Stanford Prison Experiment

Stanford Prison Experiment

Psychology – Introduction

The Stanford Prison Experiment was a study of the behaviour of people when told they are to play a role, and how it psychologically affected them. The study was led by professor of psychology Dr. Phillip Zimbardo at Stanford University. It was funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research since it was of interest to the US Navy as well as the Marine Corps so they could determine causes of conflicts between guards and prisoners.

The goal of the study was to see what would happen when you put good people in bad places. Attempts to explain the brutality and violence within prison had previously used dispositional attribution. This is the explanation of an individual’s behaviour based on internal characteristics that reside within the individual. This implies that prison guards individually have a sadistic nature and partly explains any brutality they show towards inmates. This would also cause the assumption that inmates are just evil people that have no respects for the law, meaning they bring their impulsivity to the prison. Zimbardo believed however that the best way to describe the behaviour shown in prisons was using the situational attribution, which are influences in the outside world that stem from particular environments or cultures.

Twenty-four students were picked to participate in the experiment for around seventy. These students had no record of criminal backgrounds, medical problems or psychological impairments. They were to receive $15 per day and were initiated into the experiment by randomly being picked out as a prison guard or an inmate.

The study was a simulation as it was attempting to recreate a prison environment. A simulation prison was built in the basement of Stanford University. The prison was built with 3 small cells, a solitary confinement room which was an extremely small room, several rooms for the guards, warden and superintendent and a small room that was used as a prison yard. As well as all of...

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