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What would you have done in the SPE? 
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Post What would you have done in the SPE?
Suppose you were a prisoner or guard in the Stanford Prison Experiment. How would you have reacted?

It might be interesting for you to answer that question before they read the book's detailed depiction of events. You can revisit the question after seeing what happened.



Tue Nov 06, 2007 11:15 pm
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What also might be interesting is to do a live chat with Frank, one of our moderators on booktalk. Frank recently graduated from training and is now working as a Corrections Officer in a New York prison. Being in the prison as a guard has to change you. I'd like to get Frank's input here.


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Post Re: What would you have done in the SPE?
JulianTheApostate wrote:
Suppose you were a prisoner or guard in the Stanford Prison Experiment. How would you have reacted?


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Wed Nov 07, 2007 1:58 am
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Post Re: What would you have done in the SPE?
JulianTheApostate wrote:
Suppose you were a prisoner or guard in the Stanford Prison Experiment. How would you have reacted?

It might be interesting for you to answer that question before they read the book's detailed depiction of events. You can revisit the question after seeing what happened.


It is hard to say, but I would have tried my best ot be rational as a guard and try to convince my fellows against being overly abusive. As prisoner, I would have also tried the same approach.

The thing with this experiment is, they KNEW this was an experiment. Now I know some have attested that they started feeling that it was not, but I dont buy it. Not that these people are being disingenuous, but I feel that deep down, they knew this was not real and we can at that point never really equate this to reality. It may have come close enough for the research to show what it wanted to show, but...(just examples, not all inclusive of either part)...

The guards: Many mentions have been made to "Cool Hand Luke" and a the typical prison mentality. How many of these kids were acting our what they saw in hollywood and overplaying a role?

The Prisoners: Many were 'hippies' (as were the guards, yes) as Zimbardo says. Some made me sick with their "fight the system" mentality...too overly idealistic to me. But look at the times they lived in. My favorite part so far was when the real ex-con, Carlo, roasts that little dweeb Doug-8612 about his whining about the 'injustice' he felt in the fake prison. It was not even close. And the people running the experiment were perplexed because Doug had PASSED the screening. Why would he not be able to hack it and last the two weeks...I think it is because we can never really know a person with a psychological test/assessment. We are just too deep. Doug's true character showed through here and the situation amplified it. That is all.


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Wed Nov 07, 2007 7:19 pm
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Post Prisoners vs. Guards
I really found it most interesting to know that nobody wanted to be assigned to be a guard when the initial interviews were being held.

I didn't have that reaction at all when hearing how the members of the experiment were being found and assigned. I would have instinctively wanted to be a guard.



Thu Nov 29, 2007 1:52 am
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I know a little about the study being discussed here (we actually discussed it in the academy) there are several factors that I found attributed to the abuse in that situation.

First of all the time it was conducted; meaning that modern prisons do not run like they were 30 years ago. The prisoners have more rights now and most have a good knowledge of what those rights are.

There is also an inmate grievance process that is mandatory for staff to acknowledge. This program leaves a paper trail of an inmate's treatment; that material is reviewed as high up as the superintendent.

There also seems to be an almost universal ignorance of a correction officer's responsibilities among the civilian population. If any thing happens during an officer's watch that officer is ultimately responsible, from fights and rape to suicide if an officer is found negligent they could face criminal charges (this happens rather frequently)

It also seems that the administrators of the study had a certain level of ignorance regarding the treatment and rights of prisoners as well. I am certain that most of the "guards" violated procedures and laws that they would never be able to get away with in a real penal setting.

In the study the guards were given almost total authority; this is not even close to the case in a modern prison.

There is an internal affairs office in corrections and they do have agents working undercover in the prisons.

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Fri Nov 30, 2007 12:55 pm
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Hi Frank,

I agree with what has been written in the postings above, I think the results of an experiment conducted on university students who knew they were in an experiment should be taken very cautiously.

What you write about people not knowing much about the system is interesting.

Do you know about any books about prisons in the US that you think are reasonably balanced and could be a source of information for someone like me ( it seems that the little I have read is the "Apocalypse now " type or comedy/ out of touch with reality type) ?


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Evelyn, I'm going to throw this in here as a response to your question. I saw a clip of a PBS series, America at a Crossroads: Homegrown: Islam in Prison, the other night and thought it might interest some of the people reading this book. I only got to watch a bit of it, because I was at a friend's house. But, just from the title you can tell that it doesn't speak directly to the book topic, so I didn't want to open a new thread on it. The main focus is obviously about how America's prisons are reportedly becoming training grounds for radical, terroristic forms of Islam. (I'm not sure how much of this is rhetoric though.) But it does talk about the sedentary life of an inmate, and goes into overcrowding. As I recall it's airing through the early part of December.

Also, and again I didn't see it, but I think it was Ted Koppel who recently did a piece on prison overcrowding. The judge I work with, who spent years as a defense attorney and often traveled to state lock-up and now works on a judiciary board who tours state prisons, said it was an excellent piece.

Obviously, noting your location, these are both U.S. films, so sorry if they're no help to you. But I thought our U.S. members might be interested in trying to catch the PBS spot.

Frank wrote:
The prisoners have more rights now and most have a good knowledge of what those rights are.

Heh, absolutely. And if they're represented by overworked public defenders, a lot of them or more on top of their cases than their advocates. You should see some of the correspondence we get. Jailhouse attorneys intrigue me.

BTW, good to hear you are doing well, Frank. Stay safe.



Sat Dec 01, 2007 2:22 pm
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Frank, thanks for providing your input.
Frank 013 wrote:
I know a little about the study being discussed here (we actually discussed it in the academy) there are several factors that I found attributed to the abuse in that situation.

The interesting part of the study is what it revealed about human nature, and how people on each side behave when one group has massive authority over another. That's more significant than the extent to which the SPE reflected a real-life prison.
Frank 013 wrote:
There is also an inmate grievance process that is mandatory for staff to acknowledge.

Still, I wonder how much, in practice, prisons live up to the standards that they're supposed to. From everything I've read, prison life is incredibly nasty.

I started a separate thread on real-life prisons, to avoid derailing this conversation: http://www.booktalk.org/prisons-in-the- ... t4042.html
Frank 013 wrote:
There also seems to be an almost universal ignorance of a correction officer's responsibilities among the civilian population.

Note that Zimbardo did consult with an ex-con before and during the experiment. However, it's not clear how much he interacted with correctional officers.



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I am submitting my responces to the above comments to the new thread Prisons in the real world.



Sat Dec 01, 2007 3:07 pm
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