The Expt

From: Steve Drew (
Date: Sun May 26 2002 - 22:06:59 BST

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    Hi Lawrence and Kenneth,

    Interesting. Do you think any of them had read Animal Farm? I felt like I
    was watching a humanised version at times.

    As was noticed when the commune was set up they were all uncertain in the
    absence of authority, but were unwilling to enforce the rules, as force in
    the literal sense could not be used. Non seemed to pick up on the guards
    initial ploy at the early stage of the breakout of ignoring the prisoners.
    In a commune or very basic group with a common set of beliefs including non
    violence, there is the idea of 'shunning' as used by the Amish amongst
    others. A very powerful method of control, and one that, IMHO is far more
    successful than threats that can't be followed up.

    Secondly, I would like to know what psychological tests they used as Edwards
    seemed to be the least balanced of them all, and was one of the most overt
    with physical intimidation, using his mouth and size as tools to try and
    dominate. Evangelical Christian my **** (forgot that the meek shall inherit
    the earth perhaps?). The bit in the cell in the last episode should have
    ended the programme had the Geordie not backed down, as I felt violence was
    very close.

    Petkin seemed to be a thrill seeker out for a laugh, with some dubious
    traits towards causing others discomfort.

    Bimson's calculation was excellent in a psych sense and as he implied, if
    the expt had not been called off he may have succeded with the help of
    Edwards and Petkin . He also had a very impressive intellectual and physical
    presence, coupled with an 'inner calm' for want of a better description.

    And again, as the program and psychologists suggested, Edwards and Petkin,
    seemed fine in the role of revolutionaries but were not capable of ideas to
    formulate a new system themselves. Latter day James Dean. "What are you
    rebelling against?" "What you got?"

    What I found slightly surreal was with regards to Edwards being an
    evangelical Christian and being incapable of submitting to authority. Was
    this some form of escape from a rule bound life of do's and don'ts? (And
    before anyone says I don't know what I'm talking about, I was baptised into
    an Evangelical Pentacostal church at the age of 22. They get you when your
    down :-) )

    Overall, I don't think they did anything that could be compared to
    Zimbardo's original experiment. I'm sure there are lots of analyses of the
    interactions to be gone over and things will be learned from this.

    Finally, although it is impolite to talk about some one behind their back I
    have done so on the basis that they became public figuires by agreeing to
    participate. That not withstanding, I shall try and send this to the BBC so
    that the people mentioned have redress against me. Only fair.

    The final question offered by the Expt is that tyranny occurs in the vacuum
    of power, as shown in the program. But I think they were being very
    simplistic, because this society was small. Even the populists try to accrue
    power, such as Tony Blair.

    Still, an interesting exercise.



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