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Tracy Leong

on 6 June 2014

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Zimbaro's was more generalizable to real-life prisons
Mundane realism, more representative
Less intervention by the researchers as compared to R&H (higher ecological validity)
R&H's too much of a TV programme

R&H was much more ethical
R&H considered ethical implications and anticipated any ethical issues, stopping the experiment before it became unethical (violence ensued), also informed participants well
Zimbardo allowed the experiment to go on for a period of time despite initially not permitting violence, lack of informed consent

R&H's participants were a better representative
Zimbardo's participants were all male college students = level of maturity? representative of population?

Cultural context and bias?
Zimbardo's conducted in 1973, R&H's conducted in 2002
Different cultures, Zimbardo's was done in US, R&H was done in UK
To investigate how readily people would conform to the roles of guard and prisoner in a role-playing exercise that simulated prison life.
Lab experiment
Converted basement of Standford university psychology building into mock prison
Advertised for students to play roles of prisoners and guards for a fortnight
21 students selected, screened for psychological normality and paid $15 a day
Participants randomly assigned roles of prisoner/guard
Guards went down to the prison earlier to help set up
Guards issues khaki uniform, whistles, sunglasses, handcuffs
Prisoners arrested at their own homes without any warning by policemen and taken to police station
Treated like regular criminals: booked, fingerprinted, etc
Later moved to the mock prison
Prisoners stripped naked and deloused, had personal possessions taken away
Given prison clothes (smock with no underclothes), issued uniform, referred only to their prison number, chain around one ankle
3 guards to 9 prisoners, guards worked 8 hour shifts
After experiment ended, subjects were called back for a follow-up debrief
Guards settled into their roles quickly
Within hours of beginning, guards began harassing prisoners brutally and sadistically
Prisoners were tormented, taunted with insults and petty orders, given boring meaningless tasks = dehumanized
Prisoners soon adopted prison-like behaviour, talked about prison issues alot, tattled on each other to the guards
Started taking prison rules very seriously
Some sided with guards against those who did not conform to rules
Guards were firmly in control, prisoners dependent on them
Guards became more aggressive, prisoners became more submissive in order to please guards
One prisoner released after 36 hours due to breaking down
Thinking became disorganized
Appeared to be entering stages of deep depression
Within 5 days, 5 people left due to emotional instability
Experiment ended on the 6th day although it was intended to run on a fortnight
People will readily conform to the social roles they are expected to play
Environment was an important factor in creating the guards’ brutal behavior (none of the participants who acted as guards showed sadistic tendencies before the study)
Roles shape behaviour and attitude
Even normal, 'good' people can be 'evil'
Lack of informed consent of the study
Level of stress and humiliation
Physical harm to prisoners
May have caused long lasting psychological damage to participants
Physical violence was initially prohibited but Zimbardo did not do anything to stop the study immediately as it escalated

Sample bias
Only male college students were used, moreover they were in their roles as guards and prisoners hence results of the finding can only be generalized onto male college students in the same situation

Experimenter bias
Experimenters may have unconsciously communicated cues to participants about what they expected to find, affecting the behaviour of the guards and prisoners
Cues may have been communicated through the different treatment of the guards and prisoners initially, e.g prisoners only wear smock with nothing else, guards have khaki uniform, prisoners stripped of personal possessions, stripped naked and deloused = humiliated, may have caused guards to think that that is how they were expected to treat them
Guards displayed physical violence but Zimbardo did not stop the study, allowed them to continue = guards may have had the impression that what they were doing was what the researchers wanted
Explores the social and psychological consequences of putting people in groups of unequal power
Examines when people accept inequality and when they challenge it
Ethical approval before commencement
Screening of participants by clinical psychologists, with medical and police checks.
Round-the-clock monitoring by clinical psychologists, medics, and security personnel.
Creation of a six-person Ethics Committee, given the power to stop experiment at anytime

Participants recruited by advertisement
15 men were chosen to be “prisoners” or guards, in a simulated prison for an 8-day period
Guards arrive at the prison, put on uniforms and receive instructions on how to run the prison = social identity
Prior to prisoners arrival, sense of ownership is gained
Prisoners arrive, immediately ordered to shower and change into uniforms
All personal items are taken away, shaved head
Guards = better food, facilities
Prisoners = terrible food, bad facilities
Prisoners accept their position, just as the guards have accepted theirs
Prisoners are informed over the intercom that they have the chance to be promoted to guard status. This is done to see whether prisoners will work individually, or whether they can work together as a group to form a collective resistance to beat the guards altogether.
Prisoner chosen for promotion
Trade unionist brought into the prison to attempt to change views of prisoners
Took trade unionist out after views had changed
Reicher & Halsam were forced to terminate the experiment due to the anticipated breach of ethics.
Guards were not comfortable with conforming to their roles
During promotion period, all prisoners acted as individuals in order to please the guards and get the promotion
Prisoners instantly started working together once prisoner got promoted
became aggressive, violent, disrespectful
Trade union managed to change views, suggested discussion of everyday issues between both groups
Worked for awhile, until trade union left = reverted back to initial form
Prisoners started taking over, "this is our prison now"
Guards start to realize that they're privileges and position is being threatened
Prison became a commune, self-governing = everyone became equal
Each person in charge of their chores were willing to do them, before = reluctant
For a period of time, prison became a 'paradise', everyone was content
But system broke down since some were not happy
New guard system implemented
Shouting if things are not done
People who wanted to be guards, instead of initially where the guards did not want their position
As a reaction of individual social identity, groups were able to form through shared goals and identities
Study cast doubts on Zimbardo's study that people mindlessly slip into roles
There was no evidence of guards conforming “naturally” to the role
Many guards felt guilt
Study showed importance of leadership in the emergence of tyranny
Tyranny happens when group identities fail, as happened when the commune failed
Social identity was not present amongst the guards
Ecological validity
Simulated real-prison environment, e.g food, uniforms, cells (+)
Researchers may have intervened too much, e.g promotion, trade unionist, for it to be a real example of a prison environment (-)

Large range of participants
More generalizable (not all college students)
However, all were still men

The Hawthorne effect
Behaviour is affected by knowledge of being observed, make act differently
BBC Prison Study was a TV show = camera crew
May have social desirability bias for some since they wanted to be seen in a 'good light' on TV
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