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Thursday, May 10, 2007


"Rather than deal with the evil in me that I keep hidden even from myself, let's just say the devil—oh, sorry, the situation—made me do it."

Very insightful -- an old defense wrapped in a new package.


Yes, it's a great insight. Zimbardo's defense of the claim that the situation made him (and the participants) do it has even culminated in a book (The Lucifer Effect) with a title that actually confesses the functional psychological similarity between his position on the genesis of evil behavior and the psychologically defensive position that the devil made him do it.

If we can take Zimbardo's explanation for brutality one step further, though, I would like to know what irresistable situational force possessed him to open his experimental prison in the first place? Who or what made him do that, without even bothering with the "nicety" of an indendependent variable?

Lacking an independent variable, Zimbardo's prison operated outside of an experimental framework. It might appear to some that Zimbardo just wanted to open a prison, calling it an experiment to justify a cruel enterprise that could not, by design, yield anything explanatory.

We've seen "Drs." do this sort of experimenting before. Situations may allow or encourage this, but who or what created the situation in this instance?

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