What are some psychological facts that people don't know? by Arjun Subramaniam
Answer by Arjun Subramaniam:
1. The Stanford Prison Experiment
The Stanford Prison Experiment demonstrated the tendency of people to stick to a certain ideology and deference to authority. By locking people in prison.
24 males were randomly selected, some assigned prisoners and some assigned the prison guards. Prisoners had to remain for 24 hours in the cell, while guards were assigned to work in three-man teams for 8-hour shifts.
Within a few hours, everything went haywire. The guards took their positions too seriously, seriously verbally and psychologically abusing the prisoners. They would also physically punish the prisoners for errors. The guards eventually forced the prisoners to urinate and defecate in a bucket placed in the cell, took away their mattresses and forced them to sleep on the hard concrete, and made many of them sleep naked as a method of degradation.
The guards grew increasingly cruel over the six days that the experiment took place, and it was estimated that about 1/3 of them exhibited sadistic tendencies. Most of the prisoners accepted their roles as inferiors, and quietly submitted to the torture. Those who stood up were starved and isolated.
Both prisoners and the guards adapted to their roles "better" than anyone expected, leading to some dangerous and psychologically scarring situations. In fact, two of the prisoners had to leave early because they were suffering too badly from their treatment.
This is how you turn normal people into sadistic torturers. Merely by giving them a position of power. Terrifying, but illuminating.
2. A Class Divided
This was perhaps the most daring psychological experiment of all time. One day after the death of Martin Luther King, an Iowa schoolteacher segregated her class by eye color.
Attempting to demonstrate the effects of race, Jane Elliott divided the class into brown-eyed children and blue-eyed children. On one day, the blue-eyed children would be the superior group. The next day, the brown-eyed children.
On the first day, the blue-eyed children were told that they were smarter, neater, nicer, and better than the brown-eyed children. They were given special privileges like a longer recess and being first in the lunch line. On the other hand, the brown-eyed children had to wear cloth collars around the necks, and Elliott ridiculed their performance and behavior. The next day, the roles were reversed.
What happened next was unprecedented. The students designated as inferior took on the look and behavior of inferior students, changing their nature and performing poorly on academic work. The students who considered themselves superior also changed their nature, suddenly becoming mean-spirited and deliberately discriminating against the 'inferior' group. After the two days of experimentation, the students reunited, hugging each other and promising never to discriminate again.
Small changes in appearance have defined racial history and discrimination, whether it be in a classroom or in a country. This small but 'eye-opening' experiment proved that discrimination is easy – But tolerance is right.