I learned that people can easily forget that others are human.
"Prisoner" from the Stanford Prison Experiment (1971)
College-age white men, specifically. Important to point that out.
I do think it could have happened with other compositions of the group, of course, but… The privileged are taught specifically to see others as less than human as a direct result of power being wielded over them. This context should not be ignored when thinking about or discussing this experiment. It’s not “human nature” as so many assume; it’s a learned behavior.
So then, if they all started off as the same thing, wouldn’t that be better for the control of the experiment as protecting from variables? If you think it would have happened with other groups, I don’t agree with the need of pointing this out because it starts to border on drawing an essentialist binary between ‘college white males=privilege’ vs. ‘not white/not male = not privilege’ and assuming essentialist behaviors from that. Now, that’s not to say that those of privilege don’t treat others less considerately (because here’s a study that correlates those with wealth as being more of a jerk). But I do warn against putting the underprivileged on a pedestal automatically, and without regard to their personal characteristics as if they have no individuality.
Everyday hutu civilians, having been prepped what to do by governmental military organizations and hutu power propaganda, went out to their tusti neighbors with clubs and machete, marking a fair amount of the violence during the rwandan genocide as something that happened at a neighborhood level over the course of a few months. It’s the underpriviliged (and middle class functionaries) that are put upon to carry out the dirty orders of emotionally-removed higher-ups. In a new authoritarian situation following the breakdown of normal social bonds, those who don’t have much will do what they can to survive to protect their own loved ones from both real and perceived harms and tend to split into the groups they feel will give them the best chances of survival in the short term. One underclass with a relative advantage over another (or the middle class) is often the one put upon to execute a privileged class’s orders against a lesser class - for instance poor US southern whites tasked with runaway slave hunting for and enforcing white power terror campaigns upon poor southern blacks to the benefit the planter class.
The military draws largely from the poor, as those who have no other choice to advance from a socioeconomically-precarious local situation but to join the military do so. Their lack of quality education is exploited by higher-ups who try to deploy them to fight in as fierce as possible a manner, lik US soldiers going out in civilian kill squads in iraq because (possibly) they believed all islam and its imminent epidemic spread was a dire threat to america.
Those who don’t have access to an education that would teach them about the history of xenophobic movements - their creation, growth, result and hindsight perspective on how all the propaganda was wrong - are less able to defend their mind against their own authoritarian regime’s xenophobic propaganda. They feel the fearmongering as actual threat.
All of this is not to say “the underpriviliged are at fault for this, and should be held as the ones solely culpable for things done” because they are not and should not be. But it is to say “the underpriviliged shouldn’t be treated as some shiny thing not susceptible to putting inhumanity on others, as they are pliable to social conditions.” They are people, and when conditions call for it, people are hell to each other.
I think you may have misread! I said, “I do think it could have happened with other compositions of the group, of course…” I do not think that their being of a set of privileged classes caused the behavior, but rather, that the structure of privilege and oppression does, in that it inherently frames some people as less human than others. Likewise, I do not think that such behavior can’t be had from less privileged groups, which your examples demonstrate. No pedestal-placing is intended.
My overall point (and it is an ideological one which I have not backed up with research) was that this structure and its assumptions are not inherent to being human, but rather are learned behaviors from society at large, precisely because people are pliable to social conditions.
Another decent reason to question the study, though, is its sample size. As you say, individuality comes into play, and… Actually, you know what, I’m just gonna link to the Wikipedia section on criticism of the experiment. Basically covers what I was going to go into in this paragraph.