Zimbardo Prison Experiments
The Zimbardo prison experiment was set up to investigate the problem of what the psychological effects for normal people result from being a guard or inmate, and in a broader sense are normal people capable of being ‘evil.’ The research question being asked was, “How would normal people react to being in a simulated prison environment? In Zimbardo’s own words, "Suppose you had only kids who were normally healthy, psychologically and physically, and they knew they would be going into a prison-like environment and that some of their civil rights would be sacrificed. Would those good people, (when) put in that bad, evil place (have) their goodness triumph?"
Zimbardo set up his experiment to test the validity of two hypotheses, the dispositional hypothesis and the situational hypothesis. The dispositional hypothesis proposed the following: 1. That criminals were naturally more aggressive and resistant to authority. 2. That people that sought out jobs as prison guards naturally thrive off of having control and authority over others and are usually innately more sadistic than most people. 3. That as a result of 1 and 2, the cruel conditions of prisons were a result of the natural dispositions of the inmates and the guards clashing. The situational hypothesis (favored by Zimbardo) proposed that the social structure and conditions of a prison caused the behavior of prisoners and guards alike. To set up the experiment, Zimbardo placed an ad in the paper asking for young, white, males, college aged to participate in a study for $15/a day and secured some space on campus to use as a makeshift prison, including cells and a guard break room. Twelve students were selected Out of 75 respondents, 12 students were selected to be ‘prisoners’ in the Stanford psychology building. Twelve others were selected to play the role of ‘guards.’ The roles were all randomly assigned. The experiment was supposed to have lasted two weeks, but was...
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