The Stanford Prison Experiment: Loss Of Personal Identity

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The Stanford Prison Experiment is an enlightening and interesting experiment, although controversial to many. An artificial or mock prison is created and every day, normal people are used to simulate guards and prisoners. The behaviors of both are studied and reported on.
According to Haney, Banks and Zimbrado, (1973) “The Office of Naval Research sponsored the project as part of a larger project intended to develop a better understanding of the basic psychological mechanisms underlying human aggression.” (p. 1) Also according to Haney, Banks and Zimbrado, (1973) the study would hopefully help the Navy and others identify and isolate the processes which motivate aggressive submissive behavior within a total institution such as a prison. (p.
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In this environment, prisoners lost their own personal identity. While personal identity can be deeply engrained in someone, this experiment demonstrated that changing names to numbers, dress codes, haircuts, behavior styles and individuality can greatly alter someone’s sense of identity. This is significant because it implies that “identity”, which is an interior thing, can be altered intentionally by others through manipulation of exterior factors. If this is the case, then social behavior in the real world can be observed and experimented with further to understand whether identify, which can seemingly be taken away, can conversely be created through similar measures. If it can be created, then one must ask whether such new identity is genuine and reliable. Such studies would be fascinating to…show more content…
Further, the loose guidelines given are a strength. Both of these allowed the participants to act fairly naturally and to evolve naturally. A limitation of the study was the duration of time it was conducted over. In a real world scenario where longevity existed, the participants must find ways to cope and their attitudes evolve further, therefor determining actions perhaps not seen in such a short study. If the study were to be conducted again, I think it can be improved and I would tip the researchers by seeking a wider variety of participants in terms of their background, socio-economic status and historical experiences. Most real prisoners are from different backgrounds and socio-economic backgrounds and as such, their responses initially and evolution of attitudes may be
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