The Stanford Prison was an experiment to study the psychological effects and reactions of students pretending to be prisoners and guards. This study was conducted in 1971 and although it was suppose to have duration of 2 weeks, it finished after just 6 days.
The experiment required 24 male students for the role-play and paid $15,00 per day. Several volunteers answered to an ad on a newspaper and were selected after being interviewed. They were all healthy and there were no psychological differences between them. The role-play allocation for guards and prisoners was randomly made.
The fake prison was situated in the basement of the Stanford University’s Psychology department. Guards were not allowed to harm prisoners or use any type of physical strength but could and should make them feel bored and powerless, frustrated. Every prisoner was picked-up and arrested at their own house in front of everyone and taken to the prison where they were undressed, humiliated, insulted and were obliged to carry a chain on their foot. Inside the prison, each prisoner had a different number assigned that was used as their identification, instead of their names.
The guards started to use psychological tactics and abuse towards the prisoners. First they started by rewarding the good prisoners but soon after there were prisoners becoming more rebellious and the guards went back to treating them all at the same level. Two of the prisoners quit after a few days and the rest became emotionally traumatized with the guards’ behavior. The experiment was aborted after 6 days when a graduate student alerted Zimbardo about the conditions and effects that this experiment was having on students.
The Stanford Prison experience received strong criticism as it was considered unethical, biased, lacked control and the active participation and influence that Zimbardo had in this experiment. This was a very famous study at the time and still today psychologists and researchers...
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