The main points discussed are the reason behind good people doing bad things, dehumanization, heroes and the effect of institutional power. The author was arguing that a person cannot quite literally be sweet, if they are surrounded by a sour environment. The strengths possessed in this article were that dehumanization is a very real notion as well as the fact that people change with the induction of anonymity. The weakness that is portrayed is that there are heroes around when in fact, yes they are around, but they are a quickly dying breed.
My conclusion is that by uniting everyone and seeing each other as another human life regardless of being anonymous or not that maybe experiments like the Stanford experiment might not have needed to be done. Phillip Zimbardo’s, You Can’t be a Sweet Cucumber in a Vinegar Barrel has many valid points. The first point that could be considered obvious is the question that he prose’s is, “Why do good people do bad things? ”(Zimbardo 1). This question can be answered by a number of contributing factors. Such as how a person was raised and where they were raised.
He uses the example of the police man stating that it was a bunch of black and Puerto Rican kids that were vandalizing an unattended car(Zimbardo 7). The officer, probably said that because of how he was either raised or how he was conditioned to think while in the service. By assuming that the vandals of the car were a certain demographic, he makes it seem as though the people he believes is capable of such things fit that same group of kids. This attributes to the circumstances of why the car was vandalized by those kids in the first place.
The setting, more than likely a dark area of the Bronx or also maybe in a “bad” neighborhood allows for the inhabitants of that neighborhood to act or be expected to act as such a person in a “bad” neighborhood would act, i. e. , stealing, vandalizing, and selling illegal substances. In retrospect, Zimbardo also places a car near a “good” neighborhood and the outcome is completely different (Zimbardo 8). The fact that the car itself was not identified nor possessed any specific identification, made it ok for adults and families to take what they wanted and not be reprimanded for their actions (Zimbardo 8).
Anonymity plays a very vital role in Zimbardo’s essay as well as being a main point in attributing to the question of, why good people do bad things. He uses techniques used in Lord of the Flies and applies them to a study that he conducts in the Stanford University basement. By shielding our eyes and giving us a number or our victim for that matter, we lose our identity. We are no long who we are. This gives some people the okay to do as they please. The idea that who you are with the silver reflecting glasses is not associated with who you are without them are not connected (Zimbardo 10).
This develops into a form of dehumanization. Assignment of numbers and using a disguise is what aids in dehumanization. Aside from these, a lack of knowledge for what is going on in a situation can turn a person to be the evil-doer. By not knowing, the boundaries or what to expect a person develops their own circumstances and plan to carry what they think is the correct action out (Zimbardo 26). Dehumanization can be a result of boredom (Zimbardo 27). The fact of the matter is, that no one wants to sit in the middle of the night in the dark watching a prisoner sleep.
It’s boring. So in turn, waking them and torturing them seems to be a better alternative. It can even develop if the prisoner themselves has instilled a sense of fear into the person carrying out the actions. In addition to the previous listed traits of dehumanization, it is possible to begin to treat people unethically due to a lack of proper rest as well as stress can assist in magnifying being placed in a bad situation (Zimbardo 32). Institutional will v. An individuals’ will to resist is also a point that Zimbardo covers (Zimbardo 12).
In the Milgram experiment, the knowledge that a professional is overseeing an experiment makes it nearly impossible for someone to say “no” to them (Zimbardo 12). We as people see doctors and psychologists as the best decision makers when in compromising situations. If a doctor is telling a person in an experiment to, “carry on with the experiment until it has been completed,” a person is bound to develop the idea that they must continue because it is a doctor administering the treatment that it must not be too harmful.
When in truth, if we feel something is not right, whether being assisted by a doctor or not, we should stop. The strengths demonstrated are simple. That fact that people do change is a valid point. This statement is true in many ways. Even though Zimbardo states that, he also says that, “In the midst of such people there are heroes. ”(Zimbardo 41). There are people that help those who aren’t being helped. These people are probably only a select few. The question then arises, are there really any heroes?
If the Stanford experiment had gone differently and someone put their foot down and said, “No this is not right,” or “ No you can’t do this the experiment would have lasted a little while longer” the result of that would have been an alternative to Zimbardo’s views. By addressing the idea of dehumanization, Zimbardo gives plenty examples to support his notion. Dehumanization proves to be one of the best answers to his main question. I believe that because Zimbardo is very well versed in the reasons and the answers for his question that there aren’t many weaknesses.
I do however feel his argument in regards to there being heroes is somewhat wrong (Zimbardo 41). Yes, there are heroes, but there only seems to be a select few that are willing to protect the ethical rights of other humans. Take the bystander effect for example. If a person is lying on the ground, screaming in pain, the likelihood of someone stopping to see if that person is ok is slim. The reason being that people may think that someone else around them is doing something about it, so in the end there is no hero. A true hero, no matter the situation will stop what they are doing to help someone that might be in need or hurting.
Although there may be a hero in a crowd, the chances of someone actually helping is low. In today’s society, it seems that everyone is looking out for himself or herself. That may be a good thing if a person is searching for themselves for a time in their life, but what about our civilization’s complete lack of concern for the human race? Even in 1970’s during a time of war, where everyone yearned for peace and unity there were students, in a basement, with reflective glasses that tortured their peers just because they could not be identified there was still no heroes.
The world in respect to humanity has only worsened so the chance of there being a hero is about the same chance of America getting out of billions dollars of debt within six months time. In order for our lack of heroes to be resolved, we must as a people unite and realize that every single person on this planet counts. An idea that just because someone is different because of their race or gender, physical appearance or background should not be a reason to hate them or disregard them as a form of human life would be the best way to improve Zimbardo’s article.