Why are we doing the things we’re doing? The fact is that, despite our best attempts to “learn ourselves,” we still know very little about our minds, and even less about how others feel. Some of the most popular psychological experiments of the past century, apart from offering fodder to inspire cocktail party discussions, expose fundamental and often shocking facts about human nature.
We all have the power to do good
The 1971 Stanford prison research, arguably the most famous experiment in psychology, history put a spotlight on how social situations could affect human behavior. The researchers, led by psychologist Philip Zimbardo, established a mock prison in the basement of the psychic building at Stanford and selected 24 undergraduates (who had no criminal record and were considered psychologically healthy) to act as prisoners and guards. Researchers then used hidden cameras to observe the prisoners (who had to stay 24 hours a day in the cells) and guards (who shared eight-hour shifts).
The trial, planned to last for two weeks, had to be cut short after just six days due to the abusive behavior of the guards— in some situations, they also administered psychological torture— and the prisoners ‘ extreme emotional stress and anxiety.