FacebookTwitterYoutubeInstagramGoogle Plus

The Stanford Prison Experiment: Why Ordinary People Do Terrible Things

Thursday, May 28, 2015
7:00 pm - 10:00 pm

In a notorious experiment to investigate the psychology of imprisonment, Dr. Philip Zimbardo created a mock penitentiary in which student volunteers were randomly assigned to be either guard or prisoner. The film, “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” is a dramatic re-creation of the study’s shocking turn of events. The participants rapidly descend into their assigned roles, with guards becoming cruel and sadistic and prisoners rebelling or sinking into despair. Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) and his team monitor the escalation of action, not realizing that they too have shed their identities and been absorbed into the experiment. After the screening, the Festival hosted a discussion exploring the film’s central question, a refrain echoing from Auschwitz to Abu Ghraib to ISIS: What insight does science provide regarding why some of us become capable of extraordinary cruelty?

This program was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as part of its Public Understanding of Science and Technology Initiative. 

This program is presented in collaboration with The Museum of the Moving Image.


Jeffrey ToobinWriter, Legal Analyst

Jeffrey Toobin, a staff writer for The New Yorker and senior analyst for CNN, is one of the most recognized and admired legal journalists in the country. His most recent book, The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court, was a New York Times best seller.

Read More


Kyle Patrick AlvarezDirector

Kyle Patrick Alvarez is a Los Angeles–based director, writer, producer, and editor. The Stanford Prison Experiment marks his third film as a director. It premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival where it won two awards and will be released in theaters this summer through IFC Films.

Read More
Scott AtranAnthropologist

Scott Atran is currently Research Professor and Presidential Scholar at the Center on Terrorism at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Visiting Professor of Psychology and Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

Read More
Dean A. HaycockScience and Medical Writer

Dean A. Haycock is the author Murderous Minds: Exploring the Criminal Psychopathic Brain: Neurological Imaging and the Manifestation of Evil, The Everything Health Guide to Adult Bipolar Disorder, and The Everything Health Guide to Schizophrenia.

Read More
Christina MaslachSocial Psychologist

Christina Maslach is a Professor of Psychology (Emerita) at the University of California at Berkeley. She is widely recognized as one of the pioneering researchers on job burnout. She is the author of the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI).

Read More