Stanford Prison Experiment

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How can the events in the Stanford Prison Experiment be explained by the theory of deindividuation. Introduction Stanford Prison Experiment is a famous psychological study conducted by Philip Zimbardo in 1971. The main purpose of the experiment was to study the effects of a prison environment on the behavior of ordinary people. An artificial prison was constructed in the basement of Stanford University. Twenty-four mentally healthy men agreed to participate in this experiment for 15$ per day and were assigned to the roles of either prisoners or guards. Zimbardo himself participated in the study in the role of superintendent with his research assistant as a warden. The experiment planned for two weeks was terminated after six days because…show more content…
According to Zimbardo 's theory of deindividuation (1969), such factors as anonymity and lowered sense of responsibility can promote deindividuation. Several studies have been done to study the effects of deindividuation on one 's behavior. In an experiment by Zimbardo (1970) students administered twice as much electric shock to another person when wearing hoods and robes disguising their personality. Diener et al (1976) manipulated the two variables (degree or anonymity and sense of responsibility) to measure dishonest behavior caused by deindividuation among children trick-or-treating during Halloween. The results indicated higher level of dishonesty among children who were deindividuated by not being asked about their names and places they come from as well as by not being responsible for their actions. Another experiment by Zhong et al (2010) indicated a direct relationship between deindividuation by anonymity and selfish behavior. Participants of his study cheated more in an on-line dictator game when they wearing sunglasses than another group playing without…show more content…
According to the model, participants ' behavior was dictated by the social norms of the surrounding condition rather than personal ones. Consequently, another factor promoting deindividuation is the decreased sense of responsibility for one 's behavior (Zimbardo, 1969, 1971, Diener et al, 1976). A good example of this factor would be the abusive measures taken by guards to punish prisoners for insubordinate behavior, for they were aware of the presence of a superintendent as a higher position (Zimbardo, 1971). Conclusion To sum up, the theory of deindividuation provides a clear explanation of the events of the Stanford Prison Experiment. It points out two factors (anonymity and a weakened sense of responsibility) that help to explain the behavior exhibited by the participants in both roles of guards and prisoners. Deindividuation of the prisoners was caused by the rules of the experiment, which included the replacement of prisoners ' names by code numbers, similar uniforms, wearing stockings on head and the realistic process of arresting participants. In addition, Social Identity model of Deindividuation Effects helped explaining the state by the process of merging with the assigned role, which affected the behavior of all

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