The Stanford Prison Experiment conducted in 1971 by Dr. Philip Zimbardo
would not be able to be conducted these days. When conducting an
experiment with humans there are many ethical guidelines that are to be followed. The
rights and well being of the participants must be weighed against the study's value to
science. The people always come first, and research second. This was not the case in
Dr. Philip Zimbardo's experiment.
I found that there were many ethical considerations that were violated in Dr.
Philip Zimbardo's research. One being that the investigator must debrief the participants
telling them the true nature of the study and expectations of the results. This is really
important in studies that involve deception. Dr. Philip Zimbardo's experiment was full of
deception. The participants did answer to an ad in the local newspaper that stated
they were looking for volunteers to participate in a study of the psychological effects of
prison life. I don't think they were told in full context what to expect of the
experiment. I don't think Dr. Philip Zimbardo even knew what he was getting himself
into by Conducting this experiment.
Dr. Philip Zimbardo randomly assigned the participants into two groups by the
flip of a coin. Half of them were guards and the others were the prisoners. The guards
weren't given any specific training. They were pretty much free to do whatever necessary
to keep order in the prison, and to command the respect of the prisoners. The prisoners
had to wear dresses as their uniform and wore a chain around their foot. The aim of the
clothes were to humiliate the prisoners and to deprive them of their individuality. The
shackle on the foot was to remind them of where they were even in their sleep. Some
punishments that the prisoners endured were solitary confinement, the withdraw of
favorite foods, and rationing of cigarettes. Not to mention the physical abuse from the
guards. These were enough to create responses in the volunteers. The participants were
not protected from risks or told explicitly of risks. This was another ethical consideration
that was violated.
During the short period of the experiment, Dr. Zimbardo tried to arouse in his
Prisoners, powerlessness, hopelessness, and dependence. The same feelings that real
prisoners experience, after a long period of time. It wasn't until much later that Dr. Philip
Zimbardo realized how far into the prison role he was. He was thinking like a prison
Superintendent rather than a research psychologist.
Less than thirty-six hours into the experiment prisoner #8612 began suffering
from acute emotional disturbance, disorganized thinking, uncontrollable crying, and rage.
They had already come to think so much like prison authorities that they thought the
prisoner was trying to con them into releasing him. Instead of releasing the prisoner right
away, they offered him to become an informant in exchange for no further guard
harassment. Making the prisoner believe that he couldn't leave. The ethical guideline that
was violated is deception. It is okay to deceive the participants only if the study wouldn't
work any other way. Even though the prisoner was later released. He wasn't released
right away. Little by little, the border between experiment and reality began to blur for
both the prisoners and the guards. It demoralized the volunteers so thoroughly that they
lost all sense of the artificiality of the experiment.
What I learned from this study is how easily ordinary people can be led to behave
in such evil ways when they perceive themselves as part of a group rather than
individuals, or when they are led into a situation where they see other people as enemies.
I also learned the great deal of importance of ethical guidelines when conducting an
experiment. I don't...
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