Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

anti-social behaviour’

The Prison Studies

Relaunched: 27 October 2020 Philip Zimbardo’s ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’ (Craig Haney, Curtis Banks & Philip Zimbardo, 1973), is one of the most important, controversial and ethically dubious psychological studies ever undertaken – something of a classic bête noire on a par with some of Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments. It raises issues around key psychological concepts such as the identification process in conformity and deindividuation – along with a plethora of ethical issues. Thus, it is a critically-important study for a number of reasons – not least because, according to Zimbardo, it tells us how people will conform to a group norm. Sometimes with very disturbing results. Some 30 years later Steve Reicher & Alex Haslam (2006) carried out a partial replication of Stanford – their study is often referred to as the ‘BBC Prison Study’ because the BBC funded the study and edited it into a series which was broadcast in 2006. The outcome of their study was quite different to that of Zimbardo. However,  these different outcomes can be explained via complementary psychological theories. The Stanford Prison Experiment Zimbardo was interested in testing the dispositional hypothesis that widespread problems in American prisons were due to the intrinsic nature of the prison guards and… Read More

The Prison Studies #2

PART 2 Evaluation of the Stanford Prison Experiment Most criticisms of Zimbardo’s study are on ethical issues:- Zimbardo deceived the ‘prisoner’ participants, with their arrest at the beginning of the experiment. They were not told partly because final approval from the police wasn’t given until minutes before the arrests were due to begin and partly because the researchers wanted the arrests to come as a surprise. However this was a breach of the ethics of Zimbardo’s own contract that all of the participants had signed It was not ethically acceptable to expose people to such degradation and hostility even with their fully-informed consent Zimbardo being both ‘superintendent’ and chief researcher produced a conflict of roles whereby he lost sight of the harm being done to the participants – in effect he undermined his own competence to conduct the study,  competence of the researcher being somewhat  belatedly recognised as a key ethical issue by the British Psychological Society in 2006 Those who had been guards had to face up to the disconcerting fact that they had been willing to mistreat their prisoners. Guard ‘A’ said in debrief: “I was surprised at myself – I made them call each other names and clean the toilets out with… Read More

Biological Factors in Crime #2

PART 2 Hormones In 1980 Dan Olweus et al measured blood testosterone level in institutionalised delinquent and non-delinquent 16-year-old boys and assessed aggression using a questionnaire. High levels of self-reported physical and verbal aggression were associated with higher levels of testosterone – though the results were not statistically significant. It was also noted that those with higher levels of testosterone were likely to respond more vigorously in response to challenges from teachers and peers. John Archer (1991), in a meta-analysis of 5 studies covering 230 males, found a low positive correlation between testosterone and aggression. However, the type of participant and the form and measurement of aggression differed substantially between the studies. Angela Book, Katherine Starzyk & Vernon Quensy (2001), in a meta-analysis of 45 studies, found a mean correlation of 0.14 between testosterone and aggression – though John Archer, Nicola Graham-Kevan & Michelle Davies (2005) challenged Book, Starzyk & Quinsey’s findings on the grounds of methodological problems with the study which meant that a correlation of 0.08 was more appropriate.  James Dabbs et al (1987) measured salivary testosterone in 89 violent and non-violent criminals and found those with a history of primarily violent crime had the highest levels of testosterone whereas… Read More

SocioPsychological Factors in Crime #2

PART 2 Lower Class and Marxist Sub-Cultures Much research indicates there is a relationship between being in the lower classes and crime. Merton explores the relationship between poverty, consumerism and crime in Strain Theory. Daly & Wilson prefer to focus on the limited opportunities and limited life expectancy. Both locate their theories in lower class sub-cultures. Another lower-class sub-culture theorist is Albert Cohen (1955). Influenced both by Merton and the ethnographic ideas of the Chicago School of Sociology. he was especially interested in the fact that much offending behaviour was being simply done for the ‘thrill of the act’, rather than from economic motivations. (This is still evidenced today as, according to the Office of National Statistics (2020),  around a million offences of this type were committed in 2018-2019. Cohen does not share Merton’s emphasis on economic motivation and materialistic gain. Rather he sees deviance and crime as expressive.) According to Cohen, lower class boys strive to emulate middle class values and aspirations but lack the means to achieve success – leading to ‘status frustration’. Consequently these boys end up rejecting middle class values. Cohen (p119): “The delinquent sub-culture offers him status as against other children of whatever social level, but… Read More

Biological Factors in Crime

Updated: 7 December 2016 Are criminals born or ‘made’? This is a question which has vexed philosophers for millennia and psychologists and sociologists since the dawn of the behavioural sciences early in the 19th Century. The deterministic view offered by biological explanations for criminality – ie: you have no real choice, it’s in your biological make-up – have major implications for how society treats criminals – especially violent ones.  Biological theories assert criminal behaviour has a physiological origin, with the implication that the ‘criminal’, therefore, has difficulty not committing crime because it is ‘natural’ –  ie: the ‘born criminal’ concept. Biological determinism can be used to undermine the legal concept of criminal responsibility: criminals are held to be personally and morally accountable for their actions. Only when the Law of Diminished Responsibility is applied in cases of self-defence and mental illness – and in some countries (eg: France) ‘crimes of passion’ (temporary insanity) – is the defendant assumed not to have acted from their own free will. 3 cases illustrate how biological arguments have been used as mitigating factors to reduce the level of criminal responsibility:- In 1994 Stephen Mobley was sentenced to death for shooting dead the manager of an American branch of Domino’s Pizza. He was also found… Read More

Is restricting Immigration discriminatory?

At last, it’s starting to become OK to talk about immigration. Of course, it’s been a hot topic for the British National Party (BNP), their British National Front predecessors and the far right for years – in fact, decades really, stretching right back to Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘rivers of blood’ speech back in April 1968. The GREEN vMEME’s staunch opposition to anything that could possibly be associated with prejudice and discrimination has inhibited rational discussion of these issues. Now, thanks to the emergence of the cross-party Balanced Migration Group (BMG) , led by Frank Field (Labour) and Nicholas Soames (Conservative), the barriers to acknowledging the problems that immigration is creating for the United Kingdom are at least beginning to crack. Over the past year, from interacting with Jon Freeman and Rachel Castagne at June’s A Regent’s Summit on the Future of the UK to dialogue with staunch BNP supporter Man of the Woods in the comments on Should the BNP appear on the Beeb?, I’ve come to have much more of an appreciation of how a number of people feel really passionately about this kingdom…as Man of the Woods calls it, ‘my ancestral land’. The real eye-opener for me, though, with… Read More

Formation more than Education

I find that one of the more interesting aspects of my part-time return to secondary school teaching is that of being a form tutor. The role has a pastoral element built into it not obviously present in classroom teaching or general school management. For someone interested in the development of children and young people and how their psychology affects their performance at school (and beyond), the role of form tutor offers possibilities of making the kind of difference that most other roles in school life don’t. What’s more, a good form tutor can create a climate of trust that enables members of his or her tutor group to open up and confide some of the turbulence going on inside their teenage heads. Recent examples I’ve had to deal with include a 14-year old girl distraught because her mother had started calling her “fat” and “ugly” over the past few months – having previously tended to tell her daughter how beautiful she was. Investigation revealed that the catalyst for the change in Mum’s behaviour was the arrival on the scene of a new serious boyfriend. It looked pretty much to me like Mum was belittling her daughter because the daughter (who was… Read More