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The Stanford Prison Experiment
Transcript of The Stanford Prison Experiment
In 1971, Professor Philip Zimbardo of
Stanford University launched one of
psychology's most famous experiments.
Within one day, the guards forced the prisoners to wake up at 2:30 a.m. and do difficult exercises.
Zimbardo wanted to know what mattered more,
our morals or our environment. He was especially interested in prisons.
He built his study by choosing 24 male college
students. He chose students with no criminal
record, no mental problems and no behavioral problems. He picked only the most normal students to take part in his experiment.
Zimbardo randomly chose 12 students to be prisoners and 12 others to be guards.
All students knew the prisoners had not committed a crime. All students knew the the guards were not real guards. All students knew they could leave the experiment whenever they wanted to.
Zimbardo told the guards to "control" the prisoners. "Make sure they know you are the boss." He gave them guard clothes.
Zimbardo had real police officers "arrest" the prisoners by surprise. The real police handcuffed the "prisoners," took their fingerprints and their pictures.
Then the prisoner students went to the fake jail.
At the fake jail, they met the guards.
When the "prisoners" arrived, student "guards" took their clothes, deloused them with chemicals, changed their names to numbers, cut off their hair and gave them prison clothes.
What do you think happened
Remember, everyone knows the prisoners are not criminals. Everyone knows the guards are not real guards. Everyone knows they can quit whenever they want. None of the students are criminals, none of them have mental illnesses and none of them use drugs. They are all normal, healthy young men.
Within two days the prisoners start a riot.
When the guards take control, they strip the
prisoners naked, remove their beds and take the riot leaders to solitary confinement. They force prisoners to pee and poop into buckets inside their cells. Guards leave the excrement in the cells to punish prisoners.
Prisoner 8612 has an emotional breakdown within 36 hours of the experiment beginning.
The guards mock him. Zimbardo releases the
prisoner 8612 to his home.
On the fourth day, prisoner 819 can't stop crying. Prisoners and guards mock him for
"being a sissy man." Zimbardo releases 819.
Guards begin physically abusing prisoners.
On the fifth day, prisoner 1037 goes into a
deep depression. Prisoner 416 stops eating.
Guards try to force 416 to eat, but he will not. Guards lock 416 in solitary confinement as punishment.
Continuing on day three, guards deprive prisoners of sleep in order to "improve discipline." Work activities become increasingly sadistic. Prisoners are forced to clean toilets with their hands, for example.
On the night of the fifth day, guards forced
prisoners to "play" homoerotic, sexually demeaning games. Sleep deprivation continues.
On the sixth day Zimbardo cancels the experiment.
Prisoners, who could have quit
at any time, are extremely happy.
Guards report feeling cheated,
feeling sad they could not continue
Zimbardo and other psychologists found some very disturbing answers.
Clothes matter a lot. When you give someone new clothes, you can take away their humanity.
When you give someone a mask, you can take away their empathy.
When there is a boss, people will follow his directions even when he says to do horrible things.
When the boss is vague or weak, people will do even more horrible things.
When you change location, people can easily lose their sense of identity.
So let's make a list. What do you need to change normal, healthy people into sadistic monsters and pathetic, broken criminals?
1. New clothes.
2. A new location.
3. A bad or distracted boss.
Just that. Nothing more.
If you want to learn more, visit this website.
Do you think bad people are
Let's find out.