Reicher and Haslam (3)
Reicher and Haslam divided the findings of the experiment into two phases rejecting inequality (day 1 to 6) and embracing inequality (day 7 – 8). In this first phase of the study the guards did not identify with their group and therefore did not act collectively. The prisoners also lacked a social identity initially and acted individually in the hope of being promoted. However after the promotion on day 3, the prisoners increasingly identified as a group and on day 6 the guards were overthrown by the prisoners. In this second phase of the study the prisoners and guards decided to create a new self governing commune. However the commune was unable to deal with internal dissent and some of the former prisoners and former guards attempted to impose a new much harsher regime on the other participants. It was proposed by the new guards that this new regime would have strict rules and punishments to ensure that everyone ‘toed the line’. The study therefore had to be terminated on day 8 as it would have gone on to break ethical guidelines. Reicher and Haslam argue that unlike the prisoners, the guards failed to identify with their role. This made the guards reluctant to impose their authority and they were eventually overcome by the prisoners. Participants then established an egalitarian social system. When this proved unsustainable, moves to impose a tyrannical regime met with weakening resistance. Reicher and Haslam suggest that it is powerlessness and the failure of groups that makes tyranny psychologically acceptable.