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Reicher & Haslam Rethinking The Psychology of Tyranny. Background. What were Reicher & Haslam interested in?. Rethinking the Psychology of Tyranny Tyranny: the arbitrary and/or oppressive exercise of power in an unequal social system. Why did tyranny need rethinking?. Zimbardo’s SPE

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Reicher & Haslam Rethinking The Psychology of Tyranny

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Reicher haslam rethinking the psychology of tyranny

Reicher & HaslamRethinking The Psychology of Tyranny


What were reicher haslam interested in

What were Reicher & Haslam interested in?

  • Rethinking the Psychology of Tyranny

  • Tyranny: the arbitrary and/or oppressive exercise of power in an unequal social system

Why did tyranny need rethinking

Why did tyranny need rethinking?

  • Zimbardo’s SPE

  • Implications of SPE

  • Changing face of tyranny

  • Rise in number of people imprisoned

  • Alternative theory – SIT

Zimbardo s spe

Zimbardo’s SPE

Issues from spe

Issues from SPE

  • Conclusions focussed on the power of social roles & group membership in shaping behaviour. People have little choice in what they do, they behave according to assigned roles

  • Implications of these conclusions

  • Tyrants cannot be held responsible for what they do, and so should not be challenged, their behaviour is an inevitable product of the situation they are in

Issues from spe1

Issues from SPE

  • Ethics

  • Ideas from SPE have not really been tested or challenged as conditions in the study became so extreme study had to be terminated, not thought possible to replicate the study ethically

  • SPE conducted in 1969



Reicher haslam rethinking the psychology of tyranny

  • Can terrorist actions be explained using theories of social roles and group membership?

  • Are these people responsible for their actions is their behaviour and inevitable product of the situation they are in?

Changing face of tyranny

Changing face of Tyranny

Changing face of tyranny1

Changing face of Tyranny

Abu gharib

Abu Gharib

In 2004 it came to public attention

that Iraqi prisoners at Abu Gharib were being abused at the hands of American soldiers.

  • Prisoners were stripped naked sexually humiliated, they were wired up and told to stand on a box – if they fell off they would be electrocuted.

  • They were beaten and tortured both physically and psychologically all whilst soldiers took pictures of themselves smiling with their thumbs up next to their victims.

  • Several soldiers were tried and convicted to as many as 10 years in prison for their actions.

  • Many blamed the hideousness of the situation, orders from above and a lack of information on how to behave appropriately

Changing prison populations

Changing Prison Populations

  • If putting people into prisons makes their behaviour worse and the behaviour of their guards brutal then we need to look again at our criminal justice system.

  • Over 9 million people are imprisoned world wide

  • In England & Wales 80,000 people are imprisoned, a huge rise since the 1960’s

Alternative theories sit

Alternative Theories - SIT

  • Social Identity Theory

  • People only act in terms of group membership if they identify with the group (self categorisation)

Self categorisation

Self categorisation

  • Permeability

  • If group members believe that it is possible to move out of the group they will not categorise themselves as group members

Self categorisation1

Self categorisation

  • Security

  • How aware are the group members of alternative ways of thinking about the group membership and the relationship with other groups, if they are aware of alternatives they may challenge inequalities

Dispositional vs situational hypothesis

Dispositional vs. Situational Hypothesis

  • Dispositional – tyranny is a direct result of individual characteristics that pre-exist in a person

  • Situational hypothesis – anybody will behave in a tyrannical way when placed in a certain situation or role regardless of their personal characteristics

Free will

Free will?

Free will – we have choices about the way we behave

Determinism – we are forced to behave in a particular way because of the situation we are in

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