Psychology Of Ordinary People Doing Evil Deeds

By Tyler Parker and Avery Lind
Abu Ghraib
Stanford Prison
Black Room
In 2004 during the Iraq war a Special Operations team
converted a former enemy torture chamber into an
interrogation center (A.K.A. “The Black Room”). The room
was supposed to be used as a way to obtain information
about the target; the only rule being “No blood, no foul”.
While the so called sane/ordinary soldiers in the task force
were interrogating the prisoners in the room they would spit
in their face, beat them with rifles and used some of the
detainees as target practice with paintball guns. All of these
soldiers were forced to obtain the information at any cost.
Failure of any kind was not an option. With that said the
soldiers were prepared to do anything to fulfill the mission as
not to be punished for their failure. The stress implimented
by their superior officers interfered with the rational thinking
that an ordinary person would think.
The stress implemented by their superior
officers interfered with the rational thinking
that an ordinary person would think. They were
afraid that they would continue on with another
term of service or possible lose all benefits. In
this situation they were thinking of their
families and life after service so they didn’t
want to risk the chance of being court
For this experiment men and women were asked to
take on the role of “teacher” and “Student” the
teacher was to read a list of paired words to the
student (in different rooms) and have the student
match the right word to its pair. If the student
answers correctly, he will not get shocked.
However, if he answers incorrectly, he will be
shocked in increasing increments starting at 50
volts. During the testing situation the student
reached a point of so much hurt where his screams
could be heard in the other room.
At that point every “teacher” turned back and
looked at the instructor as if asking to continue
even though the “student” was suffering. The
instructor informed the “Teacher” to continue
stating that the shock provided pain but did not
damage the “student”. The “Teacher” took the
instructors advice and continued on with the
experiment (with full knowledge of being able
to quit at any time). 73% of the 25 women
tested as the “Teacher” reached the max (150
Volt) limit.
Dr. Zimbrardo, psychologist, and a handful of
volunteers set up an experiment to see how people
would react to power given/taken away. Some of
the volunteers were given the role of guards and
others were given the role of prisoner. During this
experiment it was found that the guards were
abusing their powers and turning the inmates
against each other. If one of the inmates did
something wrong they would all pay the price. The
experiment got so bad that they had to stop in 6
days instead of the original 2 week allotment
because the guards were so abusive.
This demonstrated, that with no rules and a lot
of authority people will abuse the power they
have. The guards pornographically and
physically abused the inmates to the point of
mental break down in all cases. Some of the
guards continued to harass the inmates worse
because they thought that they were not being
Abu Ghraib is a prison based in Iraq to hold key
prisoners. Prisoners were tortured executed and
forced to perform a multitude of demining acts.
Large amounts of the torture used by the military
was pornographic in nature. Such as creating a
naked human pyramid, leading a naked prisoner on
a dog leash. One man was given forced oral sex by
his own friend, not realizing this fact until the black
hood covering his face was removed. All these
demoralizng activites were photographed and or
video taped my on duty officers of the U.S. Military.
These actions by the U.S. military were said to
be a vital component against the so called War
On Terror in Iraq. This demonstrates again that
with a wide range of unchecked power creates
the risk of abuse. As the Stanford Prison
Experiment the Prisoners in Abu Ghraib were
degraded in many different fashions, illustrating
the fact that even those meant to do good will
become mad with too much power.
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Imprisonment. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <>.
Maslach, Christina Maslach. "The Stanford Prison Experiment: Still powerful after all these years
(1/97)." Stanford News. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.
McGeary, Johanna . "The Scandal's Growing Stain - TIME." Breaking News, Analysis, Politics,
Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews - N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.
SCHMITT, ERIC. "In Secret Unit's 'Black Room,' a Grim Portrait of U.S. Abuse - New York Times."
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