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Assess the Strengths and Weaknesses of Using Experiments to Investigate Power and Authority in Prisons.

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Megan Pilling

on 15 October 2012

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Transcript of Assess the Strengths and Weaknesses of Using Experiments to Investigate Power and Authority in Prisons.

Researching Power and Authority in Prisons... Prisons;
- It is a closed setting.
- It is a controlled setting.
- Access is difficult to gain.
- Disruption of the schedule coul.d be damaging.
- Prisoners have to agree to be a participant.
- Safety is an issue when dealing with dangerous prisoners. An experiment is when a researcher changes the independent variables and measures the dependent variable and compares the results.
There are 3 types of experiment;
- Lab experiments
- Field experiments
- Comparative method Strengths of using experiments to investigate power and authority in prisons. Field;
- A covert field experiment would be good because a prison is a hierarchical institution and both the warden and prisoners must be deceived in order to gain a valid result.

Lab;
- They are objective which means the researchers thoughts and feelings would not influence the experiment, this is good because authority and power in prisons are subjective concepts and operationalising these would mean they are measurable results.

Comparative Method;
- There may be detailed records of the behaviour of the prisoners which would be good because the reseacher can then compare the results and this would show who has power and authority within prisons such as if the behaviour of the prisoners is bad it shows lack of control and authority of the warden. Interpretivists may use a field experiment to investigate power and authority in prisons because they seek verstehen and field experiments are more subjective.

Positivists may use a lab experiment or the comparative method because they seek reliability and objectivity. Weaknesses of using experiments to investigate power and authority in prisons. Field;
- Prisoners wouldn't show their natural behaviour because a researcher is present, this is known as the Hawthorne effect. Wardens may also change their behaviour because they may use less authority when they aren't being watched.
- Not all variables can be controlled such as the aggression levels of the prisoners. Therefore a cause and effect relationship is harder to establish.
- It could put the researcher at risk by allowing them into a prison, as the prisoners may feel they have authority over the researcher.

Lab;
- May have issues gaining participants because the prisoners may feel like this is degrading.
- They may also say no in order to feel like they still have some power.
- It is objective, it does not gain meanings of the way power and authority works in a prison.
- It would be expensive to create a lab setting within a prison.

Comparative;
- It may be difficult to measure and compare authority levels.
- Behaviour records of the prisoners may be kept but what one warden would record may be different to another warden.
- Definitions of power and authority have changed over time for example prisons have become less strict.
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