The Stanford Prision Experiment

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 12th grade February 2008

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Philip Zimbardo, a world-renowned psychologist at Sanford University, conducted the landmark psychological study known as ?The Stanford Prison Experiment?. Performed in the summer of 1973, the experiment set out to study the human response to captivity, in particular, to the real world circumstances of prison life. Volunteers played the roles of guards and prisoners, and lived in a mock prison. However, the quickly took a turn in the wrong direction, and concluded early.

Subjects were recruited through an ad placed in the local newspaper and offered $15 a day to participate in a 1-2 week study. Of the 75 participants that were selected, Zimbardo selected 21 to take part in the prison experiment. The subjects were predominantly white, with the exception of 1 subject of oriental background, and middle-glass young males. Of these 21 males, half were divided, at random into two groups of ?prisoners? and ?guards.

The prison was ran out of the basement of the Stanford Psychology building, which had been converted into the mock jail.

A large hallway was converted into the housing for the prison, along with rooms for the guards, warden, and superintendent. Notably, Zimbardo played the position of the superintendent, and a research assistant by the name of Jaffe played the role of the warden. The environment in which the prison had been arranged allowed the prisoners to always be watched by the staff, with the exception of solitary confinement, lovingly called ?the hole?.

With the experiment underway, Zimbardo set out to create an environment of obscurity, in which the guards and prisoners were identified not to be individuals but 2 cohesive unites. Zimbardo accomplished this by assigning certain physical characteristics to each groups. For the prisoners, who were made to wear smocks that resembled a dress, and no underwear, this caused...