What Makes Good People Do Bad Things

Topics: Stanford prison experiment, Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse, Imprisonment and detention Pages: 2 (522 words) Published: August 8, 2011
What makes good people do bad things?
Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison experiment was to study the behavior of normal people under a particular situation. The students who took part in the experiment would play the role of either guard or a prisoner in a mock prison. Most of the students that played as the guards of the mock prison became very cruel as they abused their power and authority over the prisoners. The students that played as the prisoners were frightened and became submissive to the prison guards. The students playing as the prison guards were able to justify their actions because they were given the role of authority. When the mock prison guards put on the uniform and sunglasses, they have a sense of being anonymous and feel as if they will not be individually liable.

In Abu Ghraib in Iraq, prisoners were the victims of torture, rape, and homicide committed by the United States police and army. In many of the tortures, the prisoners were stripped naked. One was hung by his wrists with his hands tied behind his back, another leashed like a dog, another who is sat on between two stretchers, and many were faced with physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Racism, religion, and sexism are factors that contributed to the behavior of the Abu Ghraib prison guards. With these factors and the power which had been given to the guards, the guards would exert their authority in cruel ways, no longer seeing their prisoners as humans.

In both cases, there was control surplus and an in-group and an out-group. The mock prison guards and the guards of Abu Ghraib had a control surplus. They had too much power and authority and most of them would abuse their surplus of power. In the Stanford Prison experiment, the students were given the role as either a guard or a prisoner. This created an in-group and an out-group. In-group being their friends, and the out-group being their enemy. The same thing had happened in the Abu Ghraib prison, except much more severe. In...
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