Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Human Behavior Experiments

CBC The Big Picture
The Human Behaviour Experiments

A U.S. Army report contains testimony from an army team leader saying photos like those taken at Abu Ghraib were also taken in Afghanistan but have been destroyed to avoid "another public outrage."

Why would four young men watch their friend die, when they could have intervened to save him? Why would a woman obey phone commands from a stranger to strip-search an innocent employee? What makes ordinary people perpetrate extraordinary abuses, like the events at Abu Ghraib?

Answers to these contemporary questions can be found in past social psychology experiments. The Milgram obedience experiment shocked the world by proving that most people were willing to kill fellow human beings if an authority figure was held accountable. A famous diffusion-of-responsibility experiment sought to understand why 38 people who witnessed a brutal murder in New York did nothing to help. Finally, the Stanford Prison experiment showed how the world of the jail could transform a decent, moral person into a brutal, sadistic guard.

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