Turner, J. C. (2006).
Tyranny, freedom and social structure: Escaping our theoretical prisons. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 41–46.

  • Abstract: Reicher and Haslam’s (2006) BBC prison study undermines the idea that people passively accept and enact social roles. In this commentary, I point out that this idea is an example of Moscovici’s (1976) conformity bias and a wider stability bias in social psychological theorizing. In many key areas, the science prefers analyses that explain how and why social structures, intergroup and power relations, personalities and beliefs maintain and reproduce themselves, and indeed cannot be changed, rather than how and why society constantly generates forces for social change from within itself. This bias distorts reality and produces ideas of limited theoretical or practical power. Human psychology does not make us prisoners of social structure. It makes us capable of collective action to change social structures and in turn re-fashion our identities, roles, personalities and beliefs. Society is not a psychological prison but a means of expanding human possibilities. A reorientation of theoretical emphasis is overdue.

Zimbardo, P. (2006).
On rethinking the psychology of tyranny: The BBC Prison Study. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 47–53.

  • Abstract: This commentary offers a critical evaluation of the scientific legitimacy of research generated by television programming interests. It challenges the validity of claims advanced by these researchers regarding the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) and highlights the biases, fallacies and distortions in this study conducted for BBC-TV that attempted a partial replication of my earlier experiment.

Haslam, S. A. & Reicher, S. D. (2006).
Debating the psychology of tyranny: Fundamental issues of theory, perspective and science. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 55–63.

  • Abstract: In this rejoinder we concentrate on responding to Zimbardo’s criticisms. These criticisms involve three broad strategies. The first is to turn broad discussion about the psychology of tyranny into narrow questions about the replication of prison conditions. The second is to confuse our scientific analysis with the television programmes of ‘The Experiment’. The third is to make unsupported and unwarranted attacks on our integrity. All three lines of attack are flawed and distract from the important theoretical challenge of understanding when people act to reproduce social inequalities and when they act to challenge them. This is the challenge that Turner identifies and engages with in his commentary.


In 2006 the British Journal of Social Psychology published a frank exchange of views about the BBC Prison Study

In 2006 the British Journal of Social Psychology published a frank exchange of views about the BBC Prison Study