Stanford Prison Experiment Research Paper

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Stanford Prison Experiment
By Amelia Henty-Smith

In 1971, psychology professor Philip Zimbardo conducted an experiment with the students he taught at Stanford University. The purpose of this study was to investigate the roles people play in a prison experiment. Zimbardo used the basement of the Stanford Psychology building, and transformed it into a makeshift prison. 75 students volunteered to be in the experiment, out of those 75 only 21 male college students were chosen to participate. The experiment was scheduled to run for two weeks, but was terminated due to the emotional distress the participants were experiencing.

The aim of the experiment was to ‘understand the development of norms and the effects of roles, labels and social expectations in a simulated prison environment’. Before the experiment begun the participants were tested to eliminate applicants with psychological problems, medical disabilities or a past of drug and crime misuse. Zimbardo wanted to make the experiment as realistic as possible, having the prisoners arrested in the correct way by city police and taken to the ‘Stanford County Jail’. He then instructed
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Philip Zimbardo even stated that ‘Although we ended it a week earlier then planned, it was still not early enough’. A lack of fully formed consent was one of the criticisms the experiment got. Zimbardo claimed that he couldn’t get full consent due to himself not knowing what would happen in the experiment. Another unethical issue was the emotional torture the prisoners went through, they were not protected from psychological and physical harm. For example, half of the prisoners had to be released due to emotional distress. However, despite all the unethical criticisms the Stanford Prison Experiment remains an essential study in the understanding of how social situations impact people’s
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