Quiet Rage: the Stanford Prison Experiment

518 Words3 Pages
The film, Quiet Rage: The Standard Prison Experiment, shows a real life example of how a person’s thoughts, attitudes, and behavior can be easily altered according to environmental changes. When exposed to changes in social situations, our mindsets and behaviors are easily influenced. In this experiment, male college students were randomly assigned roles as either a prison guard or a prisoner. Although the participants were fully aware that these were only roles and not their true identities, the participants were already experiencing changes in their own behavior by day two. The prisoners began adopting prisoner-like behavior such as rebelling and swearing at the guards as they walked by. The guards also experienced changes in behavior as their new authoritative role gave them a sense of empowerment. The guards began treating the prisoners as if they actually were prisoners, despite the fact that none of them were criminals. One of the guards claimed afterwards that his role made him feel powerful, and he ended up treating the prisoners as if they were inferior to him. The guards afterwards confessed that they had become a person they were not. The participants realized through this experiment that they were capable of inhumane behavior, which they had never imagined they could ever engage in. This could be best explained by the concept of cognitive dissonance. Through cognitive dissonance, a person experiences a change of beliefs that can often be an important part of their identity, due to environmental changes. These prison guards claimed that they would have never known they could be capable of such aggressive and cruel behavior. They claimed that their sense of morals would normally prevent them from such behavior. However, through cognitive dissonance, their change of environment challenged their initial set of morals. When assigned these new roles, the
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