Psychology Trip 2018

Monday morning saw a cold and early start for year 12 and 13 psychology students as they headed to London Westminster to see one of the most influential and inspiring psychologists to continue working and share his knowledge. Dr Philip Zimbardo was the afternoon speaker to a room of 500 A-level psychology students from across the UK; and a speaker that every psychology teacher in the room would have spent a career hoping to see. And he did not disappoint. Despite carrying out his research at Stanford University nearly 50 years ago Zimbardo’s research into human behaviour is still used as part of the A-level psychology course, but also as training in the military and schools worldwide.

Essentially because he discovered something about human nature that couldn’t really be observed in an experiment today due to ethics, but also because the experiment didn’t even get completed. American male student volunteers were randomly assigned to a role of either prisoner or guard. The volunteers then were given their appointed uniform and told to take on their roles however they saw fit. They entered a mock prison and the way they behaved was observed by Zimbardo and his small team of colleagues 24 hours a day. What wasn’t expected was the harsh way the guards took on their roles and made the prisoners become victims of abuse, bullying, humiliation and mild torture by the mock guards. Despite this discomfort breaking many ethical guidelines Zimbardo himself was so caught up in the observation of human nature he allowed it to continue past the “protection of participants” guideline. It was only when his then girlfriend (now wife) pointed out to him how badly the experiments participants were being treated that the experiment stopped after 6 days.

Zimbardo freely talked about this work alongside his wife and the influence it has today. He also spoke about his more recent work looking at modern day males and his infamous book “The Lucifer Effect”. Both Zimbardo and his wife Christina followed their talks with an excellent question and answer session with our own Lydia Torrington asking Zimbardo if he could turn back time would he carry out the experiment again? “Yes – but mainly because of the learning about dire situations driving people to behave in horrific ways, and the applications this gives to aspects of our life,” which essentially is what psychology is all about! A fantastic day for pupils and teachers and we hope the year 12 and 13 students take his wise words on for both their exams and lifetime journey.

PC Du Toit

CWD - Y11

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