|Stanford Prison Experiment, 1971|
|Milgram Experiment, 1961|
Recent research into the causes of these results has found that, despite the unexpected results of the above experiments, we are not actually programmed for conformity. Acts of cruelty require enthusiasm as well as straightforward obedience. Member of the British Psychological Society, Professor Stephen Reicher of the University of St Andrews) has looked specifically at Milgram and Zimbardo’s experiments, which suggested that people who seem morally normal and functioning might commit inhumane and shocking acts when others instruct them to do so.
Despite this, Reicher's research suggests that obedience results from identification with authorities that encourage malicious behaviour and make it seem as if these acts are acceptable and moral. Ordinary individuals commit terrible acts "not because they become passive, mindless functionaries who do not know what they are doing, but rather because they come to believe ... that what they are doing is right".