The Stanford Prison Experiment

1658 Words Apr 16th, 2012 7 Pages
Abstract
Ethics in psychological research and testing is one of the most important issues today. The Stanford Prison Experiment, conducted over 40 years ago, brought these ethical issues into the limelight and remains one of the most controversial studies in the history of studying human behavior. This paper aims to define ethics, describe risk/benefit ratio, provide a brief background on the Stanford Prison Experiment, and evaluate the impact it has had on psychological research. The Stanford Prison Experiment
The Stanford Prison Experiment probably tops a lot of lists when it comes to the issue of unethical research. It cannot be replicated today due to its inability to meet the standards established by numerous ethical codes,
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Zimbardo and his colleagues aimed to study how participants would react when placed in a simulated prison environment. Cherry (2010) quotes Zimbardo in an interview: “"Suppose you had only kids who were normally healthy, psychologically and physically, and they knew they would be going into a prison-like environment and that some of their civil rights would be sacrificed. Would those good people, put in that bad, evil place—would their goodness triumph?"
The Participants The mock prison was set up in the Stanford University psychology building’s basement. From a larger group of 70 volunteers, a group of 24 undergraduate students were selected to play the role of either prisoner or prison guard at a rate of $15 a day for a period of one to two weeks. The selection of participants was based on the “no criminal background, lacked psychological issues and had no major medical conditions” (Cherry, 2010).
The Setting and Procedures The mock prison included three 6’ x 9’ prison cells, each of which housed three prisoners and three cots. The other rooms were assigned to prison guards and the warden. One small space became the solitary confinement room, and another small space was designated as the prison yard. The participants were randomly assigned to either the prisoner or prison guard role.