Psychology Essay

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Psychology Essay

Psychology Essay

Similarities between Abu Ghraib & Stanford Prison Experiment

In “The Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal: Sources of Sadism” by Marianne Szegedy-Maszak, Szegedy-Maszak says that rationalizing the stark change in mentality of the young American soldiers who kept watch over the Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison would be a very challenging task. Some may blame inexperience or dereliction of duty by commanding officers. Others may say that stress caused by living in a war zone was responsible. However, it has become clear that no single reason would be sufficient to completely explain the events at Abu Ghraib prison.

The first experiment, conducted by Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo, attempted to mimic a real life prison scenario with students impersonating actual guards and prisoners. Surprisingly, the results were analogous to the actual events that took place at Abu Ghraib prison. The second experiment, created by Stanley Milgram, studied some people's willingness to follow orders. The experiment began with an actor sitting in a chair supposedly wired with electricity. For every wrong answer this actor would give, volunteers were asked to deliver increasingly dangerous electric shocks to the actor in the chair. The results showed that two out of the three volunteers delivered potentially lethal electric shocks.

Differences in Abu Ghraib & Stanford Prison Experiment

Judging by the outcomes of these two experiments, Szegedy-Maszak concludes that some evil may be present within human nature. To help tie the results of these experiments in with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, Szegedy-Maszak references Robert Okin, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, who said that “the abuse [in Abu Ghraib] became an inexcusable way of working off [the soldiers'] rage, anxiety about their own safety, and their sense of helplessness.” (Szegedy-Maszak p. 174) These feelings, along with the stress of living in a ...
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