Critique of The Stanford Prison Experiment Essay

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Critique of The Stanford Prison Experiment

The Stanford Prison Experiment of 1973 raises troubling questions about the ability of individuals to exist repressive or obedient roles, if the social setting requires these roles. Philip K. Zimbardo, professor of Psychology at Stanford University, began researching how prisoners and guards assume submissive and authoritarian roles. He set out to do this by placing advertisements in a local newspaper, stating that male college students would be needed for a study of prison life paying fifteen dollars per day for one to two days. Of the seventy-five responses, twenty-one were selected, half of them as "guards" (Zimbardo p. 364) and the other half as "prisoners." (Zimbardo p. 364) Philip
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In the mock prison, inverse psychological relationships developed between prisoners and guards. Prisoners began to feel that there was no way to beat the system. They felt that it is better to do nothing, except what the guards told them. They didn't want, act, or feel anything so they wouldn't get in trouble. Guards, on the other hand, assumed authority roles to control the prisoners and keep the prison in order. Some of the guards reacted extremely, and behaved with hostility and cruelty towards the prisoners. Others, however, were kinder, and occasionally did favors for the prisoners and didn't punish them as much. On the morning of the second day of the experiment, the prisoners broke out in a rebellion. They barricaded themselves in their cells by pushing their cots up against the cell doors; they also proceeded to curse and jeer at the prison guards. The guards regained control of the prison by spraying fire extinguishers on the prisoners and stripping them of their clothing. The guards also forced the leaders of the riot into solitary confinement. Following the riot, the prisoners were more compliant to the rules the guards laid out for them. There was never another united uprising by the prisoners against their authority figures, the guards. After the prisoners had accepted and…