Conformity

If you haven’t seen this vintage video clip have a look now – it is from the American TV programme Candid Camera filmed in 1962. You’ll love it!

Philip Zimbardo links this video to behaviour in the Stanford Prison experiment here and says ‘We laugh that these people are manipulated like puppets on invisible strings, but this scenario makes us aware of the number of situations in which we mindlessly follow the dictates of group norms and situational forces.’  Zimbardo has linked this behaviour to that of the prison guards at Abu Ghraib, where the guards behaved brutally towards prisoners because of the social norms created within the institution. Zimbardo also links conformity to the opposite end of the spectrum, heroic behaviour, where people are exposed to different norms and this enhances the prosocial nature of what they do.

On the website for the Lucifer Effect Zimbardo cites comments from George Miller who famously, in his 1969 presidential address to the   American Psychological Association, urged psychologists to ‘give psychology away to the public’. Later he cited the research by Milgram and Zimbardo as the kind of psychology that needs to be given away.  In a Psychology Today interview, Miller said: ‘ I’d make every person aware of research like Phil Zimbardo’s on prisoners and guards…. The only thing I can see any chance of giving away is the sort of psychology that Zimbardo’s research represents….Stanley Milgram’s research falls in the same category. …  I would tell them to stop looking at individual responsibility and start looking at social institutions. I’d ask them to examine the conditions that take responsibility away from people, and let them regard others as a species apart’.

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