`Using Material from Item a and Elsewhere, Assess the Strengths and Weaknesses of Using Experiments to Investigate Power and Authority in Prisons (15)

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`Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the strengths and weaknesses of using experiments to investigate power and authority in prisons (15) Laboratory experiments are very ineffective for researching in prisons for a number of reasons including theoretical, ethical & practical issues. Firstly it is very difficult to recreate a realistic situation in a laboratory setting as the participant is aware they are being studied and would react differently if the same situation had occurred in everyday life. There can be many issues with studies which previously had test power and authority, Zimbardo (1973) created an experiment which tested how ordinary people would react when put in a prisoner’s or a guard’s situation. He used 21 students and split them into guards and prisoners and told them to behave appropriately whilst Zimbardo became the chief or the ‘prison’. The experiment only lasted 6 out of 14 days as the prisoners were under too much stress as some of the guards were taking the role seriously and being extraordinarily harsh to the prisoners. Some of the prisoners suffered psychological issues such as uncontrollable crying & severe depression, one of them went on a hunger strike. When interviewed one of the guards admitted he had decided to play a role of an extremely harsh prison officer which he has watched in a film previously to going into the experiment showing that he was influenced by the fact he knew it was a laboratory experiment as he had planned his role and the prisoners had suffered trauma so the theoretical and ethical issues were very high. Creating a prison is one thing but studying a real prison also has a lot of issues, most of which are gaining access to dangerous criminals as guards are often not comfortable with letting reporters into their prison, also often after gaining access the prisoners can be aggressive, unhelpful and can show demand characteristics making the results invalid. Field experiments are used more...
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