Stanford Prison Experiment Essay

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Each individual creates and moves within his or her own reality. Although this reality can be shaped by perceptions and conclusions drawn from experiences, circumstances and knowledge or ignorance, the roles and the expectations for the performance of these roles may shape an individual’s reality or alter the same. The behavior that is associated with an individual’s role, whether ascribed or attained, can be further complicated by that person’s status in any given societal setting. Expectations for these roles are sometimes complicated by the number of roles attached to a person of any status. For some, conflict arises when the demands or expectations of the different roles begin to compete for a priority position of time, energy and attention. The symbiotic relationship between the individual and society adjusts as the individual moves in and out, functions within or alters his or her reality. The volunteers in the Stanford Prison Experiment experienced a violent transition in both their roles and status in their reality within society. Although each volunteer most likely lived and functioned within in his own reality, the roles he played changed drastically within a matter of moments. Mentally, the men knew that they were students or free citizens choosing to participate in an experiment but the swift, unfamiliar chain of events that led to their experimental incarceration quickly blurred their perceptions of reality. According to sociologist W. I. Thomas, “if a person perceives a situation as real, it is real in its consequences.” This is known as the Thomas Theorem. This theorem can be interpreted to mean that our behavior depends not on the objective reality of a situation but on our subjective interpretation of reality. The consequences and results of behavior make it real. For example, when the participants were taken through the dehumanizing

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