When Prisoners Take Over the Prison: A Social Psychology of Resistance

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134 Citations (Scopus)


There is a general tendency for social psychologists to focus on processes of oppression rather than resistance. This is exemplified and entrenched by the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE). Consequently, researchers and commentators have come to see domination, tyranny, and abuse as natural or inevitable in the world at large. Challenging this view, research suggests that where members of low-status groups are bound together by a sense of shared social identity, this can be the basis for effective leadership and organization that allows them to counteract stress, secure support, challenge authority, and promote social change in even the most extreme of situations. This view is supported by a review of experimental research—notably the SPE and the BBC Prison Study—and case studies of rebellion against carceral regimes in Northern Ireland, South Africa, and Nazi Germany. This evidence is used to develop a social identity model of resistance dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-179
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Review
Issue number2
Early online date1 Sept 2011
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


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