Reicher and Haslam (1)
Background: Reicher and Haslam set out to outline a theory of understanding tyranny. They define tyranny as an 'unequal social system involving the arbitrary or oppressive use of power by one group or its agents over another.' Aim: Reicher and Haslam carried out this study to examine the consequences of randomly dividing men into groups of prisoners and guards within a specially constructed institution over a period of 8 days. M&P: The method used was an experimental case study. It is a case study because it was a detailed study of a group of people and it was an experiment because a number of interventions (independent variables) were introduced at specific points of the study. The 15 participants were all male, and met the criteria of being normal, decent and well adjusted individuals. They were recruited through advertisements in the national press and through leaflets. They were randomly divided into two groups of 5 guards and 10 prisoners. For ethical reasons only people who were well-adjusted and pro-social, scoring at low levels on all social and clinical measures were included in the study. The 15 participants were randomly divided into two groups of 5 guards and 10 prisoners. One prisoner was not involved at the beginning of the study. Prisoners were allocated to lockable 3-person cells and participants could be both video and audio recorded wherever they were. There was also daily psychometric testing. Furthermore, daily swabs of saliva were taken in order to ascertain cortisol levels. The guards had a series of means by which to enforce their authority, including keys to all doors inside the prison, sole access to an upper level, a ‘guards’ station’ with a surveillance system from which they could see into the prisoners’ cells, resources (including snacks and cigarettes) to use as rewards or withdraw as punishments – and, in addition, the ability to put prisoners on a bread and water diet.