Every year the guys who publish the Annals of Improbable Research present the IgNoble Prizes which honour research that makes people laugh but also makes you think. The prizes are intended to ‘celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine and technology. One of the winners for Psychology was the classic research by Daniel Simons that showed that people don’t see a gorilla if they are concentrating on something else (you can see the article here but if you’ve never seen the demo look here). Another year the award went to Philip Zimbardo and co-workers for a study on the uniquely simple personalities of politicians. More obscure was a study of group glee and the effect of unilateral nostril breathing on cognition. There are prizes for literature (such as ‘You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations’) and chemistry (‘The effect of coke on sperm motility’). Enjoy!
Posts tagged with Zimbardo
Little films of clever folk (including Zimbardo and Oliver Sacks) talking about how the mind works…
Many of you will be familiar with the excellent BBC radio series called Mind Changers which has included programmes on Milgram, Piaget, Ainsworth, Bartlett, Kohlberg, Zimbardo, Harlow, Asch. Some of these are currently available as podcasts here or you can go to PsychBLOG where Jamie has downloaded some and there are also some available on Spokenword (free subscription for teachers).
If anyone finds copies elsehwere, let us know!
Since Stanley Milgram first published his classic study on obedience an enormous number of people have offered comments and reinterpretations of his work. Perhaps the most recent come from Alex Haslam and Stephen Reicher (famous for their adaptation of Zimbardo’s prison study). Haslam and Reicher suggest that there are several problems with the concept of the agentic shift. For example, how does this explain why subjects were less likely to obey in the run down office? Logically we might expect an increased agentic state (and higher obedience) because the relative authority of the experimenter was greater in a less prestigious environment.
Haslam and Reicher use a different explanation – social identity theory. They argue that the degree to which we obey someone depends on the extent to which we identify with them. The more you identify, the more you obey. They use this to explain Zimbardo’s experiment and also the obedience of guards in the Second World War. They may have been ordinary people (as Hannah Arendt proposed) but the reason for obedience was less to do with an agentic shift and more because they identified with the Nazi movement and believed it to be right.
The importance of this interpretation is that it may lead us to understand obedience to unjust authority better, in terms of identification rather than lack of autonomy.
March 14, 2008 by Cara Flanagan.
Professor Zimbardo was recently interviewed by The Independent outlining the parallels between his Stanford Prison study and incidents at Abu Ghraib. In the article (and his book The Lucifer Effect) Zimbardo provides interesting insights into the original study and the effect it has had on his life. “[Stanford] was a little week-long study,” he says, “but it has affected my whole life.” His thoughts are not all doom and gloom about human nature; where there are villains there are also heroes and his current interest lies in bringing out the good in all of us. Even Lucifer had the potential to be good as he was a fallen angel.
Psychology: The Online Companion