ITHACA, N.Y. — A Cornell professor will speak about the Stanford Prison Experiment in a talk at Cinemapolis in downtown Ithaca on Monday.

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The Stanford Prison Experiment, a new movie now showing at Cinemapolis, tells the true story of a Stanford professor who in 1971 put 24 male students in a mock prison and randomly gave them roles as prisoners or guards. Conducted by professor Philip Zimbardo, the controversial experiment showed how quickly seemingly average people turn to psychological torture and authoritarian measures when given positions of power.

YouTube video

Cornell’s Daryl Bem, now retired, was on faculty at Stanford and a colleague of Zimbardo’s when the original experiment was conducted, according to a news release from Cinemapolis. The special screening with Bem — featuring an intro and post-show discussion — at Cinemapolis will take place on Monday at 7 p.m.

“Personalities do not create the roles. The roles create the personalities,” Bem said in a 2011 talk at Zimbardo’s retirement dinner posted on YouTube.

Bem himself has been the subject of some controversy, in 2011 publishing a study “showing that humans have some psychic powers.”

“Of the various forms of ESP or psi, as we call it, precognition has always most intrigued me because it’s the most magical,” said Bem, professor of psychology emeritus, in a news release.

“It most violates our notion of how the physical world works. The phenomena of modern quantum physics are just as mind-boggling, but they are so technical that most non-physicists don’t know about them.”

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.