Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Human Behavior Experiments

Last night I watched a chilling documentary film from the Sundance Channel called The Human Behavior Experiments.

If you get the chance, be sure to see it. It centers on the now-infamous Milgram Experiment at Yale in the early 60s, in which an authority figure can get an otherwise "normal" human being to inflict torture -- including what he has no reason to doubt is a fatal electric shock on another person -- and the equally-notorious 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, in which a group of male subjects was randomly divided into two groups, one of which acted as jailers and the other as prisoners.

Both experiments were designed to test the hypothesis that nearly everyone, given the right circumstances, can be subtly persuaded to do things that would ordinarily go against his or her conscience and values.

The most shocking part to me was the vast number of parallels between the prison experiment and the photos coming out of Abu Graib prison, even down to the bags over the heads, the stripping off of clothing, and the forced positions of simulated homosexuality.

I highly recommend this film, and it especially should be required viewing for the topknot generals, admirals and their civilian hangers-on at the Pentagon. As this film so graphically shows, the events at Abu Graib were not due to a few bad apples; the whole fucking barrel is rotten.


billie said...

do ya suppose it would do them any good to watch? they seem to be without human conscience as it is.

Anonymous said...

"As this film so graphically shows, the events at Abu Grab were not due to a few bad apples; the whole fucking barrel is rotten."

I saw the same program, great work PBS. However I disagree with your conclusion. The message I got was that the most ordinary citizen will carry out the most barbaric acts under the whims of 'authority', and peer pressure.


Anonymous said...

The documentary can be seen here:
The Human Behavior Experiments