The conditions for tyranny are being created before our eyes. Not by us, but by the participants themselves. A group of men who earlier rejected mild inequalities are poised on the brink of a far harsher system.

On the brink – but not quite over it. And in our study, that final step was a step too far. The Communards might have lost faith but they wouldn’t willingly step back into the cells. The plotters might want to assume power, but – given our ethical constraints – they can’t physically force people into the cells.

So the system is stuck. Nobody is left with anything they can believe in. We fear that people will simply leave disillusioned. Rather than let that happen, we end the study at lunchtime on Day 8. We don’t want people to go home bitter and unhappy, at odds with each other and with us. We spend a day in workshops designed to foster reconciliation.

On Day 9, the participants leave together. What would have happened if we hadn’t ended things early? How would things have gone if a new regime had been established? These are fascinating questions, but they are questions for another study.

Our study is over.

After 9 very long days, the study is over

After 9 very long days, the study is over