(via Ming's blog
, and also read in The Tipping Point
) there's the detailed story of a psychosocial experiment. The researchers recruited some 24 students to live in a simulated prison: half of them were randomly assigned to act as guards, and half as prisoners, for two weeks, while the researchers recorded their daily life (Big Brother style) for two weeks. The experiment was called to an early end because all the people involved took it too seriously - even the psychologists and the parents outside.
Apparently, 2 million people are in prison in the USA (out of a whole population of 290 million, acording to the CIA FactBook
). I don't know the numbers for other countries.
Fill in your own!
Perhaps someone can set up, or point us to, a counter-experiment. It would be the exact oposite to the described one. Youngsters from the prison would be taken to a Big-Brother-like place, with hidden cameras and a team of psychologists. They would all be given the roles of care-givers, builders, thinkers, etc. They would be dressed as such, and people would treat them with high respect. The result should be published.
It should not
be run like a live reality show, but rather set up and recorded professionaly and scientifically. The above experiment shows simulations can do harm and have unexpected results. If the experiment doesn't come out as expected, the results should be published too, as our assumptions may be very wrong.
Do you know of similar experiments or experiences? Thanks.