The following quotations relate to the theoretical ideas associated with Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment (the SPE).  They also point to critiques of these ideas that have been provided by other researchers.

Guard aggression … was emitted simply as a ‘natural’ consequence of being in the uniform of a ‘guard’ and asserting the power inherent in that role.
1 Haney, Banks & Zimbardo, 1973, discussing findings of the SPE

Participants [in the SPE] had no prior training in how to play the randomly assigned roles. Each subject’s prior societal learning of the meaning of prisons and the behavioural scripts associated with the oppositional roles of prisoner and guard was the sole source of guidance. 
2 Zimbardo, 2004

The idea that groups with power automatically become tyrannical ignores the active leadership that the experimenters provided [in the SPE]. Zimbardo told his guards: “You can create in the prisoners … a sense of fear to some degree, you can create a notion of arbitrariness that their life is totally controlled by us…. They’ll have no freedom of action, they can do nothing, say nothing that we don’t permit. …. We’re going to take away their individuality in various ways".
3 Haslam & Reicher, 2005

It is not, as Zimbardo suggests, the guards who wrote their own scripts on the blank canvas of the SPE, but Zimbardo who created the script of terror.
4 Banyard, 2007

The fact that Zimbardo’s analysis [is] invoked in order to deny responsibility for acts of appalling brutality should serve as a warning to social psychology. For it points to the way that our theories are used to justify and normalize oppression, rather than to problematize it and identify ways in which it can be overcome. In short, representing abuse as ‘natural’ makes us apologists for the inexcusable. 
5 Haslam & Reicher, 2006

Behind the tyranny of the prison guards and the abasement of the prisoners in the SPE, there is a view of human beings as the psychological prisoners of society … working out of a dysfunctional and inescapable human nature.… Social psychology spends much of its time explaining how society is reproduced, how the present recapitulates the past and very little on the other half of the problem, how and why society changes.… Society is not a psychological prison but a means of expanding human possibilities. A reorientation of theoretical emphasis is overdue.
6 Turner, 2006


1 Haney, C., Banks, C. & Zimbardo, P. (1973). A study of prisoners and guards in a simulated prison. Naval Research Review 9, 1–17 [Reprinted in E. Aronson (Ed.), Readings about the social animal (3rd ed., pp. 52–67). San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman]. (p.12)

2 Zimbardo, P. (2004). A situationist perspective on the psychology of evil: Understanding how good people are transformed into perpetrators. In A.Miller (Ed.), The social psychology of good and evil (pp.21–50). New York: Guilford. (p.39)

3 Haslam, S. A., & Reicher, S. D. (2005). The psychology of tyranny. Scientific American Mind, 16 (3), 44–51. (p.47)

4 Banyard, P. (2007). Tyranny and the tyrant. The Psychologist, 20, 494-495. (p.494)

5 Haslam, S. A. & Reicher, S. D. (2006). Debating the psychology of tyranny: Fundamental issues of theory, perspective and science. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 55–63. (p.62)

6 Turner, J. C. (2006). Tyranny, freedom and social structure: Escaping our theoretical prisons. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 41–46. (pp.41,45)


Where did the scripts for the SPE come from?

Where did the scripts for the SPE come from?