WE USE EXAMPLES of experimental research in this book to support the evidence for the forty-five traps. People often criticize research as not being “the real world.” Why don’t we just use real-life examples from the business world without research? In the “real world,” there are so many influences that happen simultaneously to cause unethical behavior that conclusions are pure guesswork. It is only through research, by strictly controlling the circumstances, that we can take each influence one at a time, without the others, to see if it indeed has an impact.
Moreover, by using research, we can sort out the influence of the situational elements versus the influence of character traits. The influence of the situation often has more power than personalities. Experimental research is a system that sets up tightly controlled circumstances and then looks at the effects of each aspect of a situation on randomly selected people called subjects. When this process is carefully done, we can generalize the results of the experiment to anyone.
When Philip Zimbardo conducted his acclaimed prison study at Stanford university (see trap 17), he was trying to understand brutality that often erupted in prisons. He speculated that the environment and the “Institutional roles” of the prison guards might be a stronger influence on their behavior than who they were as people. To prove his idea, Zimbardo knew that he had to set up an experiment that