Science Policy Movie Corner: Mind Games And Drones

Earlier this year I posted about two movies from the Sundance Film Festival focused on psychology cases that embody ethical challenges in research.  Both films have since been released, and may be worth seeking out.

Experimenter, a biographical film on psychologist Stanley Milgram, was released in the United States in October, and will be released in the UK and Ireland early next year.  Milgram conducted several kinds of research, but his work on obedience – which included test subjects administering electric shocks to others – attracted serious attention and criticism in the 1960s and 70s.  The film focuses on that aspect of his work.  Peter Skarsgaard plays Milgram, and Winona Ryder portrays his wife, Sasha.

The Stanford Prison Experiment recounts a 1974 experiment at Stanford where students were assigned roles as prisoners and guards in a mock prison.  The two week experiment was ended prematurely after the simulation went badly.  Billy Crudup plays the lead researcher, Philip Zimbardo.  Released in the U.S. this summer, the film is already available on DVD.

Good Kill was a film released earlier this year focusing on the impacts of drone warfare on the soldiers flying them from thousands of miles away.  A film coming out next year, Eye In The Sky, will focus on a specific drone mission and what happens when circumstances on the ground change.  It remains to be seen how much the drone component of the mission will affect the dramatic conflict, or if it will more closely resemble other military films where the rules of engagement drive dramatic conflict, regardless of the weapon of war.

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