Philip Zimbardo-Stanford prison experiment
Terms in this set (8)
Aim of the study
To find out the psychological effects when taking on a role as a prison guard or prisoner.
It was hypothesised that those participants who were assigned the role of a guard would behave in a way that was consistent to the role and those who were assigned as a prisoner would behave in that role.
Zimbardo placed an ad in the newspaper inviting male volunteers to take part in a study that would run for two weeks and get paid $15 a day. 70 uni students replied to the ad and were interviewed and given psychological tests. 24 were chosen and were randomly allocated to the experimental conditions decided by a coin toss. Experiment commenced with 9 guards and 9 prisoners. The others were on call.
Experimental conditions and variables that were tested
Prisoners were arrested at home by real police. They were taken to a police station where they were searched, fingerprinted and charged with committing an offence. Then taken to the mock prison where they were stripped searched, sprayed for head lice, received uniform, bedding, soap, towel and was placed in a small cell with two other prisoners. They had to ask the guards for permission to use the toilet and were referred to as their prison numbers and addressed the guards as Mr correctional officer. Guards couldn't use violence but could create their own strategies to keep the prisoners under control.
Main results obtained
On the second day the prisoners tried to stage a rebellion but the guards quickly ended it. The guards increased their aggression over the next few days and acted with more authority. They encouraged more prisoners to call each other names and had to clean the toilets with their hands. Prisoners became traumatised, passive and withdrawn. 4 prisoners had to be released during the first 4 days due to reactions such as anxiety, rage and depression. Guards abused their power as days went by. Experiment had to end after 6 days because things were getting out of hand. Guards had complete control over the prisoners. The staff had to remind the guards constantly to refrain from abuse.
Results of this experiment showed the behaviour of normal, well educated men can be dramatically affected when a role they are given involves considerable power an status. A generalisation that can be made is the treatment of prisoners in real prisons. Zimbardo believes that prisons are places that demean humanity... and bring out the worst in social relations among people.
Limitations or criticisms
The experiment was too unethical. Negative psychological effects it had on the mock prisoners. Zimbardo was the warden and psychologist. All participants were male
Key ethical issues
Didn't have withdrawal rights. All prisoners suffered and were exposed to pain and humiliation.