Cover Story

For those who wonder how top psychologists got where they are, retired Stanford psychologist and APA's 2002 President Philip G. Zimbardo, PhD, will answer questions about the ups and downs of his nearly 50-year career as a teacher and researcher—and his upcoming feature film—in the plenary session "Up Close and Personal with Phil Zimbardo" during APA's 2009 Annual Convention.

Best known as the face of the PBS "Discovering Psychology" series and masterminding the Stanford Prison Experiment, Zimbardo credits much of his success to the street smarts and survival skills he honed growing up in a rough ghetto in the South Bronx.

"I realized early on that there were leaders and followers, and that I didn't want to be a follower," he says.

He also learned to be resourceful. When Zimbardo was strapped with 10 courses his first year teaching at New York University, he combined prep time for his classes and research projects by documenting his research interviews through photographs, and later video, to use as teaching tools. That time-saving strategy—which he's maintained throughout his teaching career—engaged his students and helped him fine tune his presentation skills.

Those skills came in handy a decade later when a 1971 prison break at San Quentin State Prison in California and a riot at the Attica Correctional Facility in New York gave Zimbardo the chance to publicize his Stanford Prison Experiment research.

Nearly 40 years later, Zimbardo is due for another round of fame: A film about the Stanford Prison Experiment is in the works, directed by Christopher McQuarrie, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of the movie "The Usual Suspects."

—J. Chamberlin


Zimbardo's talk is set for 10 a.m. on Aug. 7.