Comparitive Critique of Stanley Milgram's Prison Experiment and "The Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal: Sources of Sadism" by Marianne Szegedy-Maszak.

Essay by lora27High School, 12th gradeA+, November 2005

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Put in the right circumstances, every human being has the potential to be a sadist. In "The Stanford Prison Experiment", Phillip G. Zimbardo examines how easily people can slip into roles and become sadistic to the people around them, even going so far as to develop a sense of supremacy. He does this by explaining the results of his experiment that he created to understand more about the effects that imprisonment has on prisoners, and how a prison environment affects the guards who work there. In her article "The Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal: Sources of Sadism", Marianne Szegedy-Maszak looks at the Abu Ghraib atrocities and the possible reasons why "normal" people turned into sadists who committed unfathomable acts of torture. Although Szegedy-Maszak and Zimbardo both suggest that every person has the potential to be a torturer, Zimbardo's experiment adds specificity to Szegedy-Maszak's claims. Szegedy-Maszak speaks generally about dehumanization, whereas Zimbardo uses his experiment to delve deeper into despotism and the role it plays in prisons; the evidence of dehumanization in prison environments is further complicated by the notion of internal and external attitudes.

Szegedy-Maszak and Zimbardo recognize that every human being can become someone who delights in the pain of others. Dehumanization is a key element in this change from a caring person to a sadist. According to Robert Okin, a professor of psychiatry, dehumanization allows people to "sever any empathetic human connection" (Szegedy-Maszak 304) they may have felt towards a person. Through interviews and studies, Zimbardo discovered that prisoners often report feeling dehumanized; his goal was to incorporate this feeling into his prison if possible. While conducting his experiment, he saw a degree of dehumanization occur that was astounding for the short period of time that the study was carried out. Szegedy-Maszak says that authorization leads...