Friday, 7 September 2018

The Stanford Prison Experiment

By now you've probably come across a movie that revisits a fairly extreme research project developed in the 70s by the American Psychologist, Dr. Phillip Zimbardo, where a prison has been recreated and 24 male students were originally placed in to cohabit as guards and inmates (for an intended period of no more than two weeks). Well, a lot has been learned from this quite radical initiative, but above all, this experiment gave everyone a clear sense of how scientific experiments need adequate planning and ample consideration. It is not just because of the psychological atmosphere surrounding every particular aspect of the whole research, something that from the perspective of researchers and subjects would on its own be material for further progressive analysis. But also due to the fact that its originality does not really contradicts a perception of non-applicability, but simultaneously antagonises itself for the lack of primary support.

What I mean with all this jibber-jabber is that when you are the first to lay your brains on analysing something that lacks validity from previous studies, then you're off to something either boring or epic. Boring would be if the construction of the whole scenario and emotional participation of the tested subjects would have been so fake it'd have created a false sense of reality, thus producing false positive/negative results, ergo resulting in makeshift observations. Epic would be, as it was, when the immersing of the subjects (and additional players) into the testing is so naturally achieved, that suddenly there is a sense of hyper reality for a sub-scenario, usually attained when most of ones' strings to the wider reality are cut and the smaller constrained sub-scenario becomes gradually your wider reality.

What do I really mean with all this? I am obviously trying to avoid spoilers as much as possible. As a cinematographic portrait of the actual research experiment that took place in Stanford University, the movie is way to good (in my humble opinion) to be ignored. And the real events that feed it are way too relevant (historically) to be mistaken by just another movie. 

There is a lot more in it for us to interpret that goes far beyond the simplistic plot. There is an intricate boiling of our own self-knowledge, a complex web of uncontrolled behavior in ourselves that can be triggered by external and internal forces when one sees oneself as part of a greater power or as the unfortunate victim of a greater injustice. Fortunately, this movie, as well as the experience that brings up to the wider audience, is not dense in scientific facts or boring jargon and idiosyncrasies. This movie is incredibly good in showing how thin the line is between Victim -> Power <- Repressor. A line that is not straight nor entangled (in my opinion). It is simply a volatile equation telling you that Power makes the oppressor if the victim chooses to be a greater victim than expected, and Injustice makes you the trigger of Great Oppression when you respond to injustice in a reactionary fashion.

Wow, how incredibly hard it is not to bring loads of spoilers here and still try to make any sense.

I don't really enjoy embedding videos as they eventually are taken away from their original sources and I end up with mismatching content. But look at the trailer of this incredible movie and be the judge of this piece of history that shaped important changes in the way Power/Subservience/Research are nowadays considered.

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