Monthly Archives: November 2010

The TSA and the Stanford Prison Experiment

Airport securityWatching this video (and the associated description) of psychological abuse of a passenger by TSA officials in a US airport reminds me of watching video from the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment.

In that experiment, conducted in 1971 in the basement of the Stanford Psychology building, normal, healthy students were randomly assigned to the roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison. Over the course of six days, the “guards” developed extremely authoritarian, abuse behavior towards the “prisoners”, and subjected some of the “prisoners” to torture. Philip Zimbardo, the head of the study, reflected later on the results:

The situation won; humanity lost. Out the window went the moral upbringings of these young men, as well as their middle-class civility. Power ruled, and unrestrained power became an aphrodisiac. Power without surveillance by higher authorities was a poisoned chalice that transformed character in unpredictable directions. I believe that most of us tend to be fascinated with evil not because of its consequences but because evil is a demonstration of power and domination over others.

It seems to me that the actions of the TSA could be described in the same way. Without oversight, power has taken the place of rationality and domination seems to be the goal.

Airport security in Israel and North America: Focus on the person not the stuff

This is an interesting article on how security procedures in Israel are very different from those used in North America. In Israel the focus is on the person — asking questions and looking in their eyes. In North America the focus is on stuff — that they might be carrying or concealing. Interesting differences…

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel’s largest hub, Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

“The first thing you do is to look at who is coming into your airport,” said Sela.

Very expensive computer repairs

priestSometimes, the computer repair man is your biggest enemy. Not only can the technicians access any private, unprotected information on your system, but they can use that information against you. This story describes an elaborate scheme of psychological exploitation to commit a very large fraud.

According to police, the pair were able to convince Davidson that the virus was in fact a symptom of a much larger plot in which he was being menaced by government intelligence agencies, foreign nationals and even priests associated with Catholic organisation, Opus Dei.

So convinced was the victim he is said to have agreed to pay the pair $160,000 per month for 24-hour protection against the fictitious threats, payments which continued until recently.

Implanting false memories to sell products

by Funkyah

Memory research has demonstrated that it is easy to implant false memories, convincing people that they had experienced some event or emotion that never really happened. This has long been a problem in the area of forensic psychology and eyewitness testimony.

Now researchers are speculating about implanting false memories by alter photographs, perhaps stored on a social network site like Facebook, to insert products in situations that never really happened.

Would adding Coca-Cola bottles to your favorite photos from last Christmas change your attitudes, and desire to buy, the product?

By taking advantage of implanted memories, corporate product placement in photos on social networking sites could finally accomplish the much-desired — but incredibly difficult — goal of altering brand loyalty,