I realize that some will persist in defending Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE), even after it has become obvious that the whole thing was a put-on, and is at best a cautionary tale for how not to conduct research. That comes with the territory. What does the SPE tell us that might be even remotely useful? I had been wondering about that, as at some point I need to make some mention of the SPE next time I teach Social Psych. So here the idea I am batting around:
The SPE tells us that if you give some actors a script, a stage, and a bit of direction, they will produce the performance that you as the director expect of them. Yes, some actors may forget a line or two, or decide to improvise. But the ultimate outcome will be little more than a performance that the director intended. At least I know what to expect the next time I go out to see a play. Brilliant. Maybe I'll shout out, "Zimbardo predicted that" when I applaud as the final curtain comes down.