The Real Lesson Of The Stanford Prison Experiment Summary

Decent Essays

In Maria Konnikova’s “The Real Lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment” she reveals what she believes to be the reality of sociologist Philip Zimbardo’s controversial study: its participants were not “regular” people. She begins recounting the notorious details, how innocent college students labeled prisoners and guards displayed psychological abuse after only six days of confinement, and makes reference to Stanley Milgram’s obedience study and Abu Ghraib, where similar maltreatment, perceived or real, was conducted on civilians by civilians. She addresses and refutes the accepted belief that the Stanford Prison Experiment proved that anyone could become a tyrant when given or instructed by a source of authority. Instead, she suggests that Zimbardo’s inquiry points toward but does not land on one exact conclusion. She explains the influence of the setting, the presentation of the roles, Zimbardo’s participation, and perhaps a sense of expectation felt, all of which can be reflected in the shocking behavior of a few guards. She argues that it should not have been so shocking. Konnikova discredits the neutrality of Zimbardo’s experiment by insisting that people who would respond to an ad for a psychological study of prison life were not “normal” people. However, with her diction and choice of evidence she displaces the study's culpability in a way that ultimately blurs and undermines her claim. In the article’s introductory paragraphs, Konnikova describes the details of the

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