A Critique of Philip Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment
“The Experiment”, an American film in 2010, was directed by Paul Scheuring, and starred by Adrian Brody, 2003 Academy Award’s Best Actor, and Forest Whitaker, a remarkable American actor and director. In the movie, an astounding experiment is conducted by a group of psychological researchers who recruit a group of volunteers to join a prison experiment for cash reward. For two weeks, twenty male participants are hired to play “prisoners” and “guards.” The “prisoners” are locked up and have to follow seemingly mild rules, and the “guards” are told to retain order without using physical violence. Everybody is free to quit at any time, but will forfeit the reward. In the beginning, the mood between both groups is insecure and uncertain. Very soon, quarrels arise and the guards start to employ extreme atrocities to confirm their authority. To one’s astonishment, this seemingly fictional story does not only exist in Hollywood films, but also happens in the real world. This movie is originally adapted from the controversial “Standford Prison Experiment” conducted right in the basement of psychology building on campus by the former Standford University professor, Philip Zimbardo in 1971. This prison experiment was mainly led by Zimbardo and his associates. They selected twenty-four males out of seventy-five respondents of the newspaper advertisement who volunteered to participate in a psychological study, “prison life”, in return for payment of $15 per day. These twenty five subjects were all Stanford University’s students and were judged to be the most physically and mentally stable, most mature, and least involved in antisocial behaviors. All participants were then randomly assigned to play roles of prisoners or guards in a simulated prison environment. The prisoner was wearing a loose-fitting smock with an identification number. The guard was wearing a policemen-like uniform with reflective shades to avoid eye...
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