Context: How Dehumanizing Encourages Abuse

Standford Prison Experiment (1971)

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Under the chapter called the Power of Context, Malcolm Gladwell discusses this experiment in his book “The Tipping Point”. I had previously studied the results of this setup in my Psychology AS class in the UK in the 1990s. It doesn’t make pleasant reading, and it certainly doesn’t make pleasant viewing (viewer warning: some scenes are graphic and violent in nature).

Zimbardo’s primary reason for conducting the experiment was to focus on the power of roles, rules, symbols, group identity and situational validation of behavior that generally would repulse ordinary individuals. “I had been conducting research for some years on deindividuation, vandalism and dehumanization that illustrated the ease with which ordinary people could be led to engage in anti-social acts by putting them in situations where they felt anonymous, or they could perceive of others in ways that made them less than human, as enemies or objects,” Zimbardo told the Toronto symposium in the summer of 1996.


This chart is randomized, and yet, there’s Pluto on the event horizon (conjunct Virgo Rising @ 28°). Now, doesn’t that just say it all?! There is a double inconjunct involving Jupiter/Uranus conjunct and the Midheaven.

Jupiter Inconjunct Midheaven

This aspect can mean that you have mixed feelings toward adults and persons in authority over you. Although you know that they have your best interests at heart and that they want you to succeed at your objectives, it often seems as if their demands are keeping you from doing what you want. When you want to go off and have fun, for example, you are told to finish your work first. At times you want to break free of this restricting influence and go off by yourself.

Uranus Inconjunct Midheaven

You need to express your thoughts and feelings, but you often upset the people around you with your words. You seem to enjoy creating a stir every time you say something, but this can get you into quite a bit of trouble with parents, teachers and other authority figures. The underlying principle of this aspect is the need to balance your individual self-expression and manner of communicating with your need to learn and grow under the guidance of older people.

Jupiter Conjunct Uranus

You have a great need to be free, and you hate to be restricted in any way. This can create problems in school if you don’t want to go by the required program. At the same time, you have an advantage in that your mind is quick and eager for new knowledge and a greater range of experience. However, you don’t adapt easily to the more tedious and repetitive drill work that school subjects so often require.

As you get older, you will become interested in problems of social reform, and you may even get involved in politics somehow, but certainly not on the side of the establishment.

From the Book

Zimbardo’s conclusion was that there are specific situations so powerful that they can overwhelm our inherent predispositions. The key word here is situation. Zimbardo isn’t talking about environment, about the major external influences on all of our lives. He’s not denying that how we are raised by our parents affects who we are, or that the kinds of schools we went to, the friends we have, or the neighborhoods we live in affect our behavior. All of these things are undoubtedly important. Nor is he denying that our genes play a role in determining who we are, Most psychologists believe that nature — genetics — accounts for about half of the reason why we tend to act the way we do. His point is simply that there are certain times and places and conditions when much of that can be swept away, that there are instances where we can take normal people from good schools and happy families and good neighborhoods and powerfully affect their behavior merely by changing the immediate details of their situation.

The Power of Context (Part One) (pages 114-5)


If we look at the Russia/Ukraine situation as it now stands after 24 days, we can perhaps understand why the Russian soldiers are willing to indiscriminately bomb and kill Ukraine civilians. It’s not ‘right’ that they should do so, but their leaders have made everyone their ‘enemies’ so they feel justified in their actions. Such is the nature of war: ordinary people do extraordinary (and heroic) things. The only way to judge them is to walk a mile in their moccasins…

Quote attributed to Bertrand Russell

About cdsmiller17

I am an Astrologer who also writes about world events. My first eBook "At This Point in Time" is available through most on-line book stores. I have now serialized my second book "The Star of Bethlehem" here. And I am experimenting with birth and death charts. If you wish to contact me, or request a birth chart, send an email to (And, in case you are also interested, I have an extensive list of celebrity birth and death details if you wish to 'confirm' what you suspect may be a past-life experience of yours.) Bless.
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