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INTERPERSONAL DYNAMICS IN A SIMULATED
W. Curtis banks,
Philip G. Zimbardo
Although we have passed through many periods of so-called prison “reform,” in
which physical conditions within prisons have improved and in which the rhetoric of
rehabilitation has replace the language of punitive incarceration, the social
institution of prison has continued to fail.
On purely pragmatic grounds, prisons really neither “rehabilitate” nor act as a
deterrent to future crime.
On humanitarian grounds as well, prisons have failed: our mass media are
increasingly filled with accounts of atrocities committed daily, man against man, in
reaction to the penal system or in the name of it.
Attempts at explaining the deplorable condition of our penal system, and its
dehumanizing effects upon prisoners and guards, characteristically focus upon what
can be called the dispositional hypothesis.
Dispositional hypothesis is central to a prevalent nonconscious ideology: The state of
the social institution of prison is due to the “nature” of the people who administrate
it, or the “nature” of the people who populate it, or both.
The dispositional hypothesis has been embraced by the proponents of the prison
The environment of arbitrary custody had great impact upon the affective states of
both guards and prisoners as well as upon the interpersonal processes between and
within those role-groups.
Guards and prisoners showed a marked decrease in positive affect or emotion, and
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