Psychological Experiment : The Stanford Prison Experiment Essay

Psychological Experiment : The Stanford Prison Experiment Essay

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In 1971 three psychologists, Craig Banks, Curtis Haney, and Phillip Zimbardo were captivated in finding out whether the rough treatment described among guards in American prisons was due to the aggressive behaviors of the guards or the prisoners lack of respect for law and order (dispositional hypothesis) or had more to do with the prison atmosphere (situational hypothesis) (Maxfield & Babbie, 2009). If the prisoners and guards acted in a non-violent way this would corroborate the dispositional hypothesis, or if the prisoners and guards act the same way as people do in real prisons this would authenticate the situational explanation (McLeod, 2016). Dispositional means elucidating behavior in terms of an individual’s distinctive character (Merriam-Webster Dictionaries, 2015). Situational means justifying behavior in terms of environmental influences (McLeod, 2016).
The Stanford Prison Experiment was a milestone psychological experiment of the human reaction to imprisonment, specifically, to the real world conditions of prison life (McLeod, 2016). Craig Banks, Curtis Haney, and Phillip Zimbardo decided to test the situational hypothesis, so they transformed the basement of Stanford University’s psychology building into a mock prison (Maxfield & Babbie, 2009). Zimbardo and his colleagues placed an advertisement in the local newspaper offering to pay $15 per day for participants to play the roles of prisoners and guards for approximately two weeks (McLeod, 2016). Seventy-five applicants responded to the advertisement and were screened to get rid of those with medical disabilities, physical problems, mental health issues, a history of crime, and a history of drug abuse (Maxfield & Babbie, 2009). Twenty-four healthy and psych...


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...d, 2016). The “guards” claimed they were acting and all of the subjects were playing a role; therefore, their behavior may not be impacted by the same factors which impact their behavior in a real life situation (McLeod, 2016). The Stanford Prison Experiment cannot be logically generalized to real life prison setting; therefore, it has little environmental validity (McLeod, 2016). Several procedures that occurred in the Stanford Experiment do not occur in actual prisons such as: prohibiting prisoners from wearing under garments, looking out windows, and using their names, blindfolding intake and etc. (McLeod, 2016).
In conclusion, the Stanford Prison Experiment demonstrated how the situation can impact how humans behave. Several ethical standards were not complied with during this experiment, which have led to a variety of criticism and ethical controversies.

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