Essay on Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment

1631 Words Jun 29th, 2008 7 Pages
The Zimbardo prison experiment was a study of human responses to captivity, dehumanization and its effects on the behavior on authority figures and inmates in prison situations. Conducted in 1971 the experiment was led by Phlilip Zimbardo. Volunteer College students played the roles of both guards and prisoners living in a simulated prison setting in the basement of the Stanford psychology building.
Philip Zimbardo and his team aimed to demonstrate the situational rather than the dispositional causes of negative behaviour and thought patters found in prison settings by conducting the simulation with average everyday participants playing the roles of guard and prisoner. From a total of seventy-five volunteers, twenty-two male participants
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The experimentors proposed that these reactions were caused by a loss of personal identity, dependency, emasculation and acceptance sadistic treatment from the guards and the unpredictable and arbitrary control of the prison system.
The Guard s however showed what was termed the ‘Pathology of Power’ where the participants playing the roles of guards found huge pleasure and enjoyment in their execution of power and sometimes sadistic actions which would explain their willingness to work extra time for no pay and their genuine disappointment when the study ended. Punishments with little or no justification were applied with verbal assaults and in the case of some guards, aggressive physical action. The prison became dirty and inhospitable; bathroom rights became privileges, which could be, and frequently were, denied. Some prisoners were forced to clean toilets with bare hands. Moreover, prisoners endured forced nudity and even sexual humiliation. Experimenters said that approximately one-third of the guards exhibited genuine sadistic tendencies.
Interestingly enough, participants became so taken into the ordeal that they seem to forget who they were and that they were involved in an experiment as prisoner participants had internalized their roles. This is based on the fact that some had stated that they would accept parole even under the condition of giving up all of their participation pay. However, when their parole applications were denied, none of…