Critical Perspectives and Controversies

Over the years, there have been many debates over aspects of the Stanford Prison Experiment, such as whether the experiment suffered from social demand characteristics, participant self-selection, or other flaws in methodology. This page contains a bibliography covering the most noteworthy of these debates (see the BBC Prison Study for additional critiques).

The Debate Over Demand Characteristics

  • Banuazizi, A., & Movahedi, S. (1975). Interpersonal dynamics in a simulated prison: A methodological analysis. American Psychologist, 30, 152-160.
  • DeJong, W. (1975). Another look at Banuazizi and Movahedi's analysis of the Stanford Prison Experiment. American Psychologist, 30, 1013-1015.
  • Doyle, C. L. (1975). Interpersonal dynamics in role playing. American Psychologist, 30, 1011-1013.
  • Movahedi, S., & Banuazizi, A. (1975). "Interpersonal dynamics in a simulated prison: A methodological analysis": Reply. American Psychologist, 30, 1016-1018.
  • Thayer, S., & Saarni, C. (1975). Demand characteristics are everywhere (anyway): A comment on the Stanford Prison Experiment. American Psychologist, 30, 1015-1016.

The Debate Over Participant Self-Selection

  • Carnahan, T., & McFarland, S. G. (2007). Revisiting the Stanford Prison Experiment: Could participant self-selection have led to the cruelty? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 603-614.

  • Haney, C., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2009). Persistent dispositionalism in interactionist clothing: Fundamental attribution error in explaining prison abuse. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 807-814.

  • Haslam, S. A., & Reicher, S. D. (2007). Beyond the banality of evil: Three dynamics of an interactionist social psychology of tyranny. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 615-622.

  • McFarland, S. G., & Carnahan, T. (2009). A situation's first powers are attracting volunteers and selecting participants: A reply to Haney and Zimbardo (2009). Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 815-818.

Debate Over the BBC Prison Study

  • Haslam, S. A., & Reicher, S. D. (2006). Debating the psychology of tyranny: Fundamental issues of theory, perspective and science. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 55-63.

  • Haslam, S. A., & Reicher, S. D. (2006). Stressing the group: Social identity and the unfolding dynamics of stress. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 1037-1052.

  • Haslam, S. A., & Reicher, S. D. (2007). Identity entrepreneurship and the consequences of identity failure: The dynamics of leadership in the BBC Prison Study. Social Psychology Quarterly, 70, 125-147.

  • Haslam, S. A., & Reicher, S. D. (2007). Social identity and the dynamics of organizational life: Insights from the BBC Prison Study. In C. Bartel, S. Blader, & A. Wrzesniewski (Eds.), Identity and the modern organization (pp.135-166). New York: Erlbaum.

  • Reicher, S. D., & Haslam, S. A. (2006). Rethinking the psychology of tyranny: The BBC Prison Study. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 1-40.

  • Reicher, S. D., Haslam, S. A., & Hopkins, N. (2005). Social identity and the dynamics of leadership: Leaders and followers as collaborative agents in the transformation of social reality. Leadership Quarterly, 16, 547-568.

  • Turner, J. C. (2006). Tyranny, freedom and social structure: Escaping our theoretical prisons. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 41-46.

  • Zimbardo, P. (2006). On rethinking the psychology of tyranny: The BBC Prison Study. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 47-53.

Help Support This Nonprofit Website