Philip Zimbardo is a psychologist who designed the famous Stanford prison experiment. He built Abu Ghraib in a Palo Alto basement more than thirty years before General Miller "Gitmo-ized" Iraq. Zimbardo also knows about Abu Ghraib because he worked on the sentencing phase of Sgt Ivan "Chip" Frederick's defense and had access to all the evidence presented in that case.
A few months ago, he published The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. In this book, he summarizes more than 30 years of research on factors which lead good people to engage in evil actions. Here are my notes from his presentation at MIT on April 2, 2007 which I watched online (ain't the Interweb great?!!). Zimbardo is now concentrating on heroism and how to promote those impulses. We can't learn enough about that quick enough, it seems after reading Seymour Hersh's latest.
Abu Ghraib was inexcusable but not inexplicable. The Stanford experiment showed the same behavior. "We're going to get to the bottom of this" means they are not going to get to the top. We should consider attributional charity - don't blame individuals first but see whether there are situational and structural factors before establishing individual guilt.
Digitally documented depravity - trophy pictures. Army reservists not trained to the task. Gen Karpinski was put in charge of all the prisons in Iraq and had never run any prison before.
Titan Corporation was contracted to interrogate prisoners. Interrogators were paid $1000 per day.
Zimbardo believes Rumsfeld's orders were responsible for most of the abuses.
He cited Stanley Milgram's electrocution experiment at Yale. The study was done with 500 ordinary people, not students. Then he moved the experiment to Bridgeport, CT and ran the experiment with another 500 people. 65% of the shockers went all the way to the end of the voltage range. "It's a study in how not to exit a bad situation." Only about 10% of people will not be compliant. Only 10% are heroes. In the shock the puppy experiment, a 1971 study that was never published because it was too controversial, 50% of males go all the way and 100% of women did, when their psych profs asked them to, under the guise of a conditioning experiment upon which their grades might depend. [Were the males under similar pressure?]
10 simple lessons to create evil (from Milgram)
Use ideology to justify any means towards good ends
Start with a small first step
Successively increase small actions
Seemingly "just authority" in charge
Gradually becoming an authoritarian monster
Rules are vague and changing
Situation always re-labels actors and actions
Provide social models of compliance
Allow verbal dissent but insist on behavioral compliance
Make exiting difficult
If you make people anonymous and give people permission to be violent, they will become violent. Zimbardo's NYU experiment showed that women who were hooded and addressed by number rather than name during the course of the experiment would "shock" subjects longer and harder, increasing the duration of the "shock" as the experiment went on. Those who were individuated, kept their own names and whose faces could be seen, "shocked" less and didn't increase the duration of shocks during the course of the experiment.
Stanford prison experiment (1971) combined deindividuation, anonymity of place, dehumanization, role playing and social modification, moral disengagement, group camaraderie and emergent norms, power differentials (guards have more power than prisoners), and the evil of inaction (the good guards never stopped the bad guards). 75 volunteers from which two dozen were picked. Guards and prisoners chosen by a coin flip. The first student to break down (in 36 hours) has devoted the rest of his life so far to working with prisoners in SF as a clinical psychologist.
We need to understand the person, the place and the psychological circumstances and the system that created that situation. [Dosage, set, and setting.] The case of Sgt Ivan "Chip" Frederick showed that putting prisoners on boxes with hoods was in Rumsfeld's order. Frederick and the other guards served 12 hours a day 7 days a week for 40 consecutive days, never left the prison, had little supervision, and were under bombardment. Frederick received 8 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge. His most violent act was to hit one prisoner in the chest.
Frederick admitted guilt. Zimbardo was engaged only to mitigate the sentence.
dogs to induce fear
food, sleep, and sensory deprivation (and sensory overload)
concealing illegal practices from Red Cross
Abuses, suicides [how many?], and 21 murders in Iraq, Cuba, and Afghanistan [that we know of].
Military intelligence used guards to "soften" prisoners up against military protocol.
Zimbardo identified seven psychological factors only one of which was dispositional or personal, six were systemic.
600 accusations of detainee abuse, 190 never investigated, 410 investigated, 260 investigations cleared without formal action, 150 disciplined, 79 court martialed, 54 guilty, ten one year plus sentences, 30 less than a year, 12 no prison, 10 acquitted, 15 minor penalty, 71 administrative discipline or minor reprimands, no officer other than General Karpinski punished.
Administrative evil is a new kind of evil - Unmasking Administrative Evil (Rethinking Public Administration) by G Adams and D Balfour, 2004.
Joe Darby who exposed the photos was put into protective custody for three years, in the service and at home.
Zimbardo will now focus on understanding heroes. How do we get children to think of themselves as heroes in waiting. How to move from inaction, from passivity, to stop being ego-centric and move toward socio-centric.
Dr Z's ten steps for resisting influence
"The key to resistance lies in development of the three Ss-- Self-Awareness, Situational Sensitivity, and Street Smarts."
“I made a mistake!”
“I am mindful.”
“I am responsible.”
“I am Me, the best I can be."
“I respect Just Authority, but Rebel against Unjust Authority.”
“I want group acceptance, but value my independence.”
“I will be more Frame Vigilant” - he who makes the frame can control the situation
“I will balance my Time Perspective” -don't become trapped in an expanded present moment, don't forget the sense of past commitments and of future liabilities
“I will not sacrifice personal or civic freedoms for the illusion of security.”
“I can oppose unjust Systems.”
Military commissions act suspends 200 years of American laws - no habeus corpus, no right to counsel, no right to trial. [Nearly 800 years of the Magna Carta]
Not abuse of power but the arrogance of power - "I can do anything" "The law does not apply to me and us"
Et tu, Scooter?