional assumption that you're human.


Truth is you are certain of nothing about me because you do not know me. Just because I am human, or you are human, does not mean we are certain about anything regarding each other. I for one would never assume anyone here (aside from people like Asana) would fall for anything like the McDonalds thing....or any other scam. I hope I am right.

When you make statements like "I am certain of X" that has no basis in fact, and lets agree here that a theory like Zimbardo presents in no can be said to be a fact or beyond a reasonable doubt true, you are on shakey ground.

I agree with the basic idea that people act differently in different situations, but I do not think that this is so profound as Zimbardo makes it out to be. Most humans, to me, are kinda silly...wanting to believe in impossible things and make believe entities and places and miracles...and so many in our population are prone to being duped. They fall for scams because they are guliible deep down.

Saying that people act differently in different situations is similar to me to saying that we wear different clothes to the office/work than we do at home. Of course situations present different variables and thus different responses. Every day and place is a situation. It is how individuals act in those situations that make the individual what they are. So it all returns to the individual as I see it. Remeber, not all the guards in every prison made these errors in judgement, right?

I have some problems, which I stated elsewhere, with the ultimate validity of the SPE. It is an interesting study, but is not a miracle cure for why people behave badly sometimes. Sometimes, humans are just bad apples.

Mr. P.


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Fri Jan 04, 2008 8:13 am
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Mr. Pessimistic wrote:

Truth is you are certain of nothing about me because you do not know me. Just because I am human, or you are human, does not mean we are certain about anything regarding each other. I for one would never assume anyone here (aside from people like Asana) would fall for anything like the McDonalds thing....or any other scam. I hope I am right.


I hope you're right also. But like I said before, an individuals opinions about what they would or would not do have been shown in empirical studies to have no predictive power regarding their actual behaviour when placed in particular types of situations.

I don't think I would have fallen for the McDonalds scam. I don't think I would have behaved so shockingly in the SPE. I don't think would have participated in the Nazi atrocities. I certainly don't think that you or any other individual Booktalk member has indicated that they are particularly likely to fall for any scam or participate in genocide, but then again, whatever qualities predispose a person toward these actions, they do not appear to be detectable through conversation.

Everyday I ignore countless emails from people promising me they can extend my penis size up to 18 inches or that if I just forward them my bank details, they'll send me millions.


Quote:
When you make statements like "I am certain of X" that has no basis in fact, and lets agree here that a theory like Zimbardo presents in no can be said to be a fact or beyond a reasonable doubt true, you are on shakey ground.

I agree with the basic idea that people act differently in different situations, but I do not think that this is so profound as Zimbardo makes it out to be. Most humans, to me, are kinda silly...wanting to believe in impossible things and make believe entities and places and miracles...and so many in our population are prone to being duped. They fall for scams because they are guliible deep down.



Zimbardo does a good job of showing that the situation is important to determining behaviour, but that it is particularly important in novel situations and institutional settings. Now, most situations are not novel. They're familiar, and we have an internal script for how we should behave. We know what the norms are, but when we find ourselves in a situation where we do not know what the norms are or what is expected of us and the main sources of advice is an authority figure, we're liable to take his or her advice.

Quote:
Saying that people act differently in different situations is similar to me to saying that we wear different clothes to the office/work than we do at home. Of course situations present different variables and thus different responses. Every day and place is a situation. It is how individuals act in those situations that make the individual what they are. So it all returns to the individual as I see it. Remeber, not all the guards in every prison made these errors in judgement, right?


No, not all guards in every prison make the mistakes made in the SPE prison. But the variable does not seem to be the guard, but the prison. I don't have the book to hand, but the former correctional officer who abused the prisoners in Abu Gharib was a perfectly good guard when he was in the States.

Remember, the guys who went into the SPE were supposed to be normal. They were good kids randomly assigned to their roles. Yet, some of them acted in what you could call a heroic fashion while others became monsters. Had the dice rolled otherwise, the heroes might have been the monsters, or would at the very least, probably have collaborated with the monsters.

I would not argue that the individual's personality is not important to determining their behaviour, only that in particular types of situation, it is the situation that is most important and individuals, regardless of their self beliefs.


Quote:
I have some problems, which I stated elsewhere, with the ultimate validity of the SPE. It is an interesting study, but is not a miracle cure for why people behave badly sometimes. Sometimes, humans are just bad apples.

Mr. P.


Even bad apples are good most of the time. The thief may treat his wife well. The murder may give money to charity. The pedophile may help old ladies across the street. But in certain situations, they act in an evil manner. If you can prevent these situations from arising, then the world becomes a little better.

I don't think that the SPE offers a miracle cure for everyday evil and I doubt that Zimbardo would argue as much, but it shows us that situations are powerful. One of the more important things the individual can do to avoid committing evil acts is to avoid situations that are known to lend themselves to evil actions.



Fri Jan 04, 2008 9:00 am
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