A Critique Of the Stanford Experiment

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A Critique Of the Stanford Experiment

'The Education of a Torturer' is an account of experiments that has similar results

to that of Milgram's obedience experimentsthat were performed in 1963. Though both

experiments vary drastically, both have one grim outcome, that is that, 'it is ordinary

people, not psychopaths, who become the Eichmanns of history.'

The Stanford experiment was performed by psychologists Craig Haney, W. Curtis

Banks, and Philip Zimbardo. Their goal was to find out if ordinary people could become

abusive if given the power to do so. The results of the six day experiment are chilling. The

experiment took ordinary college students and had some agree to be prisoners and the rest

would be guards for the prisoners. Both groups received no training on what to do or act

like. They had to get all of their knowledge of what to do from outside sources, such as

television and movies.

The guards were given uniforms and night sticks and told to act

like an ordinary guard would. The prisoners were treated like normal criminals. They

were finger printed and booked, after that they were told to put on prison uniforms and

then they were thrown into the slammer (in this case a simulated cellblock in the

basement was used). All of the participants in this experiment at first were thought to be

similar in behavior but after one week, all of that changed. The prisoners became

'passive, dependent, and helpless.' The guards on the other hand were the exact

opposite. They became 'aggressive and abusive within the prison, insulting and bullying

the prisoners.'

After the experiment was finished, many of the mock guards said that they enjoyed

the power. Others said that they had no idea that they were capable of being so corrupt.

The experimenter was...