Reicher and Haslam (2006)

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Title of the study?
'Rethinking the psychology of tyranny'
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Context of the study?
Understanding Tyranny, The Stanford Prison Experiment, A different explanation.
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How did Reicher and Haslam define tyranny?
'An unequal social system involving the arbitrary or oppressive use of power by one group or it's agents over another.'
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What did Gustav LeBon argue?
Individuals lose their sense of identity when in a crowd and become capable of barbaric acts.
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What is this called?
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Who conducted The Stanford Prison Experiment?
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What happened during the study?
24 P's identified so strongly with the role of prisoner/guard that the guards became power-crazed and the prisoners became depressed and distressed.
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Why was the study stopped?
Due to concerns for the P's well-being.
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What explanation did Reicher and Haslam offer?
Social Identity Theory.
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What does this mean?
Individuals behave in an anti-social manner because they identify with a group that has anti-social norms.
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Why does Tyranny exist?
Due to group inequalities as some groups are dominant and some are subordinate.
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What were the 3 aims of the study?
To study interactions between dominant and subordinate groups. To understand conditions in which subordinate will challenge inequalities and overthrow tyranny. To investigate conditons under which people identify with their groups.
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Sample of the study?
15 male participants
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Samping methodology?
Self-selected through national newspapers and leaflets.
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Initially how many applicants were there and how many did they reduce it to?
332 reduced to 27.
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How did they reduce the sample?
By: psychometric testing, assesment by clinical psychologists, medical references and character references.
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How did they reduce 27 to 15? and why?
By: age, social class and ethnic background to represent diverse social and ethnic backgrounds.
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2 strengths of this sample?
Wide range of social and ethnic backgrounds means it's representative of target population and it's self-selected so they are all willing P's.
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2 weaknesses of this sample?
They are ALL male and British so may be difficult to generalise and may be biased - motivated and have enough time.
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Possible Research methods of the study?
A controlled observation using role play and self-report or An experimental case study or A laboratory experiment.
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Why can it be a Laboratory experiment?
It is in an artificial setting devised for the experiment implying control, there are also IV's and DV's.
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Why can it be an Experimental Case Study?
IV's were manipulated to see cause and effect but also it was an in-depth study of a group.
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How was Self-report used in the study?
The P's were regularly asked to rate themselves on the DV's.
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Independent variables?
Permeability, Legitimacy and Cognitive alternatives.
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Dependent Variables?
Social (e.g. social identification), Organisational (e.g. compliance with rules) and Clinical (e.g. depression).
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2 strengths of the research method (Lab)?
High control and cause and effect can be established.
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2 weaknesses of the research method (Lab)?
Demand characteristics and Lacks ecological validity.
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One suitable hypothesis?
Members of dominant groups seek no change when group identity is strong.
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Another suitable hypothesis?
Members of subordinate groups identify with their group (+challenge inequality) when permeability is low and legitimacy/security is low.
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True/False: The study was filmed and broadcasted by the BBC?
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How many groups were the P's divided into? and what were they matched by?
5 groups of 3 where members of each group were matched in terms of racism, authoritarianism and social domiance.
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What happened the night before the study?
The Guards were briefed and told to draw up rules of the prison respecting the basic rights of the prisoners.
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True/False: The Prisoners had better accommodation and food?
False the guards had better facilities.
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Why was this the case?
It created a sense of inequality.
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What happened when the prisoners arrived?
They arrived one at a time and had their heads shaved. They were then given numbered orange uniforms.
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Why were swabs of saliva taken?
To assess stress levels (Clinical DV).
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True/False: Records of conversations were kept?
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What is meant by Permeability intervention?
Prisoners believed if they showed similar characteristics to guards they might be promoted creating permeability. On day 3 1 prisoner promoted but NO more creating impermeability.
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What is Legitimacy intervention?
P's told the roles prisoner/guard randomly allocated (not legitimate creating insecurities and search for cognitive alternatives).
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What is Cognitive alternatives?
Introduction of Prisoner 10 to provide cognitive alternatives and challenge inequality and create insecurity.
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Phase 1: Rejecting Inequality, what was revealed about social identification?
Prisoners showed little social identification but once boundaries became impermeable social identification ratings increased + was reflected in prisoner conversations. Guards though showed little social identification + led to ineffective leadership.
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What did this mean?
Prisoners no longer perceived inequalities as legitimate (guards didn't deserve privileges), creating insecurities.
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What happened when prisoner 10 was introduced?
Increased awareness of cognitive alternatives (as measured by rating scales).
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When did the organisational variables drop?
On day 5 when the prisoners started to challenge the guards + no longer supported organisation.
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What happened on day 6?
The prisoner-guard system collapsed.
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Phase 2: Embracing Inequality, what did the P's then do?
They set up an egalitarian system which soon failed.
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True/False: The suggested replacement was a tyrannical regime?
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How was this reflected?
A rise in the right wing authoritarianism (rating scales).
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When was the study stopped?
After 8 days.
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Why was the study stopped?
The new regime was not ethical.
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What are 4 possible critiques of the study?
Role of TV, Role of personality, Reality of inequality and power, Impact of interventions and key variables.
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Does Social Identity Theory provide a better account of this study than Zimbardo's role exceptance.
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What is the usefulness of this study?
It provides a possible framework for understanding tyranny.
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Card 2


Context of the study?


Understanding Tyranny, The Stanford Prison Experiment, A different explanation.

Card 3


How did Reicher and Haslam define tyranny?


Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4


What did Gustav LeBon argue?


Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5


What is this called?


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