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Science, Serendipity and Zeitgeist

Question 1: Science, Serendipity and Zeitgeist

“From one perspective, the SPE does not tell us anything about prisons that sociologists, criminologists, and the narratives of prisoners have not already revealed about the evils of prison life … What does the SPE add to our understanding …? I think the answer lies in the experiment’s basic protocol.” (Zimbardo 2007: 206)

What is the protocol? How do you understand this paragraph? What is the relevance of “serendipity” and “Zeitgeist” Zimbardo mentions later in the chapter?


Question 2: Experiment, Simulation and Reality TV

Zimbardo in his 1973 piece for The New York Times Sunday Magazine constantly refers to Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) as “simulation”. Are experiment and simulation the same thing? Is reality TV similar to either?


Question 3: Prison Films

Just for fun, what are your favorite prison films? Here is my list of classical prison films – not all of them take place in actual prisons:


The Grand Illusion (Links to an external site.) (1937), dir. Jean Renoir

A POW film set in WWI; class differences among prisoners

The Silence of the Sea (Links to an external site.) (1949), dir. Jean-Pierre Melville

A French family forced to accommodate an occupying German officer during WWII

A Man Escaped (Links to an external site.) (1956), dir. Robert Bresson

The art and craft of prison escape

The Bridge on the River Kwai (Links to an external site.) (1957), dir. David Lean

The dialectics of creation and destruction with one of the most famous tunes for whistling

Pickpocket (Links to an external site.) (1959), dir. Robert Bresson

A Gallic adaptation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment

The Exterminating Angel (1962), dir. Luis Buñuel

A group of upper-class guests unable to leave a dinner party for one reason or another

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini

One of the most notorious films

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Links to an external site.) (1982), dir. Nagisa Oshima

David Bowie kissing a Japanese officer to save his comrade.

Last Updated on October 1, 2021

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