STANDFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT (Philip Zimbardo, 1971)

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10 Psychology Note on STANDFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT (Philip Zimbardo, 1971), created by melamia97 on 09/08/2013.

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STANDFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT Philip Zimbardo, 1971   AIM: To find out how role expectations influence a person’s behaviour within a group, especially when this role can have high or low power and status. (Or, to find out the psychological effects of either being a prison guard or a prisoner.) HYPOTHESIS: It was hypothesised that assigning a group of university students the role of either a prisoner or a prison guard would change their behaviour so that it would be consistent with the way the students perceived their character would act. PARTICIPANTS: The participants were a group of male, American university students. The selection process involved placing an add in a newspaper, asking for male university students to participate in a prison experiment and that would be paid. Later on 24 students were judged to be psychologically normal and healthy and were selected to take part in the experiment. 9 would be prison guards and 9 would be prisoners (the remaining participants were on-call if they were needed); flipping a coin did this. EXPERIMENTAL CONDITIONS AND KEY VARIABLES: The experimental conditions were the assignment of status and power and this was expressed through a superior (mock-guard) or inferior role (mock-prisoner). The key variables were how the participants perceived their roles  MAIN RESULTS OBTAINED: the outcome of the experiment found that those who were allocated the inferior roles showed increasing dysfunctional reactions (such as hysteria, rage, confusion, severe anxiety and depression), there were also psychosomatic symptoms (such as body rashes) and emotional distress, all of which were not present prior to the experiment. Those who were allocated superior roles stated their status and power by humiliating the prisoners, calling them names and encouraging prisoners to call each other name by which they created a culture of oppression and inhumane conditions. They were also reluctant to give up their positions of power when the experiment ended. CONCLUSION DRAWN FROM RESULTS: the behaviour of normal, well-educated men can be significantly affected when a role they are given involves considerable amounts of power and status. WHETHER THE EXPERIMENT HAD EXTERNAL VALIDITY, WITH REFERENCE TO POSSIBLE GENERALISATION: this experiment helps describe the behaviour shown by the Nazis during the holocaust. It provides evidence to suggest that when an individual or a group of people perceive that they have more power and a higher status over another individual or group of people that they can behave without any regulation or moral standing. (Unbridled power) TWO MAIN LIMITATIONS OR CRITICISMS OF THE RESEARCH METHOD: A limitation of the experiment were that there were no female participants and there was no supervision of the experiment of the mock-guards as to how their power became unbridled due to the lack of supervisory parameters, which became into an ethical issue. KEY ETHICAL ISSUES: this experiment presented ethical issue because people suffered and other were allowed to inflict pain. Also, even upon the presentation of severe psychological and emotional trauma the experiment was not terminated until 4 participants asked to leave for these reasons.

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