After decades of notoriety for demonstrating one of social psychology’s fundamental tenets — how morally pliable most people are — Philip Zimbardo is understandably tired of being associated with the darker sides of human behavior.
“I really don’t want to be permanently labeled ‘Dr. Evil,’” Zimbardo said.
Yet the 85-year-old San Francisco psychologist, who taught at Stanford for 50 years and remains a go-to authority on topics such as shyness and the paradox of time as well as social coercion, knows that history has a way of flattening careers into one landmark accomplishment. For Zimbardo, that would be the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment.
As is well known to anyone who studied the infamous experiment in a Psych 101 course, as a young professor, Zimbardo devised a mock jail in the basement of Stanford’s Jordan Hall to study the psychology of imprisonment. Twenty-four volunteer students played the roles of guards and prisoners — until all hell broke loose (guards putting bags over prisoners’ heads, chaining their legs) and Zimbardo, the “warden,” abruptly cut the study short.
Read the whole story (subscription may be required): San Francisco ChronicleMore of our Members in the Media >