Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences


The Prison Studies

Relaunched: 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 the prisoners. It… Read More

The Prison Studies #3

PART 3 Rejecting Inequality (Days 1 to 6) (cont) Days 3-4 On Day 3 the guards decided which prisoner should be promoted – the selection of the individual being made by the guards on the basis of a procedure suggested by the researchers. After this promotion, the possibility of movement was removed by announcing that there would be no further promotions (or demotions) – thus, stating that the situation was now impermeable.. With permeability shut down, the prisoners now took on the guards as a group. Almost instantly they began to act together and started to agree norms of behaviour. They started teasing the guards, humiliating them and challenging their authority. On Day 4 3 of the prisoners defied 3 guards, demanding better food. The guards could not agree how to respond, so came off worse in the confrontation. Low group identity amongst guards led to ineffective leadership. The daily psychometric for social identification – see left – shows it to be much stronger amongst the guards than the prisoners from Day 3. Day 5 With the prison in disorder the researchers made their second planned intervention on the morning of Day 5. A trade unionist (prisoner 10) was introduced as a further prisoner. With his… Read More

Conformity & Obedience #2

PART 2 More research into conformity  Timothy Williams & Shunya Sogon (1984) looked at Japanese students belonging to a sports club and found that normative influence was much greater when participants cared about the opinions of other group members. The higher level of conformity found by Williams & Sogon may reflect the collectivistic nature of Japanese society and, therefore, may not be generalisable beyond similar societies. However, it shows clearly the influence of fitting in with those you with whom you have a belonging connection – that connection fulfilling the needs of the PURPLE vMEME. Supporting this, Paul McGhee &, Richard Teevan (1967) found that students high in the need for affiliation were more likely to conform. Dominic Abrams et al (1990) found an in-group influence, proposing that their 1st-year Psychology students would show more conformity if the other group members were perceived to be in the same in-group (Psychology students from a nearby university) than if they were from an out-group (Ancient History students from the same university). Accordingly, there was conformity on 58% of trials when in the presence of an in-group but only 8% with an out-group. Morton Bogdonoff et al (1962) found arousal levels were high in all participants once they were faced with the opposing judgements of… 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

Johnson’s Victory does not create Certainty

So sad to say…but this disaster for our kingdom was pretty predictable.  In Remainers need Simple Messages and Charismatic Leaders, I bemoaned Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson, both as ‘personalities’ and for the messages they delivered. Neither looked or behaved much like a statesman or a stateswoman. To give him credit, Corbyn, when given the chance, can come across as having gravitas; but it’s difficult to envision him going head to head with Vladimir Putin or Emmanuel Macron. Swinson’s message was so easily caricatured as ‘undemocratic’ and ‘disrespectful’ of the 2016 referendum. Corbyn’s message was actually, in its detail, quite reasonable…but not translatable into a simplistic soundbite like ‘Get Brexit done!’ It’s debatable as to whether the electorate actually wanted Boris Johnson or they simply didn’t want Corbyn (or Swinson). With a simple message and a charismatic leader, Labour should have walked this election. At the very worst, today we should be looking at a minority Labour government, supported by the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party. The Tories were so vulnerable on so many issues and Johnson is clearly non-empathetic and insensitive and has either gaffed, broken his word or outrightly lied so many times, it’s incredible that anyone… Read More

Vulnerability to Stress

Updated: 11 April 2020 Clearly some people become stressed more easily than others and some have the experience of stress – fight or flight  – more strongly than others. So what are the factors that influence these phenomena? A vMEMETIC approach One way of looking at this is to take a Maslowian viewpoint – ie: people have needs and having those needs unfulfilled causes stress. The vMEMES identified via the work of Clare W Graves are then the drivers to fulfil those needs. Of course, Graves held that motivational systems (vMEMES) emerge in symbiotic interaction with the life conditions in the environment – an internal response to external stressors and almost certainly the first emergence of a vMEME is an example of epigenetic modification. Graves’ position has been upheld completely by Chris Cowan (2004). However, Don Beck (2002a), with his concept of the prime directive, does imply that there is a maturational factor in the emergence of vMEMES. He has not said explicitly that vMEMES are programmed to emerge in sequence as someone develops through life, irrespective of the life conditions; but the implication that maturation matters is inescapable. The position Beck appears to be working towards is perhaps best represented… Read More

Maintenance and Breakdown of Relationships

Relaunched: 8 December 2018 George Levinger (1977) developed a 5-stage model of relationships, providing a complete overview from beginning to end. In many ways the first 3 stages parallel the Stimulus-Value-Role model of Bernard Murstein (1970). However, like Ichak Adizes (1999) who applied his Organisation LifeCycle concept to relationships, the last 2 stages imply a certain inevitability that a relationship will decline unless strategies are deployed to maintain the relationship and keep it in what Adizes calls ‘Prime’. The first intention of this piece is to consider how relationships can kept in Prime or brought back to it. It is usually relatively easy to keep a relationship going in the ‘first flushes’ of love when the partners idealise each other and there is lots of sexual activity. A year or so later when sexual activity has decreased – William H James‘ (1981) ‘honeymoon effect’ – and the partners are struggling to deal with the ‘daily grind of real life’, maintaining those idealised feelings about your partner and the relationship can be quite a task. Peter Pineo (1961) identified that, in many marriages, relationship satisfaction decreases almost linearly with length of time of the relationship. Ted Huston, Susan McHale & Ann Crouter (1986)… Read More

Milgram’s Obedience Experiments #2

PART 2 The ‘Obedience’ movie In 1965 Milgram boosted his burgeoning notoriety with the release of ‘Obedience’, a movie documentary of a repeat of the classic study. Below is an edited compilation of clips from the movie – copyright © 1991 Alexandra Milgram.   According to such commentators as Hugh Coolican (1996), most people who see the movie are convinced that the behaviour of the participants in ‘Obedience’ is authentic and that the stress caused by their moral strain is real. However, ‘Obedience’ may not be quite what it appears to be, according to Kathryn Millard (2011). In fact, the raw footage for ‘Obedience’ was shot over a weekend in May 1962, using what Milgram called ‘Condition 25’, a slight variation on the classic study. He used the same actors to play ‘Mr Wallace’ and ‘Jack Williams’ as always and the participants were genuinely naive. The camera filmed through the same 2-way mirror Milgram used to observe proceedings. However, it was 1965 before the completed film was made publicly available. Why did it take Milgram so long to make the movie available? Millard (p660) comments on the finished product: “‘Obedience’ is as much art as science, as much drama as experiment. It… Read More

The Use of SDi in Psychotherapy

‘The Use of SDi in Therapy’ is one of 2 contributions commissioned from me by Tom Christensen for his compendium, Developmental Innovation: Emerging Worldviews and Individual Learning (Integral Publishers, August 2015). Originally the work was to be entitled ‘SDi Applied’ as Tom wanted to present chapters which reflected Don Beck’s ongoing development of Clare W Graves’ research. Accordingly, Tom wanted the primary term used to be SDi rather than Spiral Dynamics or the ‘Graves Model’. Although I readily acknowledge my debt to Don Beck (and Chris Cowan, for that matter), I have never operated under the SDi umbrella, preferring to use terms such as the Gravesian approach. To maintain the integrity of the piece as published, I have retained the SDi terminology. However, readers should know that effectively I mean ‘Gravesian’. Tom ended up with so many strong contributions – including from the likes of Said E Dawlabani, Elza Maalouf, Barbara N Brown and Fred Krawchuk – that he and Integral Publishers split the material into 2 volumes: the first on Systems Change and the second on Individual Learning. Both my contributions are in the second book. Spiral Dynamics Integral (SDi) is often thought of as a means of addressing large-scale issues such as inter-racial conflict, socio-economic malaise and global power plays. This is the way Don Beck himself has used the model in the past, to great… 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