The June Solstice / Human Health-Environment

An excellent presentation of the sun/earth relationship; I suspect that like other organisms, humans are tied to the energy systems of the planet in sensory ways that we don’t comprehend. Much more at:

Research is linking bipolar/depression to disturbances in an individual’s circadian rhythm. This post by The Science Geek points out that the ratio of daylight to dark varies daily and changes with latitude. It’s an intriguing and intuitive connection: 

Perhaps traditional mass gatherings (which included dances, trances, rituals) that took place at sites such as Stonehenge, had a physiological effect; the resetting or synchronizing of a groups’ circadian rhythms (and/or other electrical and hormonal functions) to changes in the sun/earth environment throughout the year. These effects most likely continue today during festivals that bring together millions who benefit from “getting in sync” with the masses.  


Explaining Science

The June solstice, which for most of the world will fall on June 21 this year, is the longest day in the northern hemisphere and the day when the Sun is at its highest in the midday sky (see note). The origin of the word solstice is from the Latin words sol, which means Sun, and sistere, to stand still, because around the time of the solstice the Sun stops getting higher, appears to stand still at the same height for a few days and then gets lower in the midday sky.

The graph below show the maximum height, or elevation, of the Sun, measured in degrees above the horizon, during the month of June. The graph is for a place 50 degrees in latitude North, roughly the same latitude of the southern tip of the British Isle,  It shows how slowly the elevation of the Sun changes around the solstice.

Sun height June

The fact that the Sun’s…

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The legacy of Eugenics in Psychology and Psychiatry

 The eugenic legacy in psychology and psychiatry.

Author information Pilgrim D1, 1University of Central Lancashire, UK.


Assumptions about genetic differences in human mental characteristics can be traced in large part to the eugenic movement, ascendant at the turn of the 20th century.


This paper offers historical case studies, of ‘innate general cognitive ability’ and ‘psychiatric genetics’, in order to appraise the eugenic legacy in current psychology and psychiatry.


Reviewing the work of representatives, Cyril Burt, Franz Kallmann and Eliot Slater, along with their research networks, it is argued that eugenics remains a quiet but powerful background influence in modern-day psychology and psychiatry.


At the turn of the 21st century, eugenics remains an important area of inquiry, reflection and education for those in the inter-disciplinary field of social psychiatry.

PMID: 18575381


History of the eugenic movement.

Author information Gejman PV1, Weilbaecher A1Schizophrenia Genetics Research Program, Department of Psychiatry, Jules F. Knapp Research Center, University of Chicago, 924 East 57th Street, Room R-010, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


The goal of this review is to introduce the reader to the ideas behind the eugenic movement, its implementation, and its consequences. First, we address the work of prominent 19th century forerunners of eugenics. Second, we discuss the eugenic movement during the first half of the 20th century, and its common and differential characteristics in countries where its expression was more marked, including the US and Nazi Germany. We also discuss the eugenic movement in Sweden, whose history has remained unknown until recently. We analyze the reasoning behind forced sterilization and involuntary euthanasia. Finally, we consider the impact that past eugenics has had on the profession of psychiatry and psychiatric research, particularly genetics. We argue that the history of the 20th century eugenics movement and its leaders still require attention.

PMID: 12756854

Before 'Autism'

Before ‘Autism.’

Article from: SALON Saturday, Mar 4, 2006 Farhad Manjoo

Progressive genocide

Less than 100 years ago, America’s finest minds were convinced the nation was threatened by sexually insatiable female morons. A new history of the eugenics movement sheds light on a bizarre chapter in U.S. history.

Among the many concerns that captivated the American educated class early in the last century, few were thought to be as urgent as the threat posed to the nation by sexually insatiable female morons. This may sound silly; today, our fear of morons is rather abstract, and on a national scale confined mostly to whomever is the current resident of the White House. But a hundred years ago, morons were public enemy No. 1, seen as a drain on the nation’s resources and a grave danger to its stability. The situation was most keenly appreciated by progressives — scientists, businessmen, feminists and liberal politicians — who, as even the best of us sometimes do, feared that within a short time, the nation would be overrun by simpletons.

But how do you solve a problem like the moron? These poor people, for one, weren’t easy to spot. “Feeblemindedness,” the medical condition, from which morons suffered, was chiefly manifested by subtle, difficult-to-diagnose symptoms, such as poor judgment and a susceptibility to deviance. The only way to tell if you were dealing with a certifiable moron — an actual medical term — was by administering an intelligence questionnaire (an early version of the IQ test), which scientists believed could accurately assess a patient’s “mental age.” Unlike idiots and imbeciles (who were characterized by significant, obvious mental defects), morons, who were grown-ups who showed mental ages that were far below their physical maturity, might do well in school, they might hold down jobs, and they might even manage to raise children — but all this was to be thought of as a ruse, because sooner or later, they’d go astray. Sound familiar?

As the journalist Harry Bruinius explains in “Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America’s Quest for Racial Purity,” his comprehensive new history of the American eugenics movement, the problem wasn’t just that morons were given to crime and poverty; because feeblemindedness was a genetic condition passed on from one generation to the next, their children, and their children’s children, and on and on, were similarly suspect as well. Of particular concern were the afflicted women, in whom scientists had found the symptoms of feeblemindedness more pronounced. Female morons gave in to their sexual urges more quickly than feebleminded men, and they sometimes deceived normal men into consorting with them; in addition, they were “hyper-fecund,” as doctors termed their apparent tendency to become pregnant easily. Put this all together, as many smart Americans did, and you had a big problem on your hands: an extremely fertile, extremely needy, apparently permanent underclass.

“Pathological Truth-Tellers” / Asperger’s

Partial clip from article on LiveScience; my comments


What’s the take-away for Asperger people? Want to pass as normal? Learn to lie really well.

Some people, called pathological liars, utter untruths constantly and for no clear reason. Their behavior confounds scientists and themselves.  “Pathological liars have a pattern of frequent, repeated and excessive lies or lying behavior for which there is no apparent benefit or gain for the liar,” said Charles Dike, clinical professor of psychiatry at Yale University.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are those rare individuals who might be described as “pathological truth-tellers.” These people forego socially convenient and appropriate fibs to speak the unvarnished, upsetting truth. (Why is truth always assumed to be negative? Is every neurotypical terrified of reality?)

Intriguingly, this “lying handicap” is a common feature of the developmental disorder Asperger’s Syndrome. “People with Asperger’s have a tendency to be very blunt and direct — they can be honest to a fault,” said Tony Attwood, professor of psychology. Psychology and neuroscience have provided clues as to why some people lie up a storm while others have difficulty dissembling or detecting it in others. These contrasting extremes can help us learn about the default human mode of lying on a daily basis to avoid insult, get out of trouble or exploit others.

“If you define lying as ‘statements intended to deceive,’ then yes we all do lie, every day,” said Dike.

In psychiatric circles, pathological lying goes by the fancy name pseudologia fantastica, though it is not yet recognized as a distinct disorder. What puzzles most about a pathological liar’s behavior, Dike said, is that it is counterproductive. Dropping flagrant whoppers can cause trouble in jobs, relationships and even with the law through self-incriminations. “Not only is there no benefit to the lies, but the lies most of the time are easily disprovable,” said Dike.

Anecdotally, many of us will recognize this sort of behavior, though at present there are no good statistics for the prevalence of pathological lying. “What’s clear,” Dike said, “is that it’s not uncommon.” While acting in this manner makes no sense to most of us, it is essentially impossible for people with Asperger’s. Patients have expressed to Attwood puzzlement (let’s say something stronger – we get pissed off and insulted) when “normal” people lie with such frequency.

To boot, people with Asperger’s have trouble detecting falsity in words and actions. “They often think other people are as honest as they are, which leaves them vulnerable and gullible,” said Attwood.

Asperger’s is characterized by impairment (honesty is for social “retards”) in social interactions and restricted interests (no, neurotypicals have no interest in anything but themselves). Attwood noted that these individuals have an “allegiance to the truth, rather than people’s feelings.” (What an insult to human beings; people are so immature and think so little of their value, that the only thing that makes them feel good is false attention.)

Key to proper socialization and its subtleties (lies) is “theory of mind,” the ability to attribute mental states to other individuals. “Theory of mind is determining what others are thinking, feeling or believe,” said Attwood. (Asperger’s know that normal people lie; that they are irrational, and can’t follow a logical progression of ideas and have little of interest to talk about. This is why we often avoid social situations.) Asperger’s patients tend to have a poorly developed theory of mind, which presents them with great difficulty in empathizing with others. More positively, this trait makes it tough to construct deceitful ruses, and those with Asperger’s who do learn how to lie often do so badly, said Attwood.

Brain scans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have revealed a basis for this deficit. In Asperger’s patients and autistics, there is less activity in parts of the “social brain,” such as the prefrontal cortex. “In Asperger’s, that area is dysfunctional,” said Attwood. “Areas of the prefrontal cortex that should light up don’t in fMRI.”

Can there be any doubt as to why Asperger individuals avoid people who talk like this about us?

So, here is modern psychology in a nutshell: Empathy is demonstrated by lying to people. Being honest means you feel no empathy. People want to be lied to because they can’t handle the truth, even if it’s simply that the earth orbits the sun. Homo sapiens is composed entirely of 12 year-old girls with excessively low self-esteem, who fall to pieces if someone suggests that their eyeliner is crooked. This is nuts: once again, the priests of infantile western culture assume that people all over the world are “just like us” and prefer insincere, calculated and vapid social interactions and bullying.   

This psychological prescription for normal human behavior is a perversion of the VALUE of human interaction, which demands TRUST. Why are Americans so stressed out? Because you cannot trust anyone, especially governmental entities, corporations, products, services, news reporting, food labeling, advertising, your doctor, the police, your boss, your employees, your best friend, your neighbors, your spouse or your children.

That leaves dogs as the only loyal and trustworthy beings in our lives. 

The Notorious 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment

If you are too young to have been aware of this “experiment,” reading about it will clue you in as to how arrogant, sociopathic, non-scientific and unethical even our most famous and influential psychologists can be. And you might ask yourself, given inhumane conditions in contemporary U.S. jails and prisons, and the recent acquiescence to the torture of captives, Did anyone actually learn from this travesty?


Stanford Alumni Website July/Aug 2011

The Menace Within

What happened in the basement of the psych building 40 years ago shocked the world. How do the guards, prisoners and researchers in the Stanford Prison Experiment feel about it now?

Stanford Prison Experiment

By Romesh Ratnesar

It began with an ad in the classifieds.

Male college students needed for psychological study of prison life. $15 per day for 1-2 weeks. More than 70 people volunteered to take part in the study, to be conducted in a fake prison housed inside Jordan Hall, on Stanford’s Main Quad. The leader of the study was 38-year-old psychology professor Philip Zimbardo. He and his fellow researchers selected 24 applicants and randomly assigned each to be a prisoner or a guard.

Zimbardo encouraged the guards to think of themselves as actual guards in a real prison. He made clear that prisoners could not be physically harmed, but said the guards should try to create an atmosphere in which the prisoners felt “powerless.”

The study began on Sunday, August 17, 1971. But no one knew what, exactly, they were getting into.

Forty years later, the Stanford Prison Experiment remains among the most notable—and notorious—research projects ever carried out at the University. For six days, half the study’s participants endured cruel and dehumanizing abuse at the hands of their peers. At various times, they were taunted, stripped naked, deprived of sleep and forced to use plastic buckets as toilets. Some of them rebelled violently; others became hysterical or withdrew into despair. As the situation descended into chaos, the researchers stood by and watched—until one of their colleagues finally spoke out.

The public’s fascination with the SPE and its implications—the notion, as Zimbardo says, “that these ordinary college students could do such terrible things when caught in that situation”—brought Zimbardo international renown. It also provoked criticism from other researchers, who questioned the ethics of subjecting student volunteers to such extreme emotional trauma. The study had been approved by Stanford’s Human Subjects Research Committee, and Zimbardo says that “neither they nor we could have imagined” that the guards would treat the prisoners so inhumanely.

In 1973, an investigation by the American Psychological Association concluded that the prison study had satisfied the profession’s existing ethical standards. But in subsequent years, those guidelines were revised to prohibit human-subject simulations modeled on the SPE. “No behavioral research that puts people in that kind of setting can ever be done again in America,” Zimbardo says.

The Stanford Prison Experiment became the subject of numerous books and documentaries, a feature film and the name of at least one punk band. In the last decade, after the revelations of abuses committed by U.S. military and intelligence personnel at prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, the SPE provided lessons in how good people placed in adverse conditions can act barbarically.

The experiment is still a source of controversy and contention—even among those who took part in it. Here, in their own words, some of the key players in the drama reflect on their roles and how those six days in August changed their lives.


Phil Zimbardo:  Zimbardo joined Stanford’s psychology department in 1968 and taught there until his retirement in 2007.

“The study was focused originally on how individuals adapt to being in a relatively powerless situation. I was interested in prisoners and was not really interested in the guards. It was really meant to be a single, dramatic demonstration of the power of the situation on human behavior. We expected that we would write some articles about it and move on.”

“After the end of the first day, I said, ‘There’s nothing here. Nothing’s happening.’ The guards had this antiauthority mentality. They felt awkward in their uniforms. They didn’t get into the guard mentality until the prisoners started to revolt. Throughout the experiment, there was this conspiracy of denial—everyone involved was in effect denying that this was an experiment and agreeing that this is a prison run by psychologists.”

“There was zero time for reflection. We had to feed the prisoners three meals a day, deal with the prisoner breakdowns, deal with their parents, run a parole board. By the third day I was sleeping in my office. I had become the superintendent of the Stanford county jail. That was who I was: I’m not the researcher at all. Even my posture changes—when I walk through the prison yard, I’m walking with my hands behind my back, which I never in my life do, the way generals walk when they’re inspecting troops.”

“We had arranged for everyone involved—the prisoners, guards and staff—to be interviewed on Friday by other faculty members and graduate students who had not been involved in the study. Christina Maslach, who had just finished her PhD, came down the night before. She’s standing outside the guard quarters and watches the guards line up the prisoners for the 10 o’clock toilet run. The prisoners come out, and the guards put bags over their heads, chain their feet together and make them put their hands on each other’s shoulders, like a chain gang. They’re yelling and cursing at them. Christina starts tearing up. She said, ‘I can’t look at this.'”

“I ran after her and we had this argument outside Jordan Hall. She said, “It’s terrible what you’re doing to these boys. How can you see what I saw and not care about the suffering?” But I didn’t see what she saw. And I suddenly began to feel ashamed. This is when I realized I had been transformed by the prison study to become the prison administrator. At that point I said, ‘You’re right. We’ve got to end the study.'”

[As the study was underway], “there was an escape attempt at San Quentin prison and [former Black Panther] George Jackson was shot and killed. Three weeks after that, there’s the Attica prison riot [in New York]. Suddenly, prisons are hot. Two government investigative committees start hearings and I’m flown out to Washington to present to a congressional subcommittee on the nature of prisons. I went from knowing nothing firsthand about prisons to being an expert. But I worked hard to learn more. I visited a number of correctional facilities all over the country. I organized a program for Stanford students to teach a course at a prison. For years I had an active correspondence with at least 20 different prisoners.”

“It wasn’t a formal experiment. My colleagues probably never thought much of it. But as a result of the prison study, I really became more aware of the central role of power in our lives. I became more aware of the power I have as a teacher. I started consciously doing things to minimize the negative use of power in the classroom. I encouraged students to challenge me.”

“I think I became more self-reflective. I’m more generous and more open because of that experience. I think it made me a better person.”


Christina Maslach Maslach, PhD ’71, became a professor at UC-Berkeley. She and Zimbardo married in 1972. They live in San Francisco.

“I had just finished my doctorate and was about to leave Stanford to start my new job. Phil and I had started dating. The prison study was never anything I was considering playing a part in. During the first few days of the experiment, I did hear from Phil, but not in great detail. What I was getting, though, was a sense that it was becoming a real prison—people were not just fooling around but actually getting caught up in the situation. But it still wasn’t evident to me what that might mean.”

“At first Phil didn’t seem different. I didn’t see any change in him until I actually went down to the basement and saw the prison. I met one guard who seemed nice and sweet and charming, and then I saw him in the yard later and I thought, “Oh my God, what happened here?” I saw the prisoners being marched to go down to the men’s room. I was getting sick to my stomach, physically ill. I said, “I can’t watch this.” But no one else was having the same problem.”

“Phil came after me and said, ‘What’s the matter with you?’ That’s when I had this feeling like, ‘I don’t know you. How can you not see this?’ It felt like we were standing on two different cliffs across a chasm. If we had not been dating before then, if he were just another faculty member and this happened, I might have said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m out of here” and just left. But because this was someone I was growing to like a lot, I thought that I had to figure this out. So I kept at it. I fought back, and ended up having a huge argument with him. I don’t think we’ve ever had an argument quite like that since then.”

“I feared that if the study went on, he would become someone I no longer cared for, no longer loved, no longer respected. It’s an interesting question: Suppose he kept going, what would I have done? I honestly don’t know”

“The clearest influence the study had on me was that it raised some really serious questions about how people cope with extremely emotional, difficult situations, especially when it’s part of their job—when they have to manage people or take care of them or rehabilitate them. So I started interviewing people. I started with some prison guards in a real prison, and talked to them about their jobs and how they understood what they were doing. At first I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I was just trying to listen.”

I interviewed people who worked in hospitals, in the ER. After a while I realized there was a rhythm and pattern emerging, and when I described it to someone they said, “I don’t know what it’s called in other professions, but in our occupation we call it ‘burnout.'” And so I spent a good chunk of my professional life developing and defining what burnout is—what are the things that cause it and how can we intervene and help people cope with it more effectively. All of that work on burnout had some origins in the experience I had in the prison experiment.

“People will sometimes come up to me—at conferences, or maybe they’re students who have taken psychology classes—and they’ll say, ‘Oh my God, you’re such a hero! What is it like to be a hero?’ And it’s always a little surprising to me because it sure didn’t feel heroic at the time. The prison study has given me a new understanding of what “heroism” means. It’s not some egocentric, I’m-going-to-rush-into-that-burning-building thing—it’s about seeing something that needs to be addressed and saying, I need to help and do something to make it better.”


Dave Eshelman The son of a Stanford engineering professor, Eshelman was a student at Chapman University at the time of the experiment. He was the prison’s most abusive guard, patterning himself after the sadistic prison warden (portrayed by Strother Martin) in the movie Cool Hand Luke. Today he owns a mortgage business in Saratoga.”

“I was just looking for some summer work. I had a choice of doing this or working at a pizza parlor. I thought this would be an interesting and different way of finding summer employment.”

“The only person I knew going in was John Mark. He was another guard and wasn’t even on my shift. That was critical. If there were prisoners in there who knew me before they encountered me, then I never would have been able to pull off anything I did. The act that I put on—they would have seen through it immediately.”

“What came over me was not an accident. It was planned. I set out with a definite plan in mind, to try to force the action, force something to happen, so that the researchers would have something to work with. After all, what could they possibly learn from guys sitting around like it was a country club? So I consciously created this persona. I was in all kinds of drama productions in high school and college. It was something I was very familiar with: to take on another personality before you step out on the stage. I was kind of running my own experiment in there, by saying, “How far can I push these things and how much abuse will these people take before they say, ‘knock it off?'” But the other guards didn’t stop me. They seemed to join in. They were taking my lead. Not a single guard said, “I don’t think we should do this.”

The fact that I ramped up the intimidation and the mental abuse without any real sense as to whether I was hurting anybody? I definitely regret that. But in the long run, no one suffered any lasting damage. When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, my first reaction was, this is so familiar to me. I knew exactly what was going on. I could picture myself in the middle of that and watching it spin out of control. When you have little or no supervision as to what you’re doing, and no one steps in and says, .Hey, you can’t do this’—things just keep escalating. You think, how can we top what we did yesterday? How do we do something even more outrageous? I felt a deep sense of familiarity with that whole situation.”

“Sometimes when people know about the experiment and then meet me, it’s like, My God, this guy’s a psycho! But everyone who knows me would just laugh at that.”

John Mark Mark was about to begin his junior year at Stanford. He graduated in 1973 with a degree in anthropology. He lives in the Bay Area and has worked for the last 18 years as a medical coder for Kaiser Permanente.

“I had spent my sophomore year at Stanford in France and returned to campus that spring. It was one of the most pivotal times in my life. Over Thanksgiving of the year before, I went with a friend to Amsterdam. You have to remember this is 1970, it was basically the ’60s. We went to one of those clubs where you could buy drugs. We bought hash and actually brought some back with us, and I was caught at the French border. For a few hours I was told by French border guards that I was going to prison. In the end they let me go, but I definitely had been scared out of my wits.”

“When I saw this thing about a prison experiment, I thought I had some life experiences to bring to it. I felt this was going to be an important experiment. I told them all about what I’d been through and why it was important to me to be a prisoner. It was very disappointing to be assigned to be a guard, but I did the best I could.”

“During the day shift, when I worked, no one did anything that was beyond what you’d expect in a situation like that. But Zimbardo went out of his way to create tension. Things like forced sleep deprivation—he was really pushing the envelope. I just didn’t like the whole idea of constantly disturbing people and asking them to recite their prisoner numbers in a count. I certainly didn’t like when they put a guy in solitary confinement.”

At that time of my life, I was getting high, all day every day. I got high before I went to the experiment; I got high on my breaks and lunch. I got high afterwards. I brought joints with me, and every day I wanted to give them to the prisoners. I looked at their faces and saw how they were getting dispirited and I felt sorry for them.”

“I didn’t think it was ever meant to go the full two weeks. I think Zimbardo wanted to create a dramatic crescendo, and then end it as quickly as possible. I felt that throughout the experiment, he knew what he wanted and then tried to shape the experiment—by how it was constructed, and how it played out—to fit the conclusion that he had already worked out. He wanted to be able to say that college students, people from middle-class backgrounds—people will turn on each other just because they’re given a role and given power.”

“Based on my experience, and what I saw and what I felt, I think that was a real stretch. I don’t think the actual events match up with the bold headline. I never did, and I haven’t changed my opinion.”


Craig Haney A graduate student of Zimbardo’s, Haney, MA ’71, PhD ’78, JD ’78, was responsible for overseeing the experiment and analyzing the data gathered from it. He went on to become a professor at UC-Santa Cruz, a leading authority on the psychological effects of incarceration and an advocate for prison reform.

“What we thought we were going to find is that there would be subtle behavioral changes that would take place over time. There were moments, in the course of deciding about whether to do it, where we wavered. Not because we thought it would go too far or be too dramatic, but because we weren’t sure anything was going to happen. I remember at one point asking, ‘What if they just sit around playing guitar for two weeks? What the hell are we going to do then?'”

“People have said to me, you must have known this was going to happen. We didn’t—and we were not naive. We were very well read in the literature. We just did not anticipate these kinds of things happening. It really was a unique experience to watch human behavior transform in front of your eyes. And I can honestly say that I try never to forget it. I spend a lot of time with real prisoners and real guards, and having seen what I saw then, while a graduate student, gave me respect for the power of institutional environments to transform good people into something else.”

“I also realized how quickly we get used to things that are shocking one day and a week later become matter-of-fact. During the study, when we decided to move prisoners to different parts of the prison, we realized that they were going to see where they were and be reminded they’re not in a prison—they’re just in the psych building at Stanford. We didn’t want that to happen.”

“So we put paper bags over their heads. The first time I saw that, it was shocking. By the next day we’re putting bags on their heads and not thinking about it. That happens all the time in real correctional facilities. You get used to it. I do a lot of work in solitary-confinement units, on the psychological effects of supermax prisons. In places like that, when prisoners undergo the so-called therapy counseling, they are kept in actual cages. I constantly remind myself never to get used to seeing the cages.”

“The prisoners in this study were a downtrodden lot by the end of it. Even the guys who didn’t break down were hurting. This was a really difficult experience. And for me that was a lesson, too. Real prisoners learn how to mask their pain and act like it doesn’t matter. The prison study showed what it feels like for people who have not learned how to wear that implacable mask. I try to talk to prisoners about what their lives are really like, and I don’t think I would have come to that kind of empathy had I not seen what I saw at Stanford. If someone had said that in six days you can take 10 healthy college kids, in good health and at the peak of resilience, and break them down by subjecting them to things that are commonplace and relatively mild by the standards of real prisons—I’m not sure I would have believed it, if I hadn’t seen it happen.”


Richard Yacco A community college student at the time, Yacco helped instigate a revolt against conditions in Zimbardo’s prison. He was released one day early from the study after exhibiting signs of depression. After working in radio and television production, he now teaches at a public high school in Oakland.

“At the time I was debating: If I were drafted to fight in Vietnam, what would I do? Would I be willing to go to jail? Since that was one of the considerations, I thought, well, a prison experiment would give me some insight into what that would be like.”

“The first thing that really threw me off was the sleep deprivation. When they woke us up the first time, I had no idea it was after only four hours of sleep. It was only after they got us up and we did some exercises and then they let us go back to bed that I realized they were messing with our sleep cycles. That was kind of a surprise from the first night.”

“I don’t recall exactly when the prisoners started rebelling. I do remember resisting what one guard was telling me to do and being willing to go into solitary confinement. As prisoners, we developed solidarity—we realized that we could join together and do passive resistance and cause some problems. It was that era. I had been willing to go on marches against the Vietnam war, I went on marches for civil rights, and was trying to figure out what I would do to resist even going into the service. So in a way I was testing some of my own ways of rebelling or standing up for what I thought was right.”

“My parents came on visitors’ night. They were really concerned with the way I looked. I told them that they’re breaking up our sleep, that we weren’t having the chance to take showers. My appearance really concerned both of my parents, my mother especially.”

When I asked [Zimbardo’s team] what I could do if I wanted to quit, I was told, ‘You can’t quit—you agreed to be here for the full experiment. That made me feel like a prisoner at that point. I realized I had made a commitment to something that I now could not change. I had made myself a prisoner.”

“I ended up being paroled by the “parole board.” They released me Thursday night. That’s when they told me they were going to end the experiment the next day. What I learned later is that the reason they chose me [to parole] is because they thought I’d be the next guy to break down. I was surprised, because I never thought I was going through any kind of depression or anything like that.”

“One thing that I thought was interesting about the experiment was whether, if you believe society has assigned you a role, do you then assume the characteristics of that role? I teach at an inner city high school in Oakland. These kids don’t have to go through experiments to witness horrible things. But what frustrates my colleagues and me is that we are creating great opportunities for these kids, we offer great support for them, why are they not taking advantage of it? Why are they dropping out of school? Why are they coming to school unprepared? I think a big reason is what the prison study shows—they fall into the role their society has made for them.”

“Participating in the Stanford Prison Experiment is something I can use and share with students. This was one week of my life when I was a teenager and yet here it is, 40 years later, and it’s still something that had enough of an impact on society that people are still interested in it. You never know what you’re going to get involved in that will turn out to be a defining moment in your life.”

ROMESH RATNESAR, ’96, MA ’96, is deputy editor of Bloomberg Business Week.

Psychology / Dr. Matthew Israel Tortures Autistic Children

Dr. Israel / Judge Rotenberg Center receive taxpayer funding and government permission to torture disabled children.

Photo from The Age of Autism Website

Photo from Age of Autism Website

Barbaric electrical shock aversion “therapy” is used by doctors and staff at the Judge Rotenberg Center, founded by Dr. Matthew Israel. This “therapy” can be court-ordered. The State of Massachusetts provided legal exemption to the center so that it could continue the use of this torture regime to punish children. This type of electric shock device is illegal around the world for use on prisoners and terrorists, and yet the state of Massachusetts has for nearly 30 years (and still does) permitted its use on disabled children. Israel was allowed to resign rather than be held responsible for his sadistic activities. Matthew Israel, allowed to torture children for 40 years; not prosecuted. Continues life as usual, on “probation.” From a report published online by MOTHER JONES May 27, 2011, by Jen Quraishi. Edited for length. JRC (Judge Rotenberg Center) has weathered attacks for 40 years, but there are signs that the wind may be changing: Earlier this month, school founder and executive director Matthew Israel announced he is stepping down as of June 1. Israel will reportedly be moving to California to join his wife, Judy Weber, who runs a special needs school called Tobinworld. In his official statement, Israel made no mentions of the recent charges plaguing the school, but it’s been discovered that his resignation is part of a plea bargain to spare himself jail time.

As the Boston Herald reports, Israel agreed to resign and to undergo “five years of pre-trial probation to settle charges accusing him of interfering with an investigation…” The investigation in question is a 2007 incident in which someone pretending to be a JRC supervisor prank-called the school and ordered administrators to shock two special needs teens. The administrators gave one teen 29 shocks, and the other 77. And though the school will tell you the shocks feel like a bee sting, Gonnerman says it feels more like a swarm of wasps attacking. There is 24/7 video surveillance of all students and staff, so these actions should have been easily preserved as evidence. However, Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley indicted Israel on charges that he ordered staff to destroy video footage of the incident.

“Dr. Israel then attempted to destroy evidence of the events and mislead investigators, and that conduct led to his indictments today,” she told the Guardian. “Today’s action removes Dr. Israel from the school and should ensure better protection for students in the future.” By agreeing to leave the school, Israel was able to avoid incarceration, but his departure doesn’t necessarily mean that things at the school will change immediately. As part of the deal, there will be additional checks in place to make sure incidents similar to the 2007 event don’t recur, but . JRC is currently looking for a replacement for Israel. Until then, his longtime, trusted, second-in-command Glenda Crookes will run the school. Hope she’s up to the task: even though Israel’s gone, the Department of Justice still has an open investigation of the school for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.Photo: Child at JRC tied to a 4-point restraint board and wired to a shock device.
From The Boston Phoenix, November 26, 1985.

Matthew Israel, this self-styled savior, is a radical Skinnerian behavior-modification psychologist. He is vehemently opposed to drug therapy. He has emerged as the country’s most outspoken proponent of aversive therapy, saying positive reinforcement alone can’t eradicate the most bizarre behaviors. Over the past 14 years he has devised and revised a complex system of rewards and punishments and pain that he claims can eliminate inappropriate and life-threatening behaviors in the most hard-core autistic, mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed, and just plain too-troubled children and adults. Currently, Israel is also trying to modify the behavior of the state of Massachusetts, which he claims is acting too aggressively. On September 26, after a seven-month review of the program that intensified a 22-year-old autistic BRI following the death of a 22 year old BRI student, the state’s Office for Children (OFC) issued an emergency measure to shut the program down. OFC charged that Israel’s operation — the school and its group homes — was jeopardizing the health, safety, and welfare of its students through food deprivation, excessive punishment, and disregard for regulatory requirements. OFC suspended the licenses of the seven group homes in Massachusetts where BRI houses its 64 residents, ages 13 to 28. A magistrate upheld the OFC emergency suspension, though she ruled against the state on her findings of fact. A full hearing on whether BRI’s group-home licenses will be revoked is not expected to take place until January. In the meantime, the Providence school has been allowed to remain open but under severe OFC restrictions (OFC has influence over whether the school remains open or closed even though it’s in Providence, because Massachusetts children are in the program). Now the staff of BRI can no longer use physical punishments, also known as aversives; (then why are torture devices still in use almost 30 years later?) they cannot withhold meals as a punishment; they cannot take in new students or implement any new aversives or restraints.

In 1983 OFC approved a hierarchy of aversives that Matt Israel was already using in the school and group homes to treat the bizarre behaviors of many of his students. The hit list ranged from ignoring the behavior and the benign “no” response to ammonia sprayed near the nose, harsh tastes applied to the tongue, spankings, muscle squeezes, pinches, and brief cool showers. The agency now claims that Israel not only went too far with the approved punishments but also instituted new aversives without its okay. OFC’s own ambiguous regulations and restrictions, however, make it hard to decipher where the aversives were supposed to end and where the abuse may have started.

In his dealings with other states as well, Israel has often translated his understanding of leeway into “my way.” His current conflict with the commonwealth has brought attention to the fact that he has never published the results of his findings at BRI. Critics in his field wonder why a man who claims he’s on the cutting edge has not submitted his work to the scrutiny of scientific, blind review. (more at The Boston Phoenix)

NEW~The Wizard of Extortion: The Pharmaceutical Epidemic and Why the Judge Rotenberg “School of Shock” Endures – Scathing report at Age of Autism