The Stanford Experiment, and a Question
You probably reading about the “Stanford Experiment”, in which 24 Stanford students were divided up into two groups: prisoners and guards.
Initially nothing much happened as the students awkwardly tried out their assigned roles in their new uniforms. However, all that changed suddenly on the morning of the second day following a rebellion, when the prisoners barricaded themselves inside the cells by putting their beds against the door. Suddenly the guards perceived the prisoners as “dangerous”; they had to be dealt with harshly to demonstrate who was boss and who was powerless. At first, guard abuses were retaliation for taunts and disobedience. Over time, the guards became ever more abusive, and some even delighted in sadistically tormenting their prisoners. Though physical punishment was restricted, the guards on each shift were free to make up their own rules, and they invented a variety of psychological tactics to demonstrate their dominance over their powerless charges.
If people can slip into roles of viciousness and/or victimhood after a day or two, do unequal starting points and an unlevel playing fail in society self-perpetuate? Do they create abuse?