Today we continued the Psychology Quest by recreating (with kinder and gentler oversight) the Stanford Prison experiment made famous by Zimbardo, with Eagles tribal loyalties still fully intact.
During launch, Eagles were informed that there were secret police among them, armed with the power to arrest for a “lack of intention” or even on a whim. Tension was in the air during Core Skills.
Mid-morning, we paused to run the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and discussed what game theory can teach us about human nature; how “past determines the future” and the importance and fragility of trust.
Then, at 11 AM, one Eagle donned a hat, reflective sunglasses and a badge and made the first arrest. Soon, another arrest followed and more Eagles were deputized to serve as jailers.
At first, all of those jailed were Oranges, leading to charges of prejudice. Then a few Reds filled out the prison. Only a few Eagles remained as bystanders.
Grievances were filed. Privileges taken away. Punishments levied. Punishments increased. Soon a few guards – surprisingly some of the kindest Eagles – began to let power go to their heads. Duty became cruel delight.
One Eagle prisoner agreed to denounce his tribe (photo above as an Eagle changes his tribe colors); in a real prisoner’s dilemma bind, an Eagle ratted out an innocent classmate; another prisoner agree to become an informant in return for pay and privileges.
Before long, a number of Eagle prisoners were in solitary confinement. And even some taunting began. It was time to call the experiment before things got out of hand. (Guides commented how eerily the posing mimicked photos from Abu Graib.)
During a lengthy debrief, it was clear that powerful lessons had been learned, like:
- “Given power, a human will become an animal;”
- “Power hides the truth;” and
- “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Then it was time to heal the tribe. In a powerful ritual, the Eagles tied their tribal bandanas to a rope that was used in a trust exercise, and then following a discussion about and photos from Abu Graib and how each of our shadows can cause us to treat fellow human beings as objects, we buried our shadow objects and reunited a tribe.
Understanding the power of Tribes and Shadows. Feeling the power of a Shadow unleashed. Turning Shadows from projection to Gold. All experiences that leaders who will someday change the world should experience, long before they hold the corrupting influence of real world power in their hands.