Interesting read on how an environment can have bizarre effects on totally normal people.
As we learn about what and how things happened in Miami, and according to statements from other NFL players in other locker rooms around the league, it’s worth understanding why they happen at all. Especially because many people know and say these types of situations are wrong, why do the behaviors that lead to them ever emerge? Some of the answer may lie in a classic study conducted years ago by Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University.http://www.forbes.com/fdc/welcome_mjx.shtml
Zimbardo and his research team were interested in understanding what happens when good people are put in an evil place. Specifically, they wondered, “does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph?” So, in the summer of 1971, they set up a mock prison in the basement of a building on the university campus and recruited 24 college students—each of them a healthy, middle-class male—who would be randomly assigned as either a prisoner or guard.
The study began on a Sunday, when, with the help of local authorities, the “prisoners” were rounded-up as suspects and brought in police cars to the station for booking. Then, they were transferred from holding cells to the “Stanford County Jail.” The guards and Zimbardo, who was acting as warden, were waiting for them.
The study was scheduled to run for two weeks. But Zimbardo decided to end it after six days. By then, the “guards,” who had been inflicting punishments, had become sadistic. As for the “prisoners,” they were showing signs of depression and extreme stress.
Zimbardo’s research essentially showed that otherwise healthy individuals played right into the environment that had been created and the roles to which they were assigned. And it happened to Zimbardo himself, too. Days into the experiment, a colleague pointed out to him that his words and behavior were starting to resemble those of a prison warden.
The Stanford Prison Experiment is one example that shows the power environment has on human nature. Whether that effect is positive or corrosive ultimately depends on the people at the top of the organization.
Bullying behavior, harassment, and intimidation in the workplace are often tolerated because, over time, they become perceived as normal. That’s especially true in environments where high energy, high ambition attitudes persist—for example, in a professional football locker room. And that leads us to questions about whether those in positions of power and authority didn’t bother to confront the situation, not out of disregard for others but because they didn’t think anything out of the ordinary was taking place. It also leaves the NFL with a bigger issue: if a culture of harassment is deeply embedded in NFL locker rooms, what can be done to weed it out short of telling those getting pushed around to take it out to the parking lot?