Longreads

The story goes that on August 16, 1971, a 22-year-old prisoner named Douglas Korpi started freaking out, demanding guards let him leave the Stanford Prison Experiment. Guards denied his request. But it didn’t really happen that way.

For Medium, Ben Blum interviews participants and examines documents to tell the truth about the world’s most famous psychological study, and explains why such revelations won’t keep the experiment from influencing popular thinking about human behavior. Philip Zimbardo, the Stanford psychology professor who put the experiment together, misrepresented details and settled on a set public narrative that conflicted with the facts. He groomed the fake prison guards to act “tough,” copied another experiment and manipulated results. Why does this matter? Because, as Blum puts it, the experiment made Zimbardo “the most prominent living American psychologist,” and the experiment achieved lasting “canonical status in intro psych classes around the country.” The SPE…

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