In 2019, Noam Cohen reached Zimbardo by email on Le Texier’s Debunking the Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo did not know American Psychologist had accepted the paper. He was surprised the article got published in light of the defense of his work he wrote the year before.
Nevertheless, rather than trumpet his typifying defense, Zimbardo would be well advised to rethink his stance on his crafted play. With his tale-telling retorts in his response, he dug his own grave. The attempt to safeguard the fabrication was his undoing. We have been privy to the most audacious theater in social science history.
In the wake of my revelations, summarized in The last judgment, the outcome of the final reckoning is incontrovertible. The Stanford Prison story is a false, nefarious narrative — a re-enaction of Pirandello’s Theater of the Absurd by cleverly mixing fiction and facts. One of the seminal studies in psychology is an unsurpassed fabrication that rogue researchers wrote and subsequently defended for 50 years. The take-home message is that the Stanford Prison Experiment is blown to smithereens.
Everyone who believed Zimbardo was right was dead wrong. He created a fantasized reality and gave us a sightseeing tour through la-la land. Thanks to his unwavering hubris and the help of his henchmen, he could keep up appearances for decades. But you can only take everyone on a mental merry-go-round for so long before you finally fall through.
The emperor explains
Now, why could these rogue researchers go on unabated with pathological lying? The Emperor’s New Clothes seems to fit the bill — a tale by Hans Christian Andersen about a vain emperor who was exceedingly in love with wearing the finest clothes. Full of himself, the emperor got tricked by his uncontrollable desire to be admired in wonderful attire. His yearning for adulation lured him into wearing an invisible costume.
Two con artists made the costume of the most magnificent fabrics imaginable with the fictitious property of becoming invisible to anyone unfit or stupid. Naturally, the emperor refused to admit he saw nothing, afraid that his people might think he was incompetent to rule. So he pretended to put on the nonexistent outfit and took naked to the streets. Beaming bare-butt, his flabbergasted subjects offered thunderous applause. No one dared to confront the naked emperor in fear of being branded incompetent or an idiot. Only one small boy cried out, “The Emperor has no clothes!”
The warning of the emperor’s tale is that arrogance and fear can captivate and cage the mind. Caught in a web of logic and lies spiraling out of control to maintain an invisible proposition, Zimbardo and his confederates could not admit there was nothing to see in fear of being chastised. The same fear of losing face and being regarded as incompetent held psychology peers to ransom. No onlooker dared shout the emperor is naked until now.
Ironically, Zimbardo lived his conclusion. Upholding the false narrative was fact became an obsessive prison of his mind. In his pathological lying to keep control of the fable, he paradoxically demonstrates that personal interests and self-imposed believes make a good person capable of unethical deeds for decades while convinced of the opposite.
Perhaps living his conviction is the ultimate goal, similar to the scenario of the 2003 movie The Life of David Gale. Activist David Gale is feverishly against capital punishment. He gets convicted and condemned to death for the murder of a fellow activist. But it turns out that Gale colluded with his terminally ill colleague who committed suicide. The innocent Gale takes the blame to prove the justice system is flawed and dies on death row to prove his point.
An incontestable conclusion
Was there indeed nothing to see? Or did the conclusion of the Stanford Prison simulation provide ground-breaking insight into the human psyche and change the intellectual landscape? To answer this, let’s return to Zimbardo’s response. Arguably the most interesting part is in the opening, where he shares yet another version of the conclusion to make a profound statement.
Zimbardo asserts that none of the recent criticisms present any substantial evidence that alters the Stanford Prison Experiment’s main conclusion concerning the importance of understanding how systemic and situational forces can operate to influence individual behavior in negative or positive directions, often without our personal awareness.
Is this revolutionary? Not in the least. Long story short, no criticism ever will. This conclusion is not a topic of debate, nor does it warrant decades of desperate deception. Situations, systems, and roles are social constructs designed to influence behavior. Devised constructs are not mysterious forces of nature to be studied but artificially created mental products to shape specific believes and behaviors for the sole purpose of making behavior more predictable and controllable.
Specifically, a wealth of research underscores how conditions and circumstances impact body and brain. The influence of external forces on behavior is no enigma of the mind. Indeed, the affect of rules and environment is constantly applied, for example, in the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent storm on systemic racism and white supremacy irrevocably demonstrates the pressure systems exert on people’s actions. Not to mention the impact political systems — like communism, fascism, democracy or dictatorships — have on what citizens believe and how they behave.
Moreover, central to psychology lore is how minds are molded and changed. Situational and systemic influence is not fringe but fundamental to psychology. Countless studies demonstrate that external factors — pollution, green and blue areas, daylight, diet, violence, social support, and living conditions — severely impact psychological wellbeing.
The missionaries of the influence of outside forces wanted us to believe in the power of the situation. And to a certain degree they are right. The point is no one debates this no-brainer. Not the content of their findings set them apart. It was their story-crafting skills.
Real-life settings speak volumes
Zimbardo had plenty of practical options if he genuinely wanted to demonstrate the power of the situation. My favorite is The Panopticon or Inspection House, Greek for all-seeing. The diabolical 18th-century prison design was contrived to socially control behavior by what the ingenious inventor Jeremy Bentham called the power of mind over mind. So we never needed the Stanford Prison to show what societies have applied across the world for centuries. And not just in prisons.
Michel Foucault used the Panopticon as a metaphor for systems that control everyday life. In his view, citizens internalize systemic rules in fear of repercussions which gives institutions authority and power. Once adopted, formal and informal rules become self-imposed. The possibility of being observed enforces docile compliance with the regulations.
Furthermore, norm abiders and rule enforcers quickly classify nonconformance as psychopathology. In their view, only the disturbed go sideways from the norms. See here the perfect explanation of how the Stanford psychologists conveniently categorized their observations as psychopathological behavior to fit their scripted storyline.
They also invented a phony reason to justify the need to simulate a mock prison by falsely claiming that objective research in a real prison is impossible. Centuries ago, John Howard did seminal work on prison reform. He visited hundreds of prisons and published his findings in The State of the Prisons in 1777. During the ‘50s, Gresham Sykes did a notorious study inside a maximum security facility. He concluded that prisons are terrible for everyone inside.
Therefore, the justification for simulating a Pirandellian prison is a sophism. In reality, the researchers could never control the manufactured plotline inside a penitentiary, which is a shame since the reform debate is about prison life. The underlying question is whether it is humane to create a harsh environment to lock away hardened criminals, treat them as beasts and break their will to escape? This is a predominantly political, moral, and ethical discussion.
In addition, the reform debate could have been fueled by illustrating how prisons change people, as many other researchers have done. The psychologists could have stressed the formation of a prison identity, the impact of the inmate social power ladder, and the adoption of prison roles. Take the profane turning out of a heterosexual, usually after a gang rape. Following the involuntary rape, the punk reluctantly subjugates to a consensual homosexual relationship with one man in return for protection. The role is forced on him because the prison system does not protect inmates from other inmates.
Imposed constraints worked wonders
Not only is the conclusion incontestable. The result was always highly dubious when you delve into the arguments the researchers used. They deduced the undisputed conclusion from the extremely pathological reaction in both groups. Within a week, student behavior could be characterized as pathological and anti-social. Those randomly assigned to be mock prisoners suffered emotional breakdowns, irrational thinking, and behaved self-destructively — despite their constitutional stability and normalcy. The guard brutality occurred as a natural consequence of being in the uniform of a guard.
None of these blatant generalizations are accurate or, for that matter, plausible. Firmly imposed study constraints directed behavior. Foremost, no physical violence made the prison benign and unreal. Prisoners resisted orders and told guards to fuck off, knowing the guards could not touch them. Unsurprisingly, most guards felt powerless to force their will.
Zimbardo’s release order dictating prisoners could only get out on medical or psychopathological grounds accounted for the way Korpi and Levin acted. The false imprisonment caused some creative malingering of physical and mental illness. Introducing a Parole Board was the reason for others to start behaving as model prisoners.
Assigning only white students to participate had the psychological effect of identifying with the other group. Some prisoners refrained from pushing back out of sympathy for the guards. Prisoners did not attempt to escape out of concern for financial repercussions. Conversely, most guards sympathized with the predicament of their fellow students and acted nicely.
Zimbardo highlighted no guard left the mock prison or refrained from showing up. This might have everything to do with enlisting young college students. No student wants to mess up an expensive experiment and face the wrath of a principal professor. Why risk committing academic suicide?
More importantly, the 15 bucks a day acted as a perverted incentive to show up and play along. After all, the prison job was play for pay. Every student signed the consent form to follow the directions of their prison superiors. The summer job under contract turned volunteers into experiment employees enlisted by psychologists.
Both contract and payment had a powerful impact on how the students interacted. Korpi made this point clear to warden Jaffe on Monday night. Jaffe emphasized that the guards, not the contract, should prescribe prisoner behavior. I guess the contract won.
Imposed directives by themselves have little impact. As Michel Foucault accentuated, systemic playing rules direct behavior only if someone accepts and adopts them. Once rules become self-imposed, they start to act like a Panopticon, enchantingly portrayed by Leonard Wibberley in The Mouse that Roared. It is a novel about the fictive Duchy of Grand Fenwick, a pre-industrial country in the Alps. Its economy depends almost entirely on the export of Pinot Grand Fenwick wine. But when a California winery starts to market a cheap imitation, the Duchy is brought to the brink of bankruptcy.
The prime minister of Grand Fenwick decides to go to war on the United States to get financial aid after quickly losing the fight. The Duchy’s tiny army of mainly bowmen lands in the deserted streets of New York City. No one is around due to a citywide disaster drill. Wandering around, the invaders capture the Q-bomb — a prototype doomsday device capable of destroying the world.
Great nations believe the most destructive bomb in the world is real, giving the minute country the power to dictate demands. But when the maker accidentally drops the bomb, he discovers it is a dud. The inventor decides to keep this to himself.
The moral of the fable is that self-imposed false beliefs that are kept hidden can lead to incomprehensible acts. Along the same line, not the power-setting but self-imposed beliefs played a prominent role in the simulated prison. Not knowing the basic rules of the pretense play made the prisoners architects of their own oppression. Testimonies from staff and students point at ideas the students invented of what could happen when they did not meet expectations or attempted to escape.
Moreover, informer Gorchoff revealed that not situational forces but ambivalent self-imposed ideas forced behavior. The students wanted to get paid, did not escape in fear this would backfire, worried that escape was a breach of contract, believed they had to act as expected in the experiment and thought parole was a clever way to get out. In short, they internalized the imposed constraints.
Self-imposed beliefs held the students in a stranglehold, especially getting paid to perform. Paul Baran confirmed the money stranglehold. After the rebellion on the second day, he and some others were going to try to break out. However, they believed that it would jeopardize getting paid, so they decided against it.
Conscious choices explain behavior
Self-imposed restraints had such a determining impact because the participants chose to apply for a paying summer job. Once signed under contract, the students were committed to playing their part in the prison game. Sadly they had no idea what they were signing up for.
During the play for pay, the students made different choices out of the available options they had. The prisoners could either cope for the duration and bite the time or try to get out. Over half the prisoners decided they no longer wanted to stay in the obnoxious simulation and tried to get released. The others coped with humor, disassociation, and defiance to keep up the act.
Prisoners selected different tactics illustrating they made their own choices under the same circumstances. Not the power of the situation got some of them down, but a lack of appropriately dealing with an unfamiliar oppressive setting. Their inability or unwillingness to put petty pranking into proper perspective reduced the necessary sense of control. Control that prisoners quickly regained when the scene changed. One guard wrote in his daily report that the prisoners were light and humorous when they were with their visitors. He remarked that they play their prisoner role better for the guards.
The guards had the choice to push the envelope, play firm but fair, or act insubordinately. In other words, be a despicable, diligent, or defiant guard. Their choices had nothing to do with good or evil forced by the power setting. In fact, the guards felt more powerless than the prisoners. Ten guards acted normal as expected, obliterating the conclusion. Only Eshleman opted to steal the show to further science and prevent the study from turning into a summer camp.
Zimbardo profusely denied that each guard made a conscious choice. It did not fit the plot of internalizing a brutal role and losing self-control in playacting. Unsurprisingly, he did not believe in free will. Zimbardo remarked we love to believe in things like fate and free will that “I can choose my destiny. A or B.” Well, his study suggests, “Not always. Not really.”
However, Zimbardo proved himself wrong. He made an impressive career making clear choices to deceive everyone for decades until fate caught up. Likewise, every culprit in the Stanford Prison conspiracy is testimony to conscious decisions to cover up and play along.
A fatal false dichotomy
Zimbardo’s repudiation of free will helps understand the dodgy logic behind the design of the Stanford Prison Experiment. He turned the dynamic complexity of human nature into a 2-dimensional static simplification by attributing behavior to either disposition or situation — a false dichotomy. It was a mistake to ignore cognition. Rejecting the inner world of thoughts and decision-making led to fatal attribution errors that defied common sense.
Besides conditioning and context, cognition impacts how we behave. So why rely on a flawed supposition? The power of the situation didn’t appear out of the blue. These psychologists dipped their toes into situational waters because they are stone-cold behaviorists that ignore the inner world of reasoning to decide on a course of action.
Furthermore, the inference not A means B is a fallacy. Disproving something is not proof of something else. In this case, proving behavior is not dispositional automatically implies it is situational is begging the question: circular reasoning that defies logic.
In addition, personality is not the same as disposition. Suggesting the same normal-average score on some obscure personality tests excludes dispositional attribution is illogical. Yet, the experimenters surmised the rigorous testing showed no significant personality differences to attribute the observed behavior to the power of the situation.
Besides this absurdity, rigorous testing is meaningless. First, the tests were never used in the selection and tabulated afterward. Second, you do not test personality with a personality test, just as you do not test intelligence with an IQ test. Personality tests are specific for a limited set of traits as defined by the assessment that by no means encompass the intricacies of the human mind.
Next, average scores do not exclude behavior. Personality test scores do not predict individual behavior. Tests only give a researcher data to compare and search for statistically significant findings in and between groups.
Lastly, the concept of personality assumes someone generally behaves the same irrespective of context. Believing personality testing excludes differences between people effectively denies that people can act differently in the same situation or that the same person can behave differently under various circumstances. Referring to personality precludes the impact of external factors on behavior, nullifying the conclusion.
Oddly enough, the same misconception was applied to having a fixed identity and the ability to internalize a role. This is a plain contradiction. It is also bunk. Everyone can immerse in a character on demand and play an act. We wear many masks to cope with the situation at hand.
All in all, the foundation is wishful thinking to substantiate logic in remission. Psychology’s landmark study is not sloppy science. The science is nonexistent. That’s the way a baseless cookie crumbles.
Zimbardo gave a word of advice in his response. He remarked that the core message to take away is a cautionary tale of what might happen to any of us if we underestimate the extent to which the power of social roles and external pressures can influence our actions.
Critically, Zimbardo underlined this message by living a lie for most of his life in fear of losing face. He sends a clear warning that once caught in the clutches of deceit, the fear of exposure will keep you shackled to stay the course. And when no one bothers to check the facts, anointed scholars can start to believe they are untouchable.
Feeling irreproachable, Zimbardo started living his created illusion with his exhibition website on the study. He wrote 300 drama-dripping pages on the experiment in his book and ensured the fabricated script got turned into a feature film released in 2015.
So you can imagine there is a radically different core message to take away. The Stanford Prison is a cautionary tale of psychologists, given the opportunity, can create a delusional alternative reality and live a pathological lie as long as they have platforms to preach their gospel. The faith in psychologists not abusing their understanding of human nature to further their careers can be entirely misplaced.
A critical point to note is when you allow conflicting roles — narrator, producer, paying principal, researcher, and participant — you can end up with a toxic mixture enabling the development of a false narrative. Conflict of interest gives creators a poetic license to lie with impunity without presenting facts, especially when the field accepts flimsy anecdotal evidence that opens the door to incomprehensible falsification. Relying on testimonies allowed the narrator to craftily tweak a fantasized storyline and sell a baseless conclusion as solid science. Taking Zimbardo’s word in blind faith led to accepting scandalous plastering of psychopathology without proper proof — a troublesome affront.
Unquestionably, academic power corrupts minds. Psychologists are just like the rest of us, susceptible to human frailties, biases, and pretense. The power of academic authority can pressure peers to commit and cover up research misconduct. A clear warning that the power a scientific station bestows can lead to abuse when not held in check.
Arguably the greatest warning comes from the power of compelling storytelling. The epic theme of good versus evil can mesmerize en masse to believe nonsense at face value. Walt Disney would be awe-struck at how controversy made the narrative grow to biblical proportions, whereby critics inadvertently helped give the study its seminal status.
The tale is foremost a caveat of how easily a cleverly devised deception can fool a field of science and hijack critical reasoning. Spellbinding storytelling can railroad intellectuals into believing science fantasy. And that psychology professors can get away with a gift-wrapped facade as long as peers take them seriously.
Debunking is bunk
Over the years, the mock prison has been discredited and denounced as a sham. The study was never devoid of controversy. Despite all the efforts to bring the simulation to its knees, the narrative weathered every storm. A whole army of academics and journalists could not pull the fabricated play down, which showed an amazing ability to stand the test of time.
Why was no one able to deal the final blow? Because science kept the travesty alive with every debunking attempt. There is a big difference between debunking (falsifying a flawed theory or idea) and proving fraud (exposing false and fabricated data). Criticasters wrongly assumed the reported findings had to be debunked and looked for flawed inferences or debatable interpretations. But they should have checked for made-up data.
Defenders of the study felt unable to leave the prison study out of psychology curricula based on a debunked theory made the same error in thinking. They argued falsified theories of Freud or Jung are still basic study material. However, to my knowledge, these icons never made up a story to mesmerize the public under the guise of science.
Looking for ways to debunk a false narrative resembles the Texan sharpshooter fallacy — a Texan fires a gunshot at the side of a barn, then paints a target centered on the bullet hole and claims he hit a bullseye. Criticasters taking potshots at a bastion of make-belief are never on target. Shooting holes in a fabrication only makes its famosity grow.
Blum and Le Texier made some serious holes closer to the mark. Except they also tried to debunk the experiment and attacked the scientific validity. Le Texier published seven main findings, like instructing and misleading the guards, false imprisonment, incomplete and biased data collection, and writing a foregone conclusion — a cardinal sin in science. Even so, he was unable to put the story out of its misery with his attempted coup de grâce. Here is why.
Trying to debunk a made-up tale is a futile and foolhardy venture. Debunking an illusion is delusional because it is impossible to falsify fiction. You cannot disprove fantasy with arguments or facts. A composed work of art can only be reviewed, critiqued, or idolized.
And there is a second reason. Debunking is thoroughly flawed. Zimbardo elucidated this when he ignored the main criticisms in his response. He repeated his cherry-picking habit two years later when he, together with Craig Haney, wrote a commentary where they rejected some of Le Texier’s findings as unusually ad hominem, misleading, inaccurate, and unscientific.
Le Texier tried to reply to these allegations. He pointed at the circumvention of the main findings in his paper, but it was fruitless. The editors rejected his reaction because he brought nothing new into the debate. Unknowingly, the editors of American Psychologist collaborated in covering up misconduct.
In essence, psychologists can write whatever and get it published to defend their fabrications. There is no independent authority to monitor proper conduct during scientific validation, nor is there arbitration leading to a final verdict. That is why, despite debunking, researchers continue to take the experiment seriously, illustrating the senselessness of debunking.
In fact, this is standard practice within the field. Adherents of flawed concepts obsessively keep obsolete ideas alive. For instance, Myers-Briggs assessments continue to have an intuitive appeal. Jung’s psychotherapy is still used because it seems to help some patients. Freud’s psychoanalysis holds its sex appeal for some, and Libet’s debunked denouncement of free will serves free-will deniers well in their arguments.
What then happens with debunking attempts? A recent meta-analysis demonstrated that persistence is stronger and the debunking effect weaker when audiences generated reasons supporting the initial misinformation. So it pays to defend tenaciously and sow doubt to render debunking ineffective, exactly as Zimbardo has been doing for 50 years. He gets help from researchers who persist in supporting the misconceptions.
In this way, unsound, unscientific, unprovable concepts never die. Scientists on either side of a debate continue to convince others of their view. Scientific debates drag on without resolution. The net result is utterly flawed ideas drag on to soil susceptible minds. No wonder psychology finds itself in the middle of a crisis.
Importantly, opinionators generally exchange views via papers, usually ending in courteously agreeing to disagree. The pointless exchange of opinions allowed Zimbardo to disavow every discrepancy in his telling with a mere dismissive gesture. He could casually discard valid comments as lies, attribute them to failing memory, inferior understanding or flawed character simply because there is no synthesis or arbitration. All this was possible because of some severe defects in debunking validity.
The implications of the facade
The students were long faceless and voiceless. Fortunately, the seminal veneer began to crack when Zimbardo overplayed his hand during the Abu Ghraib atrocities. The preposterous comparisons he made about alleged atrocities in his psychology basement forced students to speak out. Eshleman told Zarembo he playacted, and Korpi declared he faked. Crucial details the psychologists had nicely tucked away in the dark for decades.
Experiences shared by some of the key participants soon helped clear up the blurred line between fiction and fact, which paved the road to revelation. Mark pointed at a forced crescendo and foregone conclusion in 2007. In 2011, Yacco stated the premature end was planned. Telltale smoking guns with the crosshairs on Zimbardo. But no one picked these clear signals up.
Instead, trivial molehills got turned into disputable mountains that resulted in Zimbardo successfully defending the catchphrase of how good turns evil. The master of linguistic disguise nimbly sidetracked every attempt to unmask him and dodge countless bullets. He thereby demonstrated awe-inspiring defensive skills of cloaking the truth and keeping up appearances, right up to when his smokescreen response gave him away. He also showed how incompetent psychology is at unmasking a deceiver.
So here we are. The final reckoning was never about the Stanford Prison Experiment per se but what failed to happen in the half-century of cloaking fraud. My revelations are about psychology’s unwillingness and inability to see through the deception and adequately deal with the abuse of academic powers.
What are the ramifications of my findings for the field? A highly polarized community of Zimbardo believers, agnostics, and unbelievers. For what does it say when overt fraud goes undetected for decades and does not result in holding the accomplishes accountable?
The way psychology dealt with the fable over a long period is in question. How could a narrator of a false narrative become famous? Zimbardo did not make himself. The science community did this by raising him on a pedestal and bestowing him with honors.
The Zimbardian conundrum is psychology’s own making. Letting him get away with decades of deceit sends the unmistakable message that fraud goes a long way to reach the apex of the field. All the way, if nothing is done to denounce corrupt behavior and correct the false narrative.
Alas, the study will hold sway in certain circles. Some scholars continue to legitimize a self-proclaimed seminal scientific study. They use the so-called experiment as a career steppingstone and review, revisit, refer or otherwise revive the Stanford Prison Experiment. In the process of resuscitation, they send the contemptible message that smart scholars stand on the shoulders of corrupt notoriety by acting agnostic. No one will blame them for it. The result is a break with a fundamental principle of science: keep each other honest!
Others continue the conversation and misquote the facts. Take the recent Stanford webinar hosted in April 2021. The announcement opens with “In April 1971, a seemingly innocuous ad appeared in the classifieds of the Palo Alto Times.” Guess what? The ad appeared months later after David Jaffe handed in his report on the Toyon Hall pilot he masterminded in May. Suggesting it was April obscures the role the pilot played.
Ironically, the webinar focused on what was learned and at what cost? Well, forging a false narrative teaches massive shortcomings in the scientific system. Let’s start with what happens when peers are compromised? They become guilty by association. Identifying with the experiment allows Zimbardo to preach generated gospel since his acolytes will protect him from falling from grace. He even tricked some esteemed colleagues into writing character confirming affidavits after Blum’s barrage and posted them on his website.
Another lesson is on the impact of academic etiquettes and the illusion of the integrity of intellectuals. These make contemplating the notion of deceit an embarrassing and career-damaging taboo. Better to remain quietly neutral and give a colleague the benefit of the doubt than run the risk of false indictment.
Just as detrimental for scientific progress is the counterintuitive repercussion of controversy. Criticism gives a false narrative the seal of scientific approval. Fueling the firestorm made a relatively insignificant experiment larger than life. When a dispute backfires in this way, it exacerbates detecting and publishing fabrications. Indeed, researchers add viability by taking a fabrication seriously with counter studies to derail the design or findings. The ultimate scientific credence comes from trying to replicate the results. After all, no one will undertake such a costly endeavor when a study is nonsense or unimportant.
Another somewhat concerning weakness is the way academics exchange views. Disputes often lack bold denouncement of outlandish claims. For example, the claim that personality test results exclude disposition. Instead of hammering the logical fallacies, scholars tried to make sense of senselessness, adding scientific credence.
Ben Blum wrote a short sequel in the summer of 2019 containing an interview with Le Texier where they explore the ramification of all the debunking attempts. Blum asked whether the story will ever die. Le Texier believed science is done with the story, yet, the general public will keep it alive for time to come. But he was sadly mistaken. Science is still supporting a created play. Why scholars continue to remain agnostic, despite ironclad proof, begs sincere reflection.
Perhaps the tide will finally turn now that everyone knows a bunch of psychologists buffs maliciously dealt in self-serving deception, showing they have no scruples to stray from the truth to serve their interest. Zimbardo’s friends with benefits — William Curtis Banks, Craig Haney and Christina Maslach — became tenured psychology professors to pursue an academic career. Douglas Korpi got a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. What will become of them?
The ultimate charade is that Zimbardo insisted he did nothing to produce toxicity. In my view, he has done precisely that for lying about his demonstration. Zimbardo tarnished the fine porcelain of the science of the mind. Without question, he gave psychology a decrepit heirloom by staining the field. Will psychology downplay the deception and cast aside their role in making Zimbardo and his confederates famous?
I hope not. Ignoring the science fraud would be truly Kafkaesque and the final nail in psychology’s coffin. The devastation the Stanford Prison fallacy wreaks on the faith in human science cannot be underestimated. Turning a blind eye would prove psychology has lost all touch with reality. So, where do we go from here? The pivotal question is what to do with the biggest theater in the history of social science?
Is it all bad? Of course not. The scam is not for nothing. We can learn a lot from flawed reasoning and the deficiencies in a scientific system. In the end, the Stanford Prison Experiment does have its rewards if we care to learn from its many lessons. Nevertheless, it is high time to clean up the mess and take effective measures to prevent such a travesty from happening again. How you can read in Cleansing the pantomime.
Part 2: David Eshleman’s deepfake
Part 3: John Mark’s insubordination
Part 4: Douglas Korpi on trial
Part 6: The last judgment
Part 8: Cleansing the pantomime
Part 9: Finishing off the response
Part 10: The narratological method