Stanford Prison Experiment

analytical Essay
1144 words
1144 words

When put into an authoritative position over others, is it possible to claim that with this new power individual(s) would be fair and ethical or could it be said that ones true colors would show? A group of researchers, headed by Stanford University psychologist Philip G. Zimbardo, designed and executed an unusual experiment that used a mock prison setting, with college students role-playing either as prisoners or guards to test the power of the social situation to determine psychological effects and behavior (1971). The experiment simulated a real life scenario of William Golding’s novel, “Lord of the Flies” showing a decay and failure of traditional rules and morals; distracting exactly how people should behave toward one another. This research, known more commonly now as the Stanford prison experiment, has become a classic demonstration of situational power to influence individualistic perspectives, ethics, and behavior. Later it is discovered that the results presented from the research became so extreme, instantaneous and unanticipated were the transformations of character in many of the subjects that this study, planned originally to last two-weeks, had to be discontinued by the sixth day. The results of this experiment were far more cataclysmic and startling than anyone involved could have imagined. The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast the discoveries from Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment and of Burrhus Frederic “B.F.” Skinner’s study regarding the importance of environment.
In August of 1971, Philip G. Zimbardo placed a simple advertisement in the local city paper requesting for: “Male college students needed for psychological study of prison life: $15 per day for one-to-two weeks. Beginning A...

... middle of paper ...

...raumatic for some, the acknowledgement that you can make a choice in your own environment, which controls who you transform to be, should provide encouragement, although illusionary that choice may be, its effects are not.

Works Cited

Hergenhahn, B. R. (2009). An introduction to the history of psychology (6th ed., p. 224, 446). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Ratnesar, R. (2011). The menace within. Retrieved from Skinner, B. F. (1971). Beyond freedom and dignity. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing
Zimbardo, P. (2005) Understanding our capacity for kindness and cruelty. Published in The Social Psychology of Good and Evil. Arthur Miller (Ed.). (pp. 21-50). New York: Guilford
Zimbardo, P. (2013). The stanford prison experiment. Retrieved from (web) 2013

In this essay, the author

  • Compares the stanford prison experiment and burrhus frederic skinner's study regarding the importance of environment.
  • Explains that philip g. zimbardo placed a simple advertisement in the local city paper requesting male college students for psychological study of prison life. he received applications from over seventy participants from across the united states and canada.
  • Explains that they wanted to make the experimental setting bear a resemblance as closely as humanly possible to the psychology of imprisonment.
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