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Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-14-2004, 12:18 PM   #1
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Interesting article in New York Times

In today's (May 14, 2004) there's an interesting article by Anahad O'Connor on the bottom of page A 11 (front page section). Behavior psychologists have noted that the enlisted personnel who refused to take part in the abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison were most likely of the "I" personality type. Those who said "no" to beating prisoners and other forms of humiliation had what "psychologists call internal locus of control, or the ability to determine one's own destiny." Sounds like those self-determining refusniks and whistleblowers are good candidates for ER since the "IN" type dominates.

The article goes on to say "people at the other end of the scale, with external locus of control, are more heavily influenced by authority figures. They prefer to put their fate in the hands of others." Saps.

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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-14-2004, 01:24 PM   #2
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

There were a couple of studies back about 40-50 years ago on this sort of behavioral activity. They're probably well documented on the web, but i'm too lazy to look.

One study had a group of people who were told they were helping "students" that they couldnt see "learn" by giving them electric shocks when they made mistakes. The "students" were actually actors that were only acting like they received shocks. Sometimes they'd have the actors scream, sometimes they'd have them stay mysteriously silent.

There was considerable variance in how the applicators of the shocking performed based on what the administrators called the "students" and how the "helpful" application of shocks was described. If the names used were more "prisoner like" rather than "student like", initially the applicators would be less resistant to giving the shocks. However it was noted that after a period of several weeks, regardless of what the "students" were called or how helpful the "shocks" were supposed to be, the applicators became increasingly likely to administer higher and more frequent shocks.

The other study was very eerie. It involved a small group of "guards" who were put in charge of a proportionally much larger group of "detainees". They were given very little supervision and very little instruction on what their duties were exactly, and no guidance on what was and wasnt proper. After a period of time, the "guards" became rather abusive of the "detainees", stripping them, physically abusing them, and emotionally torturing them. Some of this came from boredom, some from a created caste system that developed that was determined to be very similar to 3rd world prisons.

The studies went on to note that the people on the delivering end of the abuse were people of a wide variety of personality types, many of which were fairly pleasant and mild mannered. Holdouts who quit the programs or tried to restrain the others were few and far between. The people administering this study were horrified to learn that the "guards" were even sneaking into the facility to harrass and torture the "prisoners" during unsupervised times when the study wasnt being operated.

I remember one synopsis of the second case went something like "If you wonder what kind of monster commits the kind of atrocities you hear about in the news and history books, you might find them as close as your nearest mirror..."

Spooky.

In the case of Abu Ghraib, the guards are reserve national guardsmen who were principally trained in traffic control. They were poorly supervised, and given weak and conflicting orders. Recently a CIA head and a military leader argued in front of the senate as to who exactly was in charge of the day to day interrogations. When they couldnt agree, Kennedy pointed out 'if you two cant figure out who was in charge, I can imagine the people working at the prison didnt know for sure either'.

In other words, it wasnt necessarily a few bad eggs...might have been a bad chicken roost.
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-14-2004, 01:29 PM   #3
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

Quote:
In today's (May 14, 2004) there's an interesting article by Anahad O'Connor on the bottom of page A 11 (front page section). *Behavior psychologists have noted that the enlisted personnel who refused to take part in the abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison were most likely of the "I" personality type. *Those who said "no" to beating prisoners and other forms of humiliation had what "psychologists call internal locus of control, or the ability to determine one's own destiny." Sounds like those self-determining refusniks and whistleblowers are good candidates for ER since the "IN" type dominates.

The article goes on to say "people at the other end of the scale, with external locus of control, are more heavily influenced by authority figures. They prefer to put their fate in the hands of others." *Saps.
I didn't read the article, but this is a complete mis-application of the I/E personality measure.

E's can hold strong moral/ethical values and make moral/ethical decisions while still listening to all sides of the debate. Just as I's can make a poor moral/ethical decision on their own while holding very low moral/ethical standards. In fact, you could just as easily argue that I's are more likely to form low moral/ethical standards since they were likely to have taken so little external input into their value formation process.

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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-14-2004, 01:35 PM   #4
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

TH,

What you are referring to are the Stanley Milgram obedience to authority experiments. *Very spooky stuff and it makes one wonder a bit about the dismissal of the "following orders" defence at the Nuremberg trials. *In Milgram's experiments about 65% would administer up to "lethal" shocks and a good fraction of the remainder would administer what were still "large" shocks. *IIRC it was not a long duration experiment, each subject was only used for a single session. *http://home.swbell.net/revscat/perilsOfObedience.html

The other one is the Stanford Prison Experiment and it too is disturbing. *You can read the details at - http://www.prisonexp.org/

Both of these make a strong case that we can't trust in the innate "goodness" of man as it doesn't seem to exist and if it does exist it is easy for peer pressure to push it aside.
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-14-2004, 01:43 PM   #5
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

Quote:
I didn't read the article, but this is a complete mis-application of the I/E personality measure. *

E's can hold strong moral/ethical values and make moral/ethical decisions while still listening to all sides of the debate.
Perhaps, though the Milgram experiments show that it may be wanting to be liked by the experimenter (or superior officer in the case of Abu Ghraib) that motivated the shocker (or torturer in the case of Abu Ghraib).

http://home.swbell.net/revscat/perilsOfObedience.html
Quote:
The subjects do not derive satisfaction from inflicting pain, but they often like the feeling they get from pleasing the experimenter. They are proud of doing a good job, obeying the experimenter under difficult circumstances. While the subjects administered only mild shocks on their own initiative, one experimental variation showed that, under orders, 30 percent of them were willing to deliver 450 volts even when they had to forcibly push the learner's hand down on the electrode.
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-14-2004, 01:53 PM   #6
 
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

I agree with SG here. I don't think the I vs. E type is relevant here at all.

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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-14-2004, 02:51 PM   #7
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

Quote:
The subjects do not derive satisfaction from inflicting pain, but they often like the feeling they get from pleasing the experimenter. They are proud of doing a good job, obeying the experimenter under difficult circumstances. While the subjects administered only mild shocks on their own initiative, one experimental variation showed that, under orders, 30 percent of them were willing to deliver 450 volts even when they had to forcibly push the learner's hand down on the electrode.
Don't mistake being a toady for being an E. Not everyone who seeks external inputs while making decisions is seeking approval -- far from it. Many are seeking knowledge and other viewpoints. Similarly not everyone who believes that they have no reason to seek external inputs is actually wise and moral.


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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-14-2004, 05:44 PM   #8
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

Quote:

Perhaps, though the Milgram experiments show that it may be wanting to be liked by the experimenter (or superior officer in the case of Abu Ghraib) that motivated the shocker (or torturer in the case of Abu Ghraib).

http://home.swbell.net/revscat/perilsOfObedience.html

...Or that was the excuse given..."I just wanted to fit in" or "I just wanted to please you" (aka "I was just following orders")

Or on the other hand, perhaps in the current day case they actually did think or actually were following orders. Its unclear who said what to whom or even who exactly was in charge.

Thanks for being far less lazy than I was. Those are exactly the studies I was referring to! They're fascinating not just for the results, but because we'll likely never see anything like them again (in this country) due to the legal implications.

Edit: with great amusement, I note that the reported place of manufacture for the bogus "shock generator" is my place of birth
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-14-2004, 06:28 PM   #9
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

Quote:
...Or that was the excuse given..."I just wanted to fit in" or "I just wanted to please you" (aka "I was just following orders")
What really tips it over for me to believe that the subjects were "just following orders" is the greatly reduced numbers who would shock to any significant degree if they were free to choose their own "punishment" levels. *Now, once you throw in group psychology and peer pressure (the Stanford Prison Experiment) that can take some of the place of an authority figure. *Mix both peer pressure and likely authority as in Abu Ghraib and it's a recipe for disaster.

Quote:
Thanks for being far less lazy than I was. *Those are exactly the studies I was referring to!
Actually, I might not be much less lazy than you are. *I read about those experiments years ago and the names were still in my head. *Plus these two experiments are part of a heated discussion over on the MFool REHP board.

I read a fascinating book quite a number of years ago about Milgram and his experiments. *He did quite a lot of others that were a little different but interesting. *He tried to find out how many people it would take to link you to anyone on the planet (i.e. six degrees of Kevin Bacon). *He also ran experiments that left envelopes on the street and tracked whether they actually got mailed - depends on address, return address, where left, postage, etc. *Quite a fascinating guy.
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-15-2004, 01:47 PM   #10
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

I was thinking more on this last night, and in particular about the area in the stanford study where the prisoners on reflection felt that they had lost their identities and were powerless to effect change, so just "went with the flow". That and these summaries from the electric shock study:

"The experimenter's physical presence has a marked impact on his authority -- As cited earlier, obedience dropped off sharply when orders were given by telephone. The experimenter could often induce a disobedient subject to go on by returning to the laboratory.

Conflicting authority severely paralyzes actions -- When two experimenters of equal status, both seated at the command desk, gave incompatible orders, no shocks were delivered past the point of their disagreement.

The rebellious action of others severely undermines authority -- In one variation, three teachers (two actors and a real subject) administered a test and shocks. When the two actors disobeyed the experimenter and refused to go beyond a certain shock level, thirty-six of forty subjects joined their disobedient peers and refused as well."

And I thought...hmmm...this is starting to sound like the situations and conditions from my working life! Conflicting instructions, loss of identity, decoupling of the decision makers from those carrying out the "work" leading to the former not effectively seeing or having to deal with the consequences of their decisions, while the latter applies no rational or moral thinking to the work being done, because after all they're "following orders".

Maybe we're all part of some grand experiment, and those of us who ER'd are like the slim few from the shock test that stood their ground and refused to participate?

I do know that there were some working days when a 450v shock would have been a welcome event
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-15-2004, 03:18 PM   #11
 
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

You all need to revisit 'Animal Farm'

Orwell was a genius.

John Galt
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-15-2004, 06:53 PM   #12
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

When I worked at our local criminal justice training center, giving training on mental health issues to new recruits and experienced correctional officers undergoing continuing ed, I always taught about the Stanford Prison experiment.

The seasoned CO's were always amazed, and then angered. The prison experiment so accurately reflected their own experiences that they were amazed, and then immediately angry that nobody had told them about this before they began working in the field. The aggression and, often, sadism that guards inflict on prisoners is damaging to the guards, as well. They were suddenly aware of how context-dependent some of their behavior and attitudes toward the inmates were, and upset about who they had become, particularly if there was some education that might have prevented it.

I'm thrilled that Zimbardo's study is receiving so much attention (not just on this board, but nationwide; his phone has apparently been ringing off the hook). Although we would never allow such a study to take place again, we have this knowledge. It's imiportant that we learn how to use it. We seem to forget it again and again.

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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-16-2004, 04:21 AM   #13
 
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

Last year I was jailed overnight (charges were
dismissed). Anyway, my first such experience and hopefully my last. Some observations............

While I was not brutalized in any way, the aura of
hostility and disregard was palpable throughout
the staff, from the arresting officers to the custodians
(so much for the presumption of innocence). The real
surprise was the help, friendship, empathy and general
good will that I received from my fellow detainees,
all of whom I discovered were waiting to begin long
prison sentences. I suppose you could write it off to
"misery loves company". Anyway, in my brief stay
there I got excellent treatment, but only from the
inmates. The people in charge were uniformly
hostile.

John Galt
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-17-2004, 08:34 PM   #14
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

I'm relieved that you only had time to do a one-night study of the issue, John!

I'm not the least surprised, though. *I met many "gentlemen" in the jail where I worked when I was pregnant. *The CO's acted like adolescent boys, but the inmates were uniformly polite and chivalrous.

And your experiences of hostility and disregard are indeed the roots of the behavior studied by Zimbardo and exemplified at Abu Grheib (sp?).

I spent the morning with a clinically depressed, mentally retarded young man whose impoverished family is paying an attorney to try to get him some medication. *Although he has taken anti-depressant and other psychotropic medications for years, and received therapy as well, the prison psychiatrist tells him he's "just unhappy because he's in jail" and refuses to treat him. *He also has panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder. *Sheesh.

Enough shop talk. *I spent the REST of the day looking at real estate listings and calculating cash flow. *

Heading fearlessly toward ER, I hope,

Anne
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-18-2004, 12:08 AM   #15
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

Quote:
You all need to revisit 'Animal Farm'

Orwell was a genius.
You do realize don't you that while Orwell was against communism he was a strong supporter of democratic socialism. Not that there is anything wrong with society caring for it's weaker members but from your posts one might guess that you wouldn't agree. Have a read of his other works such as Down and Out in Paris and London. There is an online collection of his works at http://orwell.ru/library/
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-18-2004, 09:42 AM   #16
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

Funny, I read "down and out" in elementary school, and hadnt thought of it until you just mentioned it. A bit came back to me though, something about being poor destroying your future, although the good part was that the less money you had the less you worried.

If my recollection is even part way correct, an ominous message for the ER'd.

Excuse me, I have to go gnaw on my nails now...
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-18-2004, 06:46 PM   #17
 
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

Hello hyperborea and all.................. Yes, I am aware
of Orwell's socialist tendencies. Don't really understand that but I still think he was a genius. When I read Orwell
and Ayn Rand (all written decades ago), I can see it all
unfolding in the news of the day. Every day. They
wrote fiction which is now our reality. It will become more so. Brave New World, 1984,
Atlas Shrugged; that's our future folks. You can see it
coming as far back as anyone reading this has been
alive. It's a sure bet.

John Galt
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times
Old 05-19-2004, 05:21 AM   #18
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Re: Interesting article in New York Times

More people = more rules. And the closer you pack them in prisons, apartment buildings, corporate warrens, hospitals, schools, etc, etc, the easier it is for things to occasionally get whacky. Think - small island, 'Lord of The Flies'.
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