An interview with Philip Zimbardo, the pyschologist who conducted the now famous Stanford Prison Experiment.

Zimbardo discusses the experiment, of course, but more interesting is his own post mortem on his personal reactions to the experiment. How he got just as sucked into it as anyone else.

But most interesting is his take on moral responsibility, and what his experiments mean to justice. Does his experiment show that situations alone can alter someone’s behavior in such a way that they can’t be held responsible for their actions?

It’s really a philosophical and legal issue. In the extreme case, it really is “The situation made me do it.” So are we going to put the situation on trial? Well, we don’t have a mechanism.

Tribunals say, “We have the power to put leaders on trial, even though they in fact—none of them actually killed anybody—it’s just they created a policy, they created a system.”

But once it’s created, once the Stanford Prison Experiment was created, I’m irrelevant. If I had died during the thing, it would have gone on. The guards would have been happier. If Hitler had been killed, the whole thing would have gone on only because it had already corrupted the legal system, the educational system, the business system. With all these mechanisms in place, he became irrelevant.