This looks pretty damning. Studies have been falling like dominoes due to methodological errors in psychology, sociology and related fields. Now the Stanford Prison Experiment -- one of the most famous works in the history of social psychology -- could be added to the list. French researcher Thibault le Texier studied the Stanford archives after the experiment's records were made available in 2011. He was distressed to discover that it wasn't an experiment at all. It was essentially a scripted theatrical demonstration with activist motive. There are so many things wrong with it, it's basically junk science. Now I need to flashback to college sociology, un-blow my mind, and crank my skepticism up to the "hard science" setting.
Linked below is an excellent podcast interview with le Texier on Rationally Speaking. Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS 241 - Thibault Le Texier on "Debunking the Stanford Prison Experiment"
Release date: October 14th, 2019
The Stanford Prison Experiment is one of the most famous psychology experiments in history. For decades, we've been told that it proves how regular people easily turn sadistic when they are asked to role play as prison guards. But the story now appears to be mostly fraudulent. Thibault Le Texier is a researcher who dug into the Stanford archives and learned that the "prison guards" were actually told how to behave in order to support the experimenters' thesis. On this episode, Thibault and Julia discuss his findings, how the experimenters got away with such a significant misrepresentation for so long, and what this whole affair says about the field of psychology.
And here is an open access version of his paper: https://psyarxiv.com/mjhnp/
Debunking the Stanford Prison ExperimentAbstract
The Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) is one of psychology’s most famous studies. It has been criticized on many grounds, and yet a majority of textbook authors have ignored these criticisms in their discussions of the SPE, thereby misleading both students and the general public about the study’s questionable scientific validity. Data collected from a thorough investigation of the SPE archives and interviews with 15 of the participants in the experiment further question the study’s scientific merit. These data are not only supportive of previous criticisms of the SPE, such as the presence of demand characteristics, but provide new criticisms of the SPE based on heretofore unknown information. These new criticisms include the biased and incomplete collection of data, the extent to which the SPE drew on a prison experiment devised and conducted by students in one of Zimbardo’s classes 3 months earlier, the fact that the guards received precise instructions regarding the treatment of the prisoners, the fact that the guards were not told they were subjects, and the fact that participants were almost never completely immersed by the situation. Possible explanations of the inaccurate textbook portrayal and general misperception of the SPE’s scientific validity over the past 5 decades, in spite of its flaws and shortcomings, are discussed.