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A Prison by Any Other Name...
Transcript of A Prison by Any Other Name...
Zimbardo studied to what extent environment plays into how one behaves, finding that at times, environment has the ability to overpower one's true nature.
Although we may have certain inherent behavioral tendencies, is it possible that powerful situations can overcome those tendencies and lead us to engage in behaviors that are different than our usual selves?
Does the environment around you determine how you behave more strongly than who you are?
An ad was put in a local newspaper near Stanford offering $15 per day to participate in a research study about prison life. The participants were told that their personal privacy and civil rights may be violated and would receive minimal food with basic nutritional needs. They went through criminal and psychological tests. Then 24 normal college-age men were selected from the hundred volunteers. At random (flip of a coin), they were divided into two groups: "prisoners" and "guards." Zimbardo wanted then all to be the same to separate the internal, personality factors from the influence of the environment for determining behavior. The participants were then asked to go home with no other information.
The participants were fake arrested from their home, handcuffed, fingerprinted, thrown blinded folded into their holding cell, and transported to the "Stanford County Jail" (the mock prison). Each guard that was assigned to the prisoner made them strip, change into prison uniforms, wrapped chain around their ankles, and assigned them a jail number.
The guards worked 8 hour shifts, with 3 men to a shift. After their shift they lived their normal lives, unlike the prisoners. They were given prison guard uniforms, nightsticks, and reflective sunglasses.
Outline of Results
Throughout the several days of the experiment, the roles that the groups were asked to play took over them drastically.
The majority of the participants (previously mere college students) became "prisoners" and "guards".
Human values of the participants were suspended due to the behaviors that the environment of the experiment influenced.
The participants took pleasure in cruelty, specifically the participants who acted as the guards.
Prisoners: "'...dehumanized robots who thought only of escape, of their own individual survival and of their mounting hatred for the guards'" (Zimbardo 290).
Zimbardo established the existence of the
. To summarize, this theory states that environment has the ability to influence behaviors to such an extent that good people can seem like they are bad people. .
Implications & Applications
The results of the experiment forced people to consider
Higher potential of inmate abuse as population of prisons increase
In the United States, there are currently
people who have been incarcerated
Prisons are not
Instead of correcting/aiding change in inmates, prisons today are designed to punish offenders, and separate them from the rest of society.
Isolation/punishment vs rehabilitation
Zimbardo's research has resulted in some understanding of the prisoner abuse scandals in
Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo
These cases taught us the true effect of war on humanity
The prison guards, soldiers, and guards who worked in the facilities listed above may have been just like any normal person. Though, something drastically transformed these people. This force was none other than the most powerful force possible;
Zimbardo wished to research what happened to "normal people who are placed into a situation that exerts great power over individuals." (285)
Prison possessed most of these qualities, presenting an adequate environment to study Zimbardo's research questions.
Zimbardo wanted to create a setting that was as close to a real life prison as possible. He used the basement of the psychology building at Stanford University. Each laboratory room became a prison cell, along with vertical bars and jail cell numbers. The hallway became a "prison yard" for where the prisoners could move around and eat.
Type of research:
Behavior influenced by environment
Previous experiences of test subjects
Other pertinent characteristics
The results were surprising and the experiment had to be ended earlier than expected
"Prisoner" and "Guard" Behaviors and Reactions During the "Stanford Prison" Study
Used demeaning, degrading language with prisoners; harassed and intimidated them
Made humiliating comments to prisoners
Raucously awakened all prisoners in the middle of the night for "inmate counts"
Frequently used push-ups as a form of punishment for minor offenses
Appeared to enjoy their sadistic control over the prisoners
Shot a fire extinguisher a the prisoners to quell a rebellion
Placed prisoners in solitary confinement fore entire nights
Made visiting the bathroom a privilege, at times denying their visits and paling a waste bucket in their cell
Positioned an informant in the cells to spy on the prisoners for signs of escape or rebellion plans
Striped prisoners naked to achieve order following exposed escape plan; removed prisoners' beds and forced prisoners to give up blankets
Allowed "privileges" to prisoners at random in an effort to divide and conquer and to break prisoner camaraderie, trust, and solidarity
Forced prisoners to clean toilets with their bare hands, extended "night counts" for several hours long, increased number of push-ups: all as punishments for the attempted escape
Were creative and inventive in finding ways of breaking the prisoners' spirit
Hock, R. (2013). A Prison by Any Other Name... In Forty studies that changed psychology: Explorations into the history psychological research (7th ed., pp. 285-292). Boston [et al.: Pearson
Does a subject's
possess the ability to control
If so, can environment
our behaviors stronger than we can control ourselves?
Zimbardo tested the effect of prison on a person's behaviors. He observed the
of subjects posing as both prison guards and prisoners. The subjects were placed inside an
resembling a prison, and given minimal instructions. The results were astounding.
Quickly became docile, subservient, and conformed to all of the rules set by the guards
Showed clear and early signs or trauma and depression, including crying and profound depression
Begged to be paroled
Agreed to forfeit all payment in exchange for release
Experienced uncontrollable crying rage and disorganized thinking
Planned and staged a "rebellion" that involved removing stocking caps, tearing off uniform numbers, barricading the cells with beds, and cursing and taunting the guards
Designed an elaborate escape plan that never materialized
Eventually gave up all attempts at rebellion and solidarity
Assumed an every-man-for-himself attitude, abandoning solidarity with other prisoners
Docilely accepted with increasing hopelessness the guards' degrading and sadistic treatment of them as the study progressed
After six days, all became completely passive and dehumanized, robotlike
After only seven days, Zimbardo was forced to stop the study because the subjects began to live their roles. They seemed to forget that this was just a mock prison. The conditions became so extreme that the prisoners began to be
as a result of the sadistic treatment they were receiving from the guards.
Implications & Applications
A Student is Arrested
Ethical questions that arose.....
The fact that this experiment only lasted 7 days when it was intended to last 3 weeks is proof that there are many criticisms.
The political nature of the research itself is very controversial. One of the most controversial topics today is prison reform because of prisoners' severe abuse. This experiment is very similar to many event in history regarding prison riots, uprising, rebellions, etc.
Other have tried to replicate Zimbardo's experiment and have come to the similar results of the prisoners and guards engaging in abusive behaviors.
Other criticisms include if Zimbardo ever checked on his subjects after the experiment to see if being back in their home environment would change them back to their normal selves, or if they continued to stay abusive.
The people who acted as the prisoners and guards were not protected from physical and psychological harm.
A Rebellion Breaks Out
A Rebellion Breaks Out.(n.d.).Retrieved October 31, 2014.
The results of the experiment brought on the reality of prison to the inmates and the guards. It also brought into light the actual purpose and effectiveness of prisons; where they correctional facilities or simply means to isolate and punish wrongdoers?
- Environment and external influence can cause good people to do bad things.
Greater understanding of the previous prisoner scandals.
Zimbardo teaches us how easily we are influenced by the world around us.
In his experiment, we see normal college students transformed into cruel guards who begin to dehumanize and humiliate people who are just like them, people who simply wished to make some extra money by participating in a psychological experiment.
His study also shows us how our current methods of dealing with the incarcerated may only be making the problem worse, rather than solving it.
Last but not least, Zimbardo demonstrated the reality of human nature and it's vulnerability. It is very easy to become someone you are not.
A Student Is Arrested. (2009, June 8). Retrieved November 1, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYtX2sEaeF
Zimbardo, P. (n.d.). The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo. Retrieved November 1, 2014, from http://www.lucifereffect.com/about_content_extensions.htm
A Rebellion Breaks Out. (2009, June 8). Retrieved November 1, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTdttd7XTf
Highest to Lowest - Prison Population Total. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2014, from http://www.prisonstudies.org/highest-to-lowest/prison-population-total?field_region_taxonomy_tid=22
Is the way the prisoners are being treated fair?
Is it realistic?
What are some other thoughts you may have had while watching these videos?
What does this video show us about the treatment of the prisoners by the guards?
Why do you think the guards acting in this manner when they were not required to?
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