The Stanford Prison Experiment

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The article, Interpersonal Dynamics in a Simulated Prison, written by Philip G. Zimbargo takes us inside the research world of the prison environment and reveals several ethical and behavioral concerns about using social experiments to study human behavior. Zimbargo, a psychology professor at Stanford University, was fascinated with the social dynamics of prison, especially the individual interaction that takes place between guards and prisoners. Zimbardo’s method was simply to take all the accounts of ex-convicts and prison guards and create an environment that most reflected that of an actual prison system. Once that was in place he would assess the inmates using three different psychological tests (List tests) to eliminate perceivable confounds the Zimbardo use a random sample of a population consisting of inhabitants of the Stanford university area. There were 22 participants’ chosen for the role of either guards or inmates and 2 other participants were selected for the role of “warden” and “superintendent.” The guards and inmates were randomly assigned and instructed only on what they needed to know. In the case of the guards there was a one day seminar prior to day one of the experiment where they were informed not to use physical force. The prisoners were also instructed against the use of physical force. The day of the experiment the prisoners were arrested in a realistic manner and were assimilated into the standard induction process before lock down, including delousing and removal of personal belongings in an attempt to depersonalize the participants so they might adopt their roles in a more authentic fashion. The prisoners, who originally were only convicted to their “punishment” for the sake of science, had a more difficult time adjusting to the new life style than that of their guard counterparts, with half the prisoner sample dropping within the

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