Essay on Critique of Philip Zimbardo's Standfard Prison Experiment

1401 Words Dec 22nd, 2011 6 Pages
A Critique of Philip Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment

“The Experiment”, an American film in 2010, was directed by Paul Scheuring, and starred by Adrian Brody, 2003 Academy Award’s Best Actor, and Forest Whitaker, a remarkable American actor and director. In the movie, an astounding experiment is conducted by a group of psychological researchers who recruit a group of volunteers to join a prison experiment for cash reward. For two weeks, twenty male participants are hired to play “prisoners” and “guards.” The “prisoners” are locked up and have to follow seemingly mild rules, and the “guards” are told to retain order without using physical violence. Everybody is free to quit at any time, but will forfeit the reward. In the beginning, the
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Initially, this study was designed to run for two weeks and to examine how the participants would react when placed in a mock jail. However, the experiment was abruptly halted on its sixth day due to what had happened in the simulated jail was extremely oppressive and demeaning to these primarily good-natured, and innocent college boys. According to Zimbardo, within a very short of time, the prisoners fell into disorientation and passivity rather than rebellion; the guards turned into authoritarians and somehow sadists. (Kendra, "The Stanford Prison Experiment - Overview of the Stanford Prison Experiment").
The result of the prison experiment validates Zimbardo’s “situationist” theory in which one’s behavior can be strongly influenced by the certain situation and the expectations of role playing from society.
Among many flagrant massacres and genocides in centuries, such as the Simele massacres in Iraq in 1933 (more than 3,000 Assyrian women and children were brutally killed), the Nanking Massacre in China in 1938 (more than 400,000 Chinese people were slaughtered by Japanese Imperial Army), or the Holocaust in World War II (approximate six millions of Jews were executed by Nazi Germany), history keeps repeating itself. What will be the best explanation for these human catastrophes? Many people assume that only vicious, mentally disturbed, or…