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The Stanford Prison Experiment - Essay Example

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The Stanford Prison Experiment The Stanford prison experiment came out of class exercises in which I encouraged students to understand the dynamics of prison life. Philip Zimbardo The field of social psychology involves a comprehensive study of individuals and the manner in which they are influenced, by others in their immediate social groups…
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The Stanford Prison Experiment
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Download file to see previous pages Such a trend was mostly observed during the post war era, where researchers displayed a keen interest in deciphering human behaviour associated with the two traits mentioned above and understands the psychology of people who showed increased levels of conformity and obedience to their authorities. Such an observation was primarily based on the Nazi concentration camps and the likes, where despite the immorality of the acts, people were seen to be submissive and obeying the orders given to them (Kassin, Fein, Markus, 2010; Smith, Mackie, 2000; Fiske, 2009). Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison experiment: This experiment was conducted to study the psychological impact of prison life on the prisoners. As a part of this experiment, regular students were selected to perform the roles of prison guards and prisoners and were made to go through the exact same routines, as is usually observed in prisons. Newspaper advertisements were formally given out to invite ‘participants’ to participate in the experiment, and those who responded were ‘arrested’ without a prior warning and made to go through a thorough physical examination, similar to one carried out on real criminals. Such sudden and unexpected ‘arrests’ of the regular college going students, took them by surprise and the students were reported to experience mild shock, and humiliation due to the whole exercise (, 2011). The experiment was deliberately designed to imitate the scenes from real prisons and steps were taken to disgrace the prisoners, thus resulting in a series of negative social, emotional, and psychological repercussions. The study, unlike other experiments followed all the major ethical considerations, and did not involve any kind of deception or tricks, it received widespread criticism for the unethical nature of the study. This was mainly because of reports of the participants being made to go through extreme social, psychological and emotional turmoil and the fact that they were deliberately exposed to situations involving high amount of stress. The proponents have argued that the experiment conducted were ethical in nature, since the participants were clearly informed about the type of study they have enrolled in. However, the opponents and critics have stated that the information provided to the participants was incomplete in nature, as their consent was taken based on insufficient data. The participants of this study were arrested without a prior warning or information which was least expected leading to stress and emotional turmoil (Shaugnessy et al., 2006). There were widespread criticisms regarding the authenticity and validity of the experiments conducted, especially with regard to the manner in which the study was replicated. It was argued that there is no way to replicate a real prison and hence highly impossible to extract similar reactions from ordinary individuals, since there is a vast amount of difference between regular college going students and hardened criminals. Over and above the questions regarding the plausibility of the study, there were serious concerns regarding the credibility of the study as well, since critics argued that the study was highly generalized in nature and the observations could easily have been made by observing / studying the prisoners from Nazi concentration camps. Also, the study aimed to completely imitate the behaviour of prisoners from popular prison scenes and hence there was a ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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