News of the WeekSocial Psychology

Reality TV Puts Group Behavior to the Test

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Science  09 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5545, pp. 1262-1263
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5545.1262b

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CAMBRIDGE, U.K.-- Two British scientists are preparing to take advantage of the popularity of "reality TV" to recreate a notorious psychology experiment in which students played the roles of prisoners and guards. Skeptics, including the researcher who designed the original experiment at Stanford University in 1971, fear that the BBC production could rerun the abuses that brought it to a halt after 6 days. But the researchers say that the show offers an excellent opportunity to answer pressing questions about the psychology of racism, oppression, and terrorism.