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Our Dark Hearts: The Stanford Prison Experiment

The best psychological experiments ask timeless questions about human nature, like what makes a person evil? Can a good person commit evil acts? If so, what can make people cross the line? Is there some set-point which when crossed unleashes the evil? Or is it something about the situations in which people are placed that determines our behaviour?

This nomination for the best social psychology research – the famous ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’ – argues a strong case for the power of the situation. Not only that but the experiment has also inspired a novel, two films, countless TV programs, re-enactments and even a band. More on that later, first the experiment.