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Stanford Prison Experiment
Understanding How Good People, in Their Blind Obedience, Turn Evil.
Philip Zimbardo
Book Review with commentary: by Harry Rosenberg

(Zimbardo's results predicted Abu Ghraib!)

The Problem Is Not About Bad Apples In A Barrel,
It Is About Bad Barrels.

Philp Zimbardo in reference to Abu Ghraib
6 Sept 2006

Also known as simply Pvt Scott Thomas in news releases, Beauchamp reported extensive sadistic behavior on the part of three soldiers in his battalion in Iraq.


  • Yes, given the backdrop of Abu Ghraib and the Haditha massacre (Marines killed 24 civilians).
  • No, if you want to hang tough on the idea that Americans are all good guys--because they are American.
Dealing With The Psychological Roots of Authoritarianism

Do You Want a Paint-by-Number Life or Are You Working on an Original?
Kris Rosenberg

The Stanford Prison Experiment, SPE

Phillip Zimbardo, Professor, Stanford University--Social Psychologist:
Extended Adorno’s and Milgram’s work

  • Zimbardo’s SPE experiment predicted later events:
    • Abu Ghraib and similar detention centers
    • The several modern genocides
  • The SPE became a “SYSTEM,” a miniature system that foretold Abu Ghraib—all too realistically!
Posted 15 July, 2009.

Mr President:

America seems to have multiple personalities. Some would turn the other cheek believing literally that the meek shall inherit the earth. At the opposite pole are those who see enemies everywhere, and being enemies, they must be destroyed. Most of us lie somewhere in between; we will fight when necessary. When war is justified, as in WW II, we win by dying. When it is not, we lose by dying in vain.
Until American society seriously addresses the roots of violence, we can be sure our authoritarian natures will reflect poorly on our society. We are not different in such expressions, others can be worse, as the African and Asian genocides prove. But as the only superpower, we have some responsibility to lead the world in peace, not in violence. Yet we allow Lucifer to guide our destiny.

Social Conditions Leading to Trouble in
Abu-Ghraib, Rwandan genocide

    • Excluding others from the moral order.
    • Feeling little personal responsibility in anonymous situations where external social restraints are weak.
    • Fear of retribution by the "in-group."
As we well know by now, the Obama administration has outlawed those procedures most of us consider to be torture. Other rulings included a target date for closing Guantanamo and exempting low-level CIA personnel from punishment. We approve these steps. We also prefer that our president look forward for the future is now.

However, letting criminal behavior go unrestrained provides ammunition to critics both at home and foreign who can claim Obama is copying Bush and is himself a polarizing president. That is not true of course, but it is the appearance that counts. We strongly suggest action be taken to punish criminal behavior, provided that the solution is bi-partisan, the Constitution is amended to prevent criminal behavior on high and at the same time that we as a people look inward for the deeply seated roots of this problem that most of us may not even realize.
Posted 23 June 2006; Updated 17 Mar 2007

The play acting was supposed to be benign, as play acting usually is. As if by the stroke of a magic wand, Philip Zimbardo proved otherwise in 1971 in his now-famous Stanford Prison Experiment. His two-week study of the psychology of incarceration had to be called off on the sixth day because the conditions of Abu Ghraib had developed of their own accord. For some of his later commentary see: Stanford News Service.
"The System" defined by Zimbardo is so pervasive it is proper to give it a special name. Phillip Zimbardo first identified, then illustrated how EVIL it can be. He lived the system in his laboratory and later participated in the defense of a sergeant victimized by the American system at Abu Ghraib. The Abu Ghraib System condemns the lowest-level actors only. The hierarchy is immune from punishment, even if its designers created the system and gave the orders orally.
Updated 27 Feb 2010

Most of the basic literature we have relied upon to find a road map for peace can be found in the references below. To briefly summarize: Our genetic endowment contains genes for violence, aggression, and conventionalism. Countering those expressions are genes for parenting and altruism. The latter are vital for only they can save humanity from perpetual violence and war.

“The Lucifer Effect” (Phillip Zimbardo)

Came as another national surprise. Updated 09 Sept 2013

  • North American college students in a prison experiment:
    • Were corrupted in 24 hours, feeling and playing the roles of abusive tyrant or crushed prisoner
    • The first “prisoner” broke in 36 hours.
  • This is the Lucifer Effect.
    • A product of the SYSTEM--and predictor of Abu Ghraib!
Headline: "Shocking revelation: Santa Clara University professor mirrors famous torture study"

Editor's Forward:

Many think Stanley Milgram was denied tenure at Yale because of his controversial studies into human nature. He found most ordinary people will inflict severe electric shocks to another person in response to an authority figure having no more "real authority" than a white coat in a formal setting. Jerry M. Burger of Santa Clara University has replicated the essential features of Milgram's classic work with essentially identical results.

Excerpts from Mercury News - 12/21/2008

By Lisa M. Krieger

    "Replicating" [reproducing] "one of the most controversial behavioral experiments in history, a Santa Clara University psychologist has found that people will follow orders from an authority figure to administer what they believe are painful electric shocks.
14 May 2008

One of the most humble of great men, Barack Obama is bring accused of elitism. True to the arrogant spirit of the political elites, who wield vast powers, the Clinton camp is accusing him of being an elite. Anything goes in this political world of make believe. A man of humble origins, a man from a single-parent family, is being attacked for having some of the very qualities that made his attackers great.
9/11, WMD in Iraq, Iraqi connection with bin Laden, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, 9/11 Commission report, Hurricane Katrina had one thing in common: Cover up at the national level.
Torture has been the bane of humanity. It is motivated by revenge, sociopathology, simple meanness, or in a twist the Bush Administration seems to be orchestrating, for intimidation. This fits the world-view Bush seems to be following--Dictatorship at home and dominating the world. It explains his obsession with keeping AG Gonzales in his job at considerable political risk.
Forewarning Heroes--there were three. They were not without voice--they just weren't heard.

Several Individual Pages Updated 2006 Sept, 13 Dec 2012, 09 Sept 2013 and 2 Mar 2016.

MACHINE TRANSLATE: This or any other page: Download Babylon

Each page toggles to its neighbors, resources, and back here.

    Arising in antiquity, before mammals, before the atmosphere became what it is, genes were mutating in makeup and/or organization leaving their creations to survive or not as selection would have it for their particular niche. The advent of civilization and its exponential development came so fast, [in geologic time], that genes preferred for peaceful living have yet to be selected. They may never be if humanity persists along its present path. Yet there is Hope, lots of it. Nature itself provides it. And there are avenues for action, provided we can read the Tea Leaves.
Updated 23 July 2009

Roots of Terror Briefly and Some Avenues Now Apparent

Reading recorded history is a heavy trip. Through all of it, terrorism, wars, and genocide surface again \ again. These repeat themselves in an endless ebb and flow of charades. Like complex rows of dominoes, each event triggers further events, becoming ever more intense with time. What is it about humanity that it never learns from history?

For a quick peek at what might be done see: Peace Via Nature's Way

On this page we honor those whose public activities personify peace on earth. Content will change as events develop.

Peace-relevant insight from this experiment.

Updated 09 Sept 2013

A mere “egg shell” separates our peaceful and violent behaviors. This feature erupts when certain conditions are ripe. Violence is the usual result whether domestic or international terrorism, war and genocide. Terrorism within one's own society is its ultimate expression.

Updated 19 Oct 2012; 20 July 2013

GENETIC PRECONDITIONS Jungle/Savanna Heritage (Evolved DNA)

Unifying Principle: Authoritarian Personality along with Sociopaths (psychopaths) hijacking movements, religions, and nations to suit their own purposes.


Also known as: Explosions: Nukes and Population; Driven by Extremism.

Jan 2006; Updated 26 May 2007.

What have expediency and band-aids wrought?
  • An earth where small regional powers possess nuclear weapons with at least one having an unstable governance.
  • A world with a human population already straining the biosphere.
  • A world with a human population making no move to limit or even understand its own potential for extremism, the barrier to which is egg-shell thin as our modern ability to motivate people to: genocide, abuse in Abu Ghraib, and abuse in the Stanford Prison Experiment show.
Turn the tables on terror by eliminating Blind Obedience and reversing Milgram's Findings! Instead of 65-85% of us blindly following orders to harm others just because some authority figure tells us to, we "stiffen our spines" and bring that percentage down to near the 4% level where the sociopaths, those without conscience, reign. Surely the "can do" spirit for which Americans are known can pull off this little trick (not so little really).
A real life incident in which a phony cop induces a chain-restaurant owner to investigate an employee he accused of stealing from customers provides substantial support for these two social scientists. “Officer Scott” visited a restaurant and asked for the manager. When she arrived, he simply stated that an employee had been stealing from customers and that it would be simpler for everyone if the employee were searched on the premises. Officer Scott claimed to have the manager’s boss on his cell phone. The 18 year old female employee was strip-searched with no money found. At that point, Officer Scott induced the manager’s fiancé to watch over the employee when the manager claimed she had to take care of something out front. That something was to call her boss who was shocked by what the manager said. Meanwhile Officer Scott had induced the manager’s fiancé to rape the employee.

Is terrorism a natural expression of the human genome?
If so, what can be done about it?
If not, why not?

Terrorism does arise from the human genome--an architecture designed by natural variation and selection of species most fit to survive the environmental niche within which they live. Nature took her time. Her genomic experiments culminating in humanity were gradual over a period of several hundred million years. Some instinctive behaviors we share with insects as well as animals in the great phylum of vertebrates to which we belong! Over at least the last seven million years since we split from the gorillas, evolution preserved our aggressive, cooperative, nurturing, parenting and altruistic traits with some of these arising tens to hundreds of millions of years before that. Nature is nothing if not Consilient.
Conceived on 12 Sept 2001, RoadtoPeace is a web site individuals can use and study in trying to make a difference in our violent times. We also provide extensive internal and external links to sites and pages pertinent to the subject at hand. As a friendly site linking to us put it:

[RoadtoPeace:] "Seeks reasons for terrorism in various aspects of religion, economics, history and psychology, stressing the complexity of the issue. The way out appears to be seen in equalizing opportunities, remedying historical injustices, and advancing independent thinking."
Mind control has been practiced for eons. Even before that, other species did it. We know that for they still do. But there is a new dimension, or rather an avenue by which to achieve it: The search engine. Neither Google nor Yahoo are suspected of such misbehavior, but as Evan Leatherwood points out in the 9 May 2013 issue of The Nation , it could happen. What is scary about the research we have done is that each of us has that exact propensity for having our minds controlled by others, or our controlling theirs. It has happened before. Radio, TV, and now Search Engines all have the potential for mind control. Although Eric Schmidt, Serge Brin, and Larry Page of Google recognize the possibility that Google has such power even though they are apparently not attempting to actually do so, they have nevertheless acknowledged in the past that they can.

Others, notably Robert Epstein, a research psychologist, Michael Fischer of Yale, and Frank Pasquale of Seton Hall believe search engines can sway public opinion, and alter election results to the Left or Right! Each of these personages comes from a different quarter.
Robert O Paxton

Extended Book Review

As a distinct form of dictatorship in implementation, Fascism has much in common with other totalitarian forms. Unlike most other total dictatorships, Fascism begins as a movement. It originated in France prior to WWI and found its first national expression in Italy soon after the war ended. In both Italy and Germany, fascists came to power by legitimate means, a key distinction. They only showed their true colors after taking power. Paxton does an admirable job in defining classical Fascism as practiced in Italy and Germany. He did that by describing the conditions that brought the movements into being followed by gaining and wielding power. That process is best understood as proceeded through five steps, quoting Paxton:

  • “The creation of movements.
  • Their rooting in the political system.
  • Their seizure of power.
  • Their exercise of power.
  • The long duration, during which the fascist regime chooses either radicalization or entropy.”
Updated 29 Oct 2011

While we cannot see around corners, we can certainly sense the direction and go with the flow. So it pays to know accurately where the various socio-economic avenues of current history are headed. Since history proceeds like waves on the shore, at least some turns in the road ahead should be predictable.
14 Sept 2007

Too often key events that affect the future of humankind go unnoticed or even forgotten. The works of Mendel, who discovered the genetic code is one example coming to mind. Charles Darwin himself was not fully appreciated in his own time in spite of a high and controversial profile. Some of his deepest insights are just now coming into general acceptance. Giants who followed him would include not only Gregor Mendel, but James Watson and Francis Crick with vital help from Rosalind Franklin. Because of them, humanity now has a much better view of itself. They enabled a new beginning on the question of nature/nurture. Neither was very clear before Darwin. Darwin, Mendel, Watson, Crick, and Franklin comprise humanity's heroes in biology, the nature side of the coin.
Nine Steps Toward Integration
Updated 07 Apr 2008

On this website you can find procedures for how people, tribes, and nations can improve relationships with one another. And you can find avenues, some already paved, toward peace.
Updated 21 Mar 2010

ACTION ALERTS: From 28 Aug 2008

Activate Animation - Maximize for SCREEN SAVER
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The White House and Congress agreed in May 2007 to a series of benchmarks that could lead to an end of American occupation of Iraq. The second report on progress is due 15 September.

Our take is that too little has been achieved to justify continued support. True downtown Baghdad is a basically safer behind the equivalent of an iron wall that is not quite impervious. Like the eye of the hurricane, Baghdad is relatively calm while being surrounded by the high winds of violence.
27 April 2007

Fallujah, 31 Mar 2004. Four fully-armed men in uniform, driving a US Army jeep are gunned down in an ambush. Their bodies are mutilated and hung from a bridge over the Euphrates river. Americans? Yes, of course. Soldiers or Marines? Neither. They were ostensibly civilians. But this humiliation created a backlash against the townspeople that tipped the scales irrevocably into the chaos that reigns today.

The ultimate fascist is the sociopath, or the more frightening moniker—psychopath. As we have discussed elsewhere, there is no difference between these terms. Sociopaths are quite sane and in full control of their senses. What sets them apart is their lack of any conscience. The most dangerous ones are those with smarts and charisma. Hitler literally held his audiences spellbound, sometimes for an hour or more. Fortunately, true fascists have come to power only twice in spite of a dozen or more serious efforts.
"In an audio tape broadcast on Aljazeera, Osama bin Laden has warned that al-Qaida is preparing an attack very soon, but also offers Americans a long-term truce." Al-Jazeera Release.

Our purpose in bringing out what bin Laden says is two fold: we can read his writings and statements for ourselves for clues about what motivates this man. On this tape, as well as in other communications, his motivation is clear: Western exploitation and occupacy of Islamic lands. Israel, Afghanistsn, and Iraq in historical order brought humiliation upon Islamic culture.
Creative insights come with a rush sometimes, but slowly is the usual route. The whipsaw feature of Authoritarianism is one of those insights.
Updated 20 Jan 2008

This page summarizes concepts distilled from the pages on this site.

Updated 30 Jan 2010

RoadtoPeace links

Killer Instincts.
What Can Evolution Say About Why Humans Kill--And Why Do We Do So Less Than We Used To.

Dan Jones; NATURE; 31 Jan 2008; Vol 451; Issue 7178; Pg 512.

Article Review - Harry Rosenberg

Editors of the world's foremost science periodical are not usually given to hyperbole. This article is no exception for it makes a solid case for a genetic origin of our murderous instinct. That murder was common in human prehistory there can be no doubt. So also in certain primitive societies in recent history. Aggression is equally common, and can lead to murder.
Bin Laden, Al Qa'ida, and Recent Iraqi History

25 April 2007

We know not what we do. Or so it seems. But what is certain now is that we are fighting the wrong war. And we are losing the real one; the one for the hearts and minds of those who would welcome and embrace freedom and self-determination under any flag, economic system, religion or government--democracy in other words.
Patriot Act: Time To Amend It

We think it may be time. For example, the act in practice gives the President powers Congress believed were necessary to resolve present conflicts. That feature gained support from the 9/11 attacks that left 2977 dead (including 372 foreign nationals) plus 19 high-jackers who hijacked four commercial airliners and crashed two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and crashed a third one into the Pentagon. A fourth airliner crashed into a Pennsylvania cornfield thanks to courageous passengers who stormed the cockpit. Several warning signs and memos were not put together and interpreted in real time for action. Existing stove-pipe agencies in US government together with an authoritarian Commander in Chief, whose team ignored warnings from the previous administration, prevented information known in some governmental quarters from being recognized as a pattern and being acted upon. After 9/11, the fear generated was so great that the Patriot Act did not include much in the way of limits on guarding individual freedoms.
The Tea Parties are the historic tendency of Americans to form third parties in a huff over how things are going. Sometimes, as with the Bull Moose party, they are organized from on high. Other times, they arise from a more or less radical grass roots. The Tea parties of today are somewhat of a mixture--right-wing leadership folks generally sick of governments. We will use the plural until all factions agree on a common definition of who they think they are. Today's movement was largely energized by the media, Fox News in particular. Coming from the right wing behind governor Palin,--a figure head so far--prospects for this new movement are not yet clear. Meanwhile we provide some links for your reference.
19 April 2007

Vice President Dick Cheney recently addressed the "American Israel Public Affairs Committee," also known as AIPAC. His remarks may be found on White House news release. Mr Cheney proclaimed four myths:

    "The most common myth is that Iraq has nothing to do with the global war on terror.
Research Through Mar 2008

Roots of Terror Briefly and Some Avenues toward Peace Now Apparent

Reading recorded history is a heavy trip. Through all of it, terrorism, wars, and genocide recur again and again. Like rows of dominoes, each event seems to trigger further events.
Since much of our factual information was generated by others publishing important books we list them all here for your convenience.
Updated 31 May 2007

Brigadier General Billy Mitchell
Prophet Without Honor

General Billy Mitchell was the first prominent American to publicly support a vision that strategic air power could dominate future warfare.