Stanford Prison Experiment in Movie

Posted on February 6, 2015

Photo: sundance

Have you heard of the famous Stanford Prison Experiment? It has premiered this week at Sundance to mostly positive reviews.

In 1971, Dr. Philip Zimbardo recruited 24 male undergraduates to participate in a psychological experiment where they would assume the randomly assigned roles of prisoners and prison guards. The results were shocking when the role-playing students turned power-hungry, violent and occasionally sadistic.

You would wonder how you'd react if you were in the simulated prison. Would you conform and confuse to the roles you have been assigned to, or would you stand up for yourself-or the humanity of others. And can we really know until we’ve been there?

“One of the big questions this film deals with is, ‘Are we who we think we are?’” Crudup said when we sat down in Park City, Utah, this week to discuss the film. “This story talks about the ways we don’t fulfill our own moral capacity, and that what we think of as our true self is actually the product of many different situations, institutions, and places.”

Crudup (Almost Famous) is excellent as Dr. Zimbardo, a man who so badly wants to affect positive change in the world–and have an impact as a psychologist–that he’s willing to let his study subjects endure psychological torture for what he perceives as a greater good. It isn’t until the sixth day, when his girlfriend and fellow researcher (played by Juno’s Olivia Thirlby) objects to the experiment’s direction, that he finally accepts the damage he’s doing.

Category(s):Aggression & Violence

Source material from The Situationist