Conformity to social roles

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  • Conformity to social roles
    • What?
      • Don't just conform to particular group situation, but a particular role
      • Copy people performing role/to expectations of what people are likely to do
    • The Stanford Prison Experiment
      • US Navy/US Marines wanted to investigate cause of conflict between guards/ prisoners
      • Previous explanations used dispositional attribution: Condition of prisons due to nature of guards/prisoners
      • Zimbardo argued the situation is cause of behaviour rather than disposition
      • Aim 1: Show how taking on social roles would lead to excessive conformity to the role
      • Aim 2: Test dispositional hypothesis
      • Guards not told to behave except they were not allowed to use physical punishment/aggression
      • Guards wore uniforms to help with identification
      • Prisoners humiliated- searched, stripped, deloused
    • Findings
      • Guards behaviour became a threat to prisoners psychological/physical health
      • Study stopped after 6 days
      • Within 2 days, prisoners rebelled against harsh treatments- ripped guards uniforms, shouted/ swore at them, guards retaliated w/ fire extinguishers
      • Guards played prisoners against one another, conducted frequent headcounts, punished smallest things
      • After rebellion, prisoners became subdued, depressed, anxious. Some released due to psychological disturbance.
      • Power of situation to influence peoples behaviour. Guards, prisoners, researchers all conformed to roles within prison
    • Evaluation
      • Control over variables- emotionally stable participants chosen, randomly assigned roles. More valid
      • Lack of realism- participants 'play acting' based on stereotypes. However, situation seemed real to participants- 90% conversation about prison life
      • Role of dispositional influences- only third of guards displayed brutal behaviour, third wanted to be fair, third helped prisoners. Zimbardos conclusion overstated
      • Ethical issues- when participant asked to leave study, Zimbardo convinced him not to, acting in role of superintendant


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