“Phil Zimbardo – Zimbardo joined Stanford’s psychology department in 1968 and taught there until his retirement in 2007.
“The study was focused originally on how individuals adapt to being in a relatively powerless situation. I was interested in prisoners and was not really interested in the guards. It was really meant to be a single, dramatic demonstration of the power of the situation on human behavior. We expected that we would write some articles about it and move on.
“After the end of the first day, I said, ‘There’s nothing here. Nothing’s happening.’ The guards had this antiauthority mentality. They felt awkward in their uniforms. They didn’t get into the guard mentality until the prisoners started to revolt. Throughout the experiment, there was this conspiracy of denial — everyone involved was in effect denying that this was an experiment and agreeing that this is a prison run by psychologists.
“There was zero time for reflection. We had to feed the prisoners three meals a day, deal with the prisoner breakdowns, deal with their parents, run a parole board. By the third day I was sleeping in my office. I had become the superintendent of the Stanford county jail. That was who I was: I’m not the researcher at all. Even my posture changes — when I walk through the prison yard, I’m walking with my hands behind my back, which I never in my life do, the way generals walk when they’re inspecting troops….
“Dave Eshelman – The son of a Stanford engineering professor, Eshelman was a student at Chapman University at the time of the experiment. He was the prison’s most abusive guard, patterning himself after the sadistic prison warden (portrayed by Strother Martin) in the movie Cool Hand Luke. Today he owns a mortgage business in Saratoga….
“What came over me was not an accident. It was planned. I set out with a definite plan in mind, to try to force the action, force something to happen, so that the researchers would have something to work with. After all, what could they possibly learn from guys sitting around like it was a country club? So I consciously created this persona. I was in all kinds of drama productions in high school and college. It was something I was very familiar with: to take on another personality before you step out on the stage. I was kind of running my own experiment in there, by saying, ‘How far can I push these things and how much abuse will these people take before they say, “knock it off?”‘ But the other guards didn’t stop me. They seemed to join in. They were taking my lead. Not a single guard said, ‘I don’t think we should do this….'”
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