Migramatic Shock: Alan Milstein on the Stanford Prison Experiments

Migramatic Shock: Alan Milstein on the Stanford Prison Experiments
April 1, 2007

Alan sounds off on the Jon Stewart oddity of the year:

What a Milgramatic shock to see Phillip Zimbardo on Jon Stewart the other night to promote his new book. Zimbardo, of course, was the Principal Investigator of the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971, in which healthy volunteers were recruited to participate in a psychology experiment to explore, allegedly, how good people turn evil. (The subtitle of his new book.) He has made a career and, apparently, a nice living on a human research project regarded by most bioethicists today as patently unethical because it offered all risk and no benefit to the student subjects.

One of the main disincentives to even considering an unethical experiment, in addition to the threat of being sued by an enterprising plaintiff's lawyer, is supposed to be the prohibition against publishing or promoting the results of such a study, even if scientifically sound. That has never stopped Zimbardo or his handlers. The Professor was even brought in to testify on behalf of one of the Abu Ghraib prison guards, opining that his experiment yielded scientific proof that human beings could not help themselves in such situations from turning cruel. The testimony, according to Zimbardo himself, was ignored by the tribunal.

What Zimbardo has never understood is that human beings simply should not be treated as a means to an end, as mere guinea pigs or, to use the terms from another horrible era, logs or material. When an experiment crosses that line, the only evil it finds is in the researcher.

Watch video on experiment