Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Haslam I 132
Tyranny/psychological theories: prior to Zimbardo’s Prison experiment (>Stanford Prison Experiment/Zimbardo) it had been common for psychologists to answer such questions by arguing that brutality and oppression are a straightforward reflection of the pathological dispositions of those who become agents of tyranny.
A. Dispositional hypothesis: this thesis argues that pathological systems are produced by people who are themselves in some sense pathological. E.g. people who sympathetic to tyrannical regimes have an authoritarian personality type the makes them deferential to strong leaders and disdainful of weak groups.
VsDispositional hypothesis: Stanford prison experiment/Zimbardo: (…) the participants in the SPE were ‘normal healthy male college students’ (Haney et al., 1973(1): 5) and they had been randomly assigned to their roles as guards or prisoners. Accordingly, the extreme behaviour witnessed in the study could not be explained simply as a manifestation of participants’ deviant personality.
B.Situational hypothesis/Zimbardo: peoples behavior is primarily determined by the social context in which they find themselves. >Behavior/Zimbardo.



1. Haney, C., Banks, C. and Zimbardo, P. (1973) ‘A study of prisoners and guards in a simulated prison’, Naval Research Reviews, September: 1–17. Washington, DC: Office of Naval Research.



S. Alexander Haslam and Stephen Reicher, „Tyranny. Revisiting Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment“, in: Joanne R. Smith and S. Alexander Haslam (eds.) 2017. Social Psychology. Revisiting the Class studies. London: Sage Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Psychological Theories
Haslam I
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2020-02-24
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