Stanford Prison Experiment Essay

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Phillip Zimbardo’s theory helps illustrate how and why ordinary people are capable of acts of terror against other human beings. Zimbardo believes that people are seduced into evil by dehumanizing and labeling others. In 1971 Zimbardo conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment where researchers set up a mock prison in the basement of Stanford University’s psychology building. They then selected twenty four ordinary students to play the roles of both prisoners and guards. The experiment was originally supposed to go on for fourteen days, it had to be stopped after just six days due to what happened to the student participants. The guards became abusive and the prisoners began to show signs of extreme stress and anxiety. Zimbardo states in his book The Lucifer Effect that, “Only a few people were able to resist the situational temptations to yield power and dominance while maintaining some semblance of morality and decency…” (Zimbardo). His experiment demonstrates the powerful role that the situation can play in human behavior. Since the guards were placed in a position of power, they began to behave in ways they normally would not act in their everyday lives/situations. The prisoners, placed in a situation where they had no real control or power, became passive and depressed. Through his experiment he was able to conclude that even “good” people are capable of “evil” actions against mankind when put into certain circumstances. Zimbardo’s theory can be applied to literature, such as Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and current events like the Zimmerman Case, and the Sandy Hook Shooting. Zimbardo’s theory can be applied to Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In Zimbardo’s theory he hypothesizes that there are t... ... middle of paper ... ...rces we have today. Some of these sources include literature, such as Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and current events like the Zimmerman Case, and the Sandy Hook Shooting. By understanding the three contributors to the transformation of human character, dispositional, situational, and systemic, readers are able to identify said influences. In order to stop these evils from happening people must understand that “the power of the system that creates the situation that corrupts the individual. If you want to change the person, you have to change the situation; if you want to change the situation, you’ve got to know where the power is in the system” (Zimbardo The Psychology of Evil). Without recognizing these contributors “bad apples” like Nurse Ratchet, Mr.Zimmerman, and Mr. Lanza are able to flourish because of their situational and systemic contributors.
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