Philip Zimbardo Prison Experiment Essay

Essay on Stanford Prison Experiment

In 1973, Philip K. Zimbardo, a psychology professor at Stanford University began researching how prisoners and guards internalize submissive and authoritarian roles. He placed an ad in the newspaper seeking male college students needed for a study of prison life. The experiment would last for only two weeks and they would get paid $15 per day. The ad attracted seventy-five responses, but only twenty-one were selected. The men were divided into two groups: Prisoners and Guards. They were warned that as prisoners of this experiment their privacy and other rights would be violated, as well as being harassed.

Zimbardo’s goal for this experiment was to find out the period in which the prisoners and guards become controlling and passive. In order to do this he had to set up a mock prison. The prisoners were given the same smocks to wear, lived in cells, and were given ID numbers. The guards were assigned identical uniforms, and were given billy clubs, whistles, handcuffs, and keys to all the cells and the main gate to show a sign of power they had over the prisoners. The guards had no training in how to handle their jobs, but caught on.


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In a real prison, guards don’t go through any training on how to treat the prisoners; they go by instinct. The prisoner’s quarters were small, and windowless; they never knew if it was day or night outside. At 10 P.M. it was time to lockup, and all privileges were denied. The mock prison was designed in order to bring out the psychological aspects of imprisonment. The prisoners were given sixteen basic rules to follow that would be followed. There were hidden video cameras and microphones that recorded the prisoners and guards conversations.

The first day of the experiment went by very smoothly. On the morning of the second day a riot broke loose; the prisoners barricaded themselves in their cells by putting their beds against the doors, and began to curse at the guards. The guards decided to take action and got a “fire extinguisher that shot skin-chilling carbon dioxide” and threatened the prisoners, forcing them to move away from the doors. The guards stripped the prisoners, took their beds, and harassed them. They knew if they wanted to take over the prison again, they had to put their foot down. From that moment on the prisoners were controlled by the guards.

The psychological impact of the experiment on the subjects became obvious immediately. The experiment turned into a complicated game to the young men and they started to lose sight of reality. The prisoners started seeing themselves as actual prisoners and thought only of escape. They fell into a depression and some prisoners actually cried. Some even stopped yelling back at the guards and began to obey them. The guards, also, fell quickly into their roles of power. The guards actually began to harass the prisoners and yelled at them. At one point a prisoner would not eat and the guard began shoving food into the prisoner’s face. The subjects became the roles they where given.

The two-week experiment was cut short to six days because the men got so engrossed in their characters. The experiment ended up not only proving that humans are quick to behave and act how they are told they should behave and act but also the aggressive nature dormant in most people. Dr. Zimbardo realized the significance of the experiment. He pointed out that if these men who where supposed to be the cream of the crop would so quickly fall into the parts they where given, then actual prisoners and guards under actual circumstances would undergo much worse. The experiment was cut to an end as well as the research of Phillip K. Zimbardo.



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The Implications of the Stanford Prison Experiment Essay

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The Implications of the Stanford Prison Experiment

In 1971 Dr Philip Zimbardo conducted an experiment in the basement of Stanford University. This involved imprisoning nine volunteers in a mock up of Stanford prison, which was policed by nine guards (more volunteers). These guards had complete control over the prisoners. They could do anything to the prisoners, but use physical violence. The subjects were all students applying for summer jobs to get some money. To make it a fair test, the subjects were made to take psychological tests to make sure they were mentally fit.

On the first day, the prisoner subjects were picked up by a panda car and arrested on a mass crackdown on violations of penal…show more content…

It showed that when given power, many will abuse it. This is very useful as we can apply these lessons to a real life situation, which could save thousands of people in a real prison. A conclusion of the experiment is that if you put good people in an evil and unfair place they will become evil. It also makes us conscious of what people are capable of whatever you think of them. The guards acted the worst in the middle of the night it is suggested that this is because the believed they were not being watched.

It has been asked if what was learnt was worth the "sacrifice" of the people involved? I simply think it was worth the sacrifice. The people involved may have suffered mental anguish due to this experiment but they will die, and other people can take their place: but the knowledge gained will not be forgotten so easily. Also I think it is wrong to simply blame the experiment; there is nothing wrong with putting people in a false prison being controlled by other people. What was wrong was the evil the people in control exerted on the prisoners.

The BBC has repeated the experiment, which some see as wrong. The repeat of the experiment has been "improved" by adding several safe guards to protect the prisoners from the guards. However these

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