How would you handle prison? Would you stay you, or would prison change you? Prison, its inmates, and its guards, have many harsh and unforgiving characteristics associated with them. The guards are cruel, and the inmates are frightening people who are often perceived as “crazy”. But why is this? In the summer of 1971, psychologist Philip Zimbardo, professor at Stanford University, set out to answer this question.
In the documentary Quiet Rage, the story of Zimbardo’s prison experiment is retold. In the documentary, Zimbardo develops a hypothesis that the abusive behaviors in prison is either caused by pre-existing personality traits of the inmates and guards, or the prison environment itself is the cause. He tested his hypothesis by carefully selecting 24 physically healthy, and mentally stable, male college students to participate in a “mock prison” experiment. The basement of Stanford’s psychology department was used to recreate a prison environment, complete with cells, a prison yard, Warden and Superintendent’s offices, and solitary confinement. Half of the test subjects were randomly selected to be prisoner, and the other half to be guards. They were to be placed in the environment, and their roles, for two weeks, and to be carefully observed by Zimbardo who also acted as the prison superintendent. Zimbardo planned to observe the affects the prison environment had the subjects. Due to the extremely abusive characteristics guards developed, and the swift decline of