What Is The Cognitive Dissonance Theory Of The Stanford Prison Experiment

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The Stanford Prison Experiment conducted by psychologist Philip Zimbardo in 1971 illustrated the direct relationship between power of situations and circumstances to shape an individual’s behavior. During this study 24 undergraduates were grouped into roles of either a Prisoner or a Guard, the study was located in a mock correctional facility in the basement of Stanford University. Researchers then observed the prisoners and guards using hidden cameras. The study was meant to last two weeks. However, the brutality of the Guards and the suffering of the Prisoners was so intense that it had to be terminated after only six days. During this period, Zimbardo observed the radical change in the personalities of the participants embodying the role of the prison guard, as they changed from ordinary young men to men with a vicious and sadistic character. Zimbardo stated that he was trying to portray what transpired when all of the individuality and dignity was stripped away from a human, and their life was completely controlled. He wanted to demonstrate the dehumanization and loosening of social and moral values that can happen to guards immersed in such a situation (“Stanford Prison Experiment”). This experiment has been used to exemplify the cognitive dissonance theory and the power of authority. In addition, the findings advocate the situational explanation of behavior rather than the dispositional one.
The aim of this study conducted by Zimbardo was to investigate how readily

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