Critique of Stanford Prison Experiment

Critique of Stanford Prison Experiment

Formal Critique of “The Stanford Prison Experiment” by Phillip G. Zimbardo

Most humans can only imagine what a real prison environment is like. The imaginings come from movies and television, and if given the opportunity to spend the night in prison, most would not twenty-one selected college students to participate in an experiment that would allow them to either be guards or prisoners in a “mock” prison for a period of two-weeks. At first glance, this experiment might sound easy and straight forward. There is nothing straightforward, nor easy about this experiment.

Zimbardo, professor of psychology at Standford University is a source of knowledge about human behavior. During the experiement he became the “mock” warden of the Stanford prison and relates the surprising results of this experiment that was terminated in only six days, due to the “intensity of subjects’ responses.”

The information that this experiment shows is of extreme importance. Human behavior based on the environment in which placed is an amazing study. The issue that Zimbardo brings to light about those who were selected as guards is less alarming than that of the prisoner responses. To hear that the “mock” guards let the position control their outlook was not alarming. Many humans when put into authoritative positions will react in an aggressive manner in a short period of time. Guards that are “nobody” outside the prison walls become “somebody” inside the prison.

Zimbardo shares that the first day went well, with no incidents from the guards or prisoners. As day two progressed, a few of the prisoners attempted to overtake the prison. They were unsuccessful in their attempt, but did manage to infuriate the guards. As a form of punishment they used severe and cruel degradation. This type of environment caused a few of the prisoners to withdraw and become depressed quickly.

The prison was under twenty four-hour surveillance during the experiment. Most would...

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