Simulated Prison Experiment

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The article, A Study of Prisoners and Guards in a Simulated Prison, is explanation of an experiment conducted in 1971 involving volunteer men that participated in a simulated prison environment. The experimenters are Craig Haney, Curtis Banks, and Philip Zimbardo. The introduction begins with a powerful statement from an Russian novelist named Dostoevsky that “if man could survive the horrors of prison he must surely be a “creature who could withstand anything.” ”(Haney, Banks, Zimbardo, 1973, p. 2)

This statement is so powerful as it quickly conveys that prison could possibly be the worse environment or living condition a man could ever experience. That possibly no other type of event could compare to the negative impact prison life would
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A mock prison has to be created with the personnel and prisoners created from “normal” or average people to take on these roles. An ad was put out to find volunteers from where 24 students were chosen, 12 to role play prisoners and the other half to role play guards. From these groups of 12, only 9 were actually used from each role. These students had no prior record of criminal arrests, medical conditions, or mental disorders. The purpose was to evaluate the development of standards and the effects of these roles, labels, and social outcomes in a simulated prison…show more content…
The volunteers all being “average” and nothing to do with a criminal or guard, started displaying traits of their roles shortly into the experiment. The experiment was extreme, especially due to the fact it had to be shut down after only 6 days rather than the two weeks planned. The outcome was a valuable education on how the environment can have such a profound impact on human behavior. Although there are other paths today for

criminals to rehabilitate other than traditional prison incarceration, this experiment’s results still makes a person think and be amazed that correctional institutions have not evolved much since the date of this experiment.


Haney, C., Banks, W.C. & Zimbardo, P.G. (1973). A Study of Prisoners and Guards in a Simulated Prison. Naval Research Review, 30,
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