The book The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil talks about the famous Stanford Prison Experiment and the system that contribute to it. Zimbardo uses the triangular theory and discusses the interplay between situational, dispositional and system factors that contributed to such events. In his analysis of the experiment and the system, he talks about the role of the guards/prisoners in the experiment. He also discussed the different roles that the participants played, how they understood their roles, and their perception and understanding of the system differed from objective analysis.
The quote means that the System is a governing system that includes its laws, policies, and expectations. It is built on a foundation of human expectations that are grouped and make up its power structure. For instance, Zimbardo states, “Given the force of the group’s normative power to shape the opinions of the followers who conform without thinking things through, they are often taken at face value. The persistent minority forces the others to process the relevant information more mindfully.”(266). The subjects of this System are those who are placed into it – the subjects would consist of all those who participate in the experiment and whose actions are influenced by it: people who took part in it and people who worked on it (Zimbardo 241). In this quote, Zimbardo meant that the power structure built on the subject’s actions would reflect the activities of all people involved in the experiment.
The quote also means that in each System, there is a set of people subject to it, but it also has a power structure that includes a group of people in authority over them – the subjects are those whose behaviour is influenced by the System. Zimbardo attributes this independence to power structures. The system has at least two types of power – institutional and personal (Zimbardo 172). Zimbardo points out that each System has a way of ruling the lives of the subjects contained within it. Therefore, a System is broadly defined as a rule of behaviour within an organization.
I agree with Zimbardo’s analysis of the experiment and the system that drove the situation since he analyzed the experiment and his findings pointed out how the experiment’s results were very “real life-like” and similar to what happens in real life under certain conditions. For instance, Zimbardo insisted that although the experiment lasted for only six days, the experiment’s results on the sample participants were equivalent to what would happen if the study took place over a longer period. Some of the findings from Zimbardo’s experiment proved how people were affected by his system not because he was a person with good intentions but because of his “system.” The experiment results and studies have shown that people become blind to right and wrong when power is abused. They can no longer think reasonably or logically because their desires blind them to control or, in this case, to be in a dominating position. The situation is very similar to what happens in a prison or a jail.
In conclusion, the prison experiment was a great example of how a system can affect those in it or those subject to it. In the experiment, participants were placed into an individualistic situation, and even though no one wanted it to be like that, they still found themselves in such a system. Zimbardo’s idea was that people react only to certain situations according to their personality predispositions. Humans can respond only in certain ways according to their character and inclination, but this experiment demonstrates how the system controls them. It is what happens when prisoners are put in a situation where they have to obey and obey without questioning authority.
Zimbardo, Philip. The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil. Random House, 2007.