Psychology: The Stanford Prison Experiment

“Only a few people were able to resist the situational temptations to yield to power and dominance while maintaining some semblance of morality and decency; obviously I was not among that noble class,” Dr. Zimbardo later wrote in his book The Lucifer Effect.

I’ve just got to watch this movie last 2 days ago. So all I can say is that, this movie has brought up plenty of issues which are indeed arguable. Duh, it was therefore just a movie, so we (my brother and I) stopped arguing when I said so. OK

Based upon the BBC documentary which regards to The Stanford Prison Experiment, it was adapted from the real experiment made by a psychologist Philip Zimbardo. The objective of creating such an experiment was to study of the psychology of imprisonment which focused on the impact of becoming a prisoner and prison guard. Thus, this experiment had shown how normal college students are transformed into unstable prisoners and brutal prison guards within days.

For those who are yet to watch this movie, here is the summary of the facts of this experiment…

The researchers set up a mock prison in the basement of Stanford University’s psychology building, and then selected 24 undergraduate students to play the roles of both prisoners and guards. The participants were selected from a larger group of 70 volunteers because they had no criminal background, lacked psychological issues, and had no major medical conditions. The volunteers agreed to participate for a one- to two-week period in exchange for $15 a day. The simulated prison included three six by nine foot prison cells. Each cell held three prisoners and included three cots. Other rooms across from the cells were utilized for the prison guards and warden. One very small space was designated as the solitary confinement room, and yet another small room served as the prison yard. The 24 volunteers were then randomly assigned to either the prisoner group or the guard group. Prisoners were to remain in the mock prison 24-hours a day for the duration of the study. Guards, on the other hand, were assigned to work in three-man teams for eight-hour shifts. After each shift, guards were allowed to return to their homes until their next shift. Researchers were able to observe the behaviour of the prisoners and guards using hidden cameras and microphones. The guards became abusive and the prisoners began to show signs of extreme stress and anxiety. While the prisoners and guards were allowed to interact in any way they wanted, the interactions were generally hostile or even dehumanizing. The guards began to behave in ways that were aggressive and abusive toward the prisoners, while the prisoners became passive and depressed. Five of the prisoners began to experience such severe negative emotions, including crying and acute anxiety, that they had to be released from the study early. Even the researchers themselves began to lose sight of the reality of the situation. Dr. Zimbardo, who acted as the prison warden, overlooked the abusive behaviour of the prison guards until graduate student Christina Maslach (his wife) voiced objections to the conditions in the simulated prison and the morality of continuing the experiment.

The question the researchers asked was how would the participants react when placed in a simulated prison environment. “Suppose you had only kids who were normally healthy, psychologically and physically, and they knew they would be going into a prison-like environment and that some of their civil rights would be sacrificed. Would those good people, put in that bad, evil place-would their goodness triumph?” Zimbardo explained in one interview.

I am of the opinion where such an experiment is literally insane. It ain’t an experiment in the first place though, if I were to be a security guard of the prison (I mean the real one) I might also act the same way like what John Wayne had done to those 24 prisoners, however, The Stanford Prison Experiment is just an experiment, and the guards should’ve to bear in mind that they are not the real prison guards at all and they are not facing the real prisoners, thus, causing hurt towards the healthy college students who did not do any criminal activities is indeed wrong and erroneous. Clearly shows that Dr. Zimbardo is so in over his head, I really can’t brain this, because we cannot correspond or compare a prisoner with a man who did nothing bad, nor a detainee. How at the first place Dr. Zimbardo had the idea of creating this experiment?

Nevertheless, some might say that such an experiment to study the human behaviour of how possible people will react if they had the powers to do everything they want and those who don’t. This experiment has proved that good and bad are just illusion, people will definitely work for the advantage of the whatever circumstances you are in whether as a guard who wants to torture, torment or prisoners who want to escape the torment.

On top of that, right and wrong and the whole dimension will change which means that there is no need of such folly experiments at all. According to Zimbardo and his colleagues, the Stanford Prison Experiment demonstrates the powerful role that the situation can play in human behaviour. Because the guards were placed in a position of power, they began to behave in ways they would not normally act in their everyday lives or in other situations. The prisoners, placed in a situation where they had no real control, became passive and depressed.

For the outras, I think it’s just stupid about what they did. If I was just doing an experiment I wouldn’t go outta my way to fuck with people. Of course they’re gonna be pissed, they’re supposed to be able to leave. It’s not like you did something bad to get there. They went on their own accord. The prisoners will still go into survival mode or animal instinct where good or bad, being evil or saint are just vague. This has always been happening in past, present and of course will occur in future as long as we preach good and bad.





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