On the dark side. Where to find the devil

imageOn the dark side. Why nice people become cruel, as found by the psychology department at Stanford University in the U.S.

It is all about power and submission – and it might help show why members of the Zimbabwe Republic  Police (ZRP) can be so cruel and brutal when lashing out at protesters and passersby, the elderly, grannies and women and children when they have grannies, mothers, sisters and wives and children of their own.

This phenomenon is caused by power, authority and patronage once it is vested in ordinary folk, said the Stanford research team. They randomly selected nice, ordinary students for the experiment in which they were divided into two groups in an enclosed wing at the university. One group was given police truncheons and distinguishing uniform-type clothing and told to be wardens/police officers; the second group was told to be prisoners/captives/alleged wrongdoers.

It soon became apparent that the wardens, given power and authority, a truncheon and a set of rules to be enforced, became irrational, bullying their friends at first and then downright dictatorial and violent. The ‘captives’ suffered emotions of hopelessness, betrayal, depression, resentment, hatred towards their student classmates and were beaten more ferociously the more they resisted being submissive.


On both sides of the divide were all those nice, ordinary people – male and female – from different social and class backgrounds. So shocked were the researchers by their findings that the experiment was shut down within a week of it having begun, never to be repeated at Stanford.

This took place in 1973 but still speaks to the state of the world – and Zimbabwe – today.



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