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Zimbardo in 2017
Philip George Zimbardo|
March 23, 1933
New York City, New York, U.S.
Stanford prison experiment|
The Time paradox
The Lucifer Effect
Abu Ghraib analysis
time perspective therapy
social intensity syndrome
Philip George Zimbardo (//; born March 23, 1933) is an American psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University. He became known for his 1971 Stanford prison experiment and has since authored various introductory psychology books, textbooks for college students, and other notable works, including The Lucifer Effect, The Time Paradox, and The Time Cure. He is also the founder and president of the Heroic Imagination Project.
Zimbardo was born in New York City on March 23, 1933, to a family of Italian immigrants from Sicily. Early in life he experienced discrimination and prejudice, growing up poor on welfare and being Italian. He was often mistaken for other races and ethnicities such as Jewish, Puerto Rican or even black. Zimbardo has said these negative experiences early in life triggered his curiosity about people's behavior, and later influenced his research in school.
He completed his B.A. with a triple major in psychology, sociology, and anthropology from Brooklyn College in 1954, where he graduated summa cum laude. He completed his M.S. (1955) and Ph.D. (1959) in psychology from Yale University, where Neal E. Miller was his advisor.
He taught at Yale from 1959 to 1960. From 1960 to 1967, he was a professor of psychology at New York University College of Arts & Science. From 1967 to 1968, he taught at Columbia University. He joined the faculty at Stanford University in 1968.
Stanford prison study
In 1971, Zimbardo accepted a tenured position as professor of psychology at Stanford University. With a government grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, he conducted the Stanford prison study in which male college students were selected (from an applicant pool of 70) and randomly assigned to be "prisoners" or "guards" in a mock prison located in the basement of the psychology building at Stanford. in the study). Zimbardo's goal for the Stanford Prison experiment (SPE) was to assess the psychological effect on a (randomly assigned) student of becoming a prisoner or prison guard.
A 1997 article from the Stanford News Service described experiment goals in more detail:
Zimbardo's primary reason for conducting the experiment was to focus on the power of roles, rules, symbols, group identity and situational validation of behavior that generally would repulse ordinary individuals. "I had been conducting research for some years on deindividuation, vandalism and dehumanization that illustrated the ease with which ordinary people could be led to engage in anti-social acts by putting them in situations where they felt anonymous, or they could perceive of others in ways that made them less than human, as enemies or objects," Zimbardo told the Toronto symposium in the summer of 1996.
The volunteers knew they were being used in a study but they did not know when the study would be taking place. Nine students assigned to be "prisoners" were "arrested" at their homes and taken to the "prison" by Palo Alto police. On arrival, the "prisoners" were stripped, searched, shaved and deloused. They were then issued uniforms, ID numbers, and escorted by volunteer prison guards to their "cells" (three prisoners per cell.) The guards had been instructed not to use corporal punishment or food deprivation, but otherwise to exert domination over the prisoners to keep order in the prison. Guards were dressed in identical khaki uniforms with reflective sunglasses to prevent eye contact with prisoners.
At the beginning of the experiment, Zimbardo started off with nine guards and nine prisoners. All the original volunteers were kept as backups. The experiments called for guards to work "shifts" in the prison, in three groups of three, but the nine prisoners were expected to live in the "prison" throughout the experiment.
Zimbardo himself took part in the experiment, playing the role of "prison superintendent" who could mediate disputes between guards and prisoners. He instructed guards to find ways to dominate the prisoners, not with physical violence, but with other tactics such as sleep deprivation and punishment with solitary confinement. Later in the experiment, as some guards became more aggressive, taking away prisoners cots (so that they had to sleep on the floor), and forcing them to use buckets kept in their cells as toilets, and then refusing permission to empty the buckets, neither the other guards nor Zimbardo himself intervened. Knowing that their actions were observed but not rebuked, guards considered that they had implicit approval for such actions.
In later interviews, several guards told interviewers that they knew what Zimbardo wanted to have happen, and they did their best to make that happen.
Less than two full days into the experiment, one inmate began suffering from depression, uncontrolled rage, crying and other mental dysfunctions. The prisoner was eventually released after screaming and acting unstable in front of the other inmates. This prisoner was replaced with one of the alternates.
On the third day, the study allowed visiting hours for friends and family. The visitation was closely monitored and timed with many rules and restrictions. The next event that added to the prison experiment "drama" was a rumored escape plan that the prisoners were planning on carrying out directly after visiting hours. The prisoner was going to have some of his friends round up, break into the prison and free all of the prisoners. After one of the guards overheard this plan, an informant was placed in among the prisoners and the escape never happened. The prisoners who had been thought to have organized the escape were disciplined and harassed with more pushups and toilet cleaning.
At some point, even the prisoners who were thought of as role models and obeyed all of the guards' commands were being punished. Going to the bathroom was considered a privilege rather than a necessity, and those who acted out against the guards were made to urinate and defecate in a bucket in their cell.
By the end of the experiment, the guards had won complete control over all of their prisoners and were using their authority to its greatest extent. One prisoner had even gone as far as to go on a hunger strike. When he refused to eat, the guards put him into solitary confinement for three hours (even though their own rules stated the limit that a prisoner could be in solitary confinement was only one hour). Instead of the other prisoners looking at this inmate as a hero and following along in his strike, they chanted together that he was a bad prisoner and a troublemaker. Prisoners and guards had rapidly adapted to their roles, stepping beyond the boundaries of what had been predicted and leading to dangerous and psychologically damaging situations. Zimbardo himself started to give in to the roles of the situation. He had to be shown the reality of the experiment by Christina Maslach, his girlfriend and future wife, who had just received her doctorate in psychology. Zimbardo reflects that the message from the experiment is that "situations can have a more powerful influence over our behaviour than most people appreciate, and few people recognise."
At the end of the experiment, after all the prisoners had been released and the guards let go, everyone was brought back into the same room for evaluation and to be able to get their feelings out in the open towards one another. Ethical concerns surrounding the famous study often draw comparisons to the Milgram experiment, which was conducted in 1961 at Yale University by Stanley Milgram, Zimbardo's former high school friend.
Prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison
Zimbardo reflects on the dramatic visual similarities between the behaviour of the participants in the Stanford prison experiment, and the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. He did not accept the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Myers' claim that the events were due to a few rogue soldiers and that it did not reflect on the military. Instead he looked at the situation the soldiers were in and considered the possibility that this situation might have induced the behavior that they displayed. He began with the assumption that were probably "good apples" in a situation like that of the Stanford prison experiment, where he knew that physically and psychologically normal and healthy people were behaving sadistically and brutalising prisoners.
Zimbardo became absorbed in trying to understand who these people were, asking the question "are they inexplicable, can we not understand them". This led him to write the book The Lucifer Effect.
The Lucifer Effect
Zimbardo's book, The Lucifer Effect, gets its title from the metamorphosis of Lucifer into Satan. Though the Christian Scriptures do not make this claim, according to the Biblical account, Lucifer was once God's favorite angel until he challenged God's authority and was cast into Hell with all the other fallen angels. Thus, Zimbardo derives this title to explain how good people turn evil. Zimbardo's main assumption on why good people do terrible things is due to situational influences and power given from authority.
The Lucifer Effect was written in response to his findings in the Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo believes that personality characteristics could play a role in how violent or submissive actions are manifested. In the book, Zimbardo says that humans cannot be defined as good or evil because we have the ability to act as both especially at the hand of the situation. Examples include the events that occurred at the Abu Ghraib Detention Center, in which the defense team—including Gary Myers—argued that it was not the prison guards and interrogators that were at fault for the physical and mental abuse of detainees but the Bush administration policies themselves. According to Zimbardo, "Good people can be induced, seduced, and initiated into behaving in evil ways. They can also be led to act in irrational, stupid, self-destructive, antisocial, and mindless ways when they are immersed in 'total situations' that impact human nature in ways that challenge our sense of the stability and consistency of individual personality, of character, and of morality."(Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect, p. 211)
He also notes that we as humans wish to believe in unchanging goodness of people and our power to resist situational and external pressures and temptations. In chapter 12, "Investigating Social Dynamics: Power, Conformity, and Obedience," Zimbardo discusses that peer pressure, the desire to be 'cool,' the fear of rejection, and simply being a part of a group are the focal points to acting preposterous to your character.
In The Journal of the American Medical Association, Zimbardo's situational perspective received support from other social situational experiments that demonstrated the same idea and concept. Almost ten years prior to the Stanford Prison Experiment (1971), Stanley Milgram conducted research on obedient behavior in 1965 that embraced situational forces. Milgram had "teachers" that delivered mock electric shocks to the "learner" for every wrong answer that was given in a multiple choice test. The teachers, however, did not know that the electric shocks were not real, and still delivered them to the learners. At the end of the experiment, 65% of men ages 20–50 complied fully up to the very last voltage. In the same room as the teacher, there was a "confederate" that kept tabs on the teacher and if they were delivering the shocks to each wrong answer. In the beginning of the study, participants signed a waiver that clearly explained the ability to opt out of the experiment and not deliver the shocks. But with the surprising result rate of teachers who did continue to shock the learners, there was a situational force. The situational force that influenced the teachers to continue was the voice of the confederate egging them on by phrases such as, "I advise you to continue with this experiment" or "I am telling you to continue delivering the shocks" and the one that caught most teachers was "You must continue with the shocks." Although the teachers knew that they could leave the experiment at any point in time, they still continued when they felt uncomfortable because of the confederate's voice demanding they proceed.
Both Milgram and Zimbardo's experiment tested situational forces on an individual. Both results concluded that irrational behavior compared to one's character is plausible for any human because we have both tendencies in our nature. Both studies are frequently cited as examples of psychological experiments that were conducted in the mid-20th century that have serious ethical problems involving the treatment of human experimental participants and not clearly explained informed consent. Both studies probably could not receive approval today from any university board of ethics.
There are 7 social processes that grease "the slippery slope of evil":
- Mindlessly taking the first small step
- Dehumanization of others
- De-individuation of self (anonymity)
- Diffusion of personal responsibility
- Blind obedience to authority
- Uncritical conformity to group norms
- Passive tolerance of evil through inaction or indifference
In 2008, Zimbardo published his work with John Boyd about the Time Perspective Theory and the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI) in The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life. In 2009, he met Richard Sword and started collaborating to turn the Time Perspective Theory into a clinical therapy, beginning a four-year long pilot study and establishing time perspective therapy. In 2009, Zimbardo did his Ted Talk "The Psychology of Time" about the Time Perspective Theory. According to this Ted Talk, there are six kinds of different Time Perspectives which are Past Positive TP (Time Perspective), Past Negative TP, Present Hedonism TP, Present Fatalism TP, Future Life Goal-Oriented TP and Future Transcendental TP.
In 2012, Zimbardo, Richard Sword, and his wife Rosemary authored a book called The Time Cure, the same year he presided over the first Time Perspective Conference at Coimbra University, Portugal.
Time Perspective therapy bears similarities to Pause Button Therapy, developed by psychotherapist Martin Shirran, whom Zimbardo corresponded with and met at the first International Time Perspective Conference at Coimbra University, Portugal. Zimbardo wrote the foreword to the second edition of Shirran's book on the subject.
Heroic Imagination Project
Zimbardo is currently heading a movement for everyday heroism as the founder and director of the Heroic Imagination Project (HIP), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting heroism in everyday life. The project is currently collecting data from former American gang members and individuals with former ties to terrorism for comparison, in an attempt to better understand how individuals change violent behavior. This research portion of the project is co-headed by Rony Berger, Yotam Heineburg, and Leonard Beckum. He published an article contrasting heroism and altruism in 2011 with Zeno Franco and Kathy Blau in the Review of General Psychology.
Social intensity syndrome (SIS)
In 2008, Zimbardo began working with Sarah Brunskill and Anthony Ferreras on a new theory called the social intensity syndrome (SIS). SIS is a new term coined to describe and normalize the effects military culture has on the socialization of both active soldiers and veterans. Zimbardo and Brunskill presented the new theory and a preliminary factor analysis of it accompanying survey at the Western Psychological Association in 2013. Brunskill finished the data collection in December 2013. Through an exploratory component factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis, internal consistency and validity tests demonstrated that SIS was a reliable and valid construct of measuring military socialization. Fifty-eight items were deemed viable and six factors were identified; military friends (16 items), family (11 items), gender social preference (7 items), social bonding (11 items), nostalgia (9 items) and drug use (4 items). Identifying and standardizing SIS was the first step, further research has identified that 4 demographic categories within the military; active and have been deployed (AD), active and never been deployed (AND), inactive and have been deployed (ID) and inactive and never been deployed (IND). These are important categories to better understand how service members are affected leaving the military.
After the prison experiment, Zimbardo decided to look for ways he could use psychology to help people; this led to the founding of The Shyness Clinic in Menlo Park, California, which treats shy behavior in adults and children. Zimbardo's research on shyness resulted in several bestselling books on the topic. Other subjects he has researched include mind control and cultic behavior.
Zimbardo is the co-author of an introductory Psychology textbook entitled Psychology and Life, which is used in many American undergraduate psychology courses. He also hosted a PBS TV series titled Discovering Psychology which is used in many college telecourses.
In 2002, Zimbardo was elected president of the American Psychological Association. Under his direction, the organization developed the website PsychologyMatters.org, a compendium of psychological research that has applications for everyday life. Also that year, he appeared in the British reality television show, The Human Zoo. Participants were observed inside a controlled setting while Zimbardo and a British psychologist analyzed their behavior.
In 2004, Zimbardo testified for the defense in the court martial of Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick, a guard at Abu Ghraib prison. He argued that Frederick's sentence should be lessened due to mitigating circumstances, explaining that few individuals can resist the powerful situational pressures of a prison, particularly without proper training and supervision. The judge apparently disregarded Zimbardo's testimony, and gave Frederick the maximum 8-year sentence. Zimbardo drew on the knowledge he gained from his participation in the Frederick case to write a new book entitled, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, about the connections between Abu Ghraib and the prison experiments.
In September 2006, Zimbardo joined the faculty at Palo Alto University as Professor of Psychology, where he teaches social psychology to doctoral students in the clinical psychology program. Zimbardo officially retired from teaching after 57 years, completing his last course at Palo Alto University in March 2014.
Zimbardo's writing appeared in Greater Good Magazine, published by the Greater Good Science Center of the University of California, Berkeley. Zimbardo's contributions include the interpretation of scientific research into the roots of compassion, altruism, and peaceful human relationships. His most recent article with Greater Good magazine is entitled: "The Banality of Heroism", which examines how ordinary people can become everyday heroes. In February 2010, Zimbardo was a guest presenter at the Science of a Meaningful Life seminar: Goodness, Evil, and Everyday Heroism, along with Greater Good Science Center Executive Director Dacher Keltner.
Zimbardo, who officially retired in 2003, gave his final "Exploring Human Nature" lecture on March 7, 2007, on the Stanford campus, bringing his teaching career of 50 years to a close. David Spiegel, professor of psychiatry at the Stanford University School of Medicine, called Zimbardo "a legendary teacher", saying that "he has changed the way we think about social influences."
Since 2003, Phil Zimbardo has been active in charitable and economic work in rural Sicily through the Zimbardo-Luczo Fund with Steve Luczo and the local director Pasquale Marino which provides scholarships for academically gifted students from Corleone and Cammarata.
In 2003, Zimbardo and University of Rome La Sapienza scholars Gian Vittorio Caprara, and Claudio Barbaranelli were awarded the sarcastic Ig Nobel Award for Psychology for their report "Politicians' Uniquely Simple Personalities".
Zimbardo was named one of the most influential counseling psychologists alive by Counseling Degrees.
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In the prison-conscious autumn of 1971, when George Jackson was killed at San Quentin and Attica erupted in even more deadly rebellion and retribution, the Stanford Prison Experiment made news in a big way. It offered the world a videotaped demonstration of how ordinary people, middle-class college students, can do things they would have never believed they were capable of doing. It seemed to say, as Hannah Arendt said of Adolf Eichmann, that normal people can take ghastly actions.
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Occasionally, disputes between prisoner and guards got out of hand, violating an explicit injunction against physical force that both prisoners and guards had read prior to enrolling in the study. When the “superintendent” and “warden” overlooked these incidents, the message to the guards was clear: all is well; keep going as you are. The participants knew that an audience was watching, and so a lack of feedback could be read as tacit approval. And the sense of being watched may also have encouraged them to perform.
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I felt that throughout the experiment, he knew what he wanted and then tried to shape the experiment—by how it was constructed, and how it played out—to fit the conclusion that he had already worked out. He wanted to be able to say that college students, people from middle-class backgrounds—people will turn on each other just because they're given a role and given power.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Philip Zimbardo.|
- Zimbardo's official website
- The Heroic Imagination Project
- Philip G. Zimbardo Papers (Stanford University Archives)
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Philip Zimbardo at TED
- Philip Zimbardo on IMDb
- Works by or about Philip Zimbardo in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Philip Zimbardo on the Lucifer Effect, in two parts
- "Critical Situations: The Evolution of a Situational Psychologist - A Conversation with Philip Zimbardo", Ideas Roadshow, 2016