Summary of "A Study of Prisoners and Guards in a Simulated Prison" by Dr. Philip Zimbardo
Have you ever wondered why some institutions succeed while others fail? Dr. Philip Zimbardo, a Professor of Psychology, insists that America's prison system is a failure because of the assumed responsibilities that come with certain positions and not because of the previously assumed dispositional hypothesis which claims the very nature of the prisoners and/or guards constitutes failure in our correctional facilities. And in order to prove his claim, Zimbardo designed a unique experiment. Methods and Materials
To test whether or not the dispositional hypothesis truly held any significance, Zimbardo set out to conduct an experiment where he would take in twenty-one, randomly-selected subjects to live a standard prison life for two weeks (315-316). And if his prediction was right, the results of this experiment would convey role-play as a leading contributor to our failing prison system (313).
The first step of the experiment called for volunteers. Zimbardo started out by publishing an ad in a newspaper requesting the participation of locals in a study regarding life in prison with a $15 per day incentive (315). There were seventy-five respondents in all but only twenty-two were selected to take part because of a far-reaching questionnaire and interview process each respondent completed (315). The reason behind the questionnaire and interview was to attain a group that was "normal," and to ensure all the subjects were strangers to one another in order to eliminate already established conduct in interaction (315). Next, the participants acquired their positions.
As mentioned before, Zimbardo started out with twenty-one male individuals chosen at random (315-316). He did this in order to observe the reactions of role-play versus human nature (314). The professor then went on to another random allotment where each participant was randomly assigned to be...
Cited: Zimbardo, Philip. et al. "A Study of Prisoners and Guards in a Simulated Prison." The Anteater Reader. Ed. Ray Zimmerman and Carla Copenhaven. 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2007. 312-326.
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