Social Influence - 3. Conformity to Social Roles: Zimbardo's Research

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  • Conformity to Social Roles: Zimbardo's Research
    • Procedure
      • mock prison in basement of Stanford University
      • advertised for willing volunteer students, chose those deemed "emotionally stable"
      • randomly assigned to roles of guard / prisoner
      • prisoners arrested in homes, deloused, *****-searched, blindfolded, given uniform and number
      • prisoners numbers used not names
      • prisoners had heavily regulated routines enforced by guards
      • guards  had uniform, wooden club, mirror shades, handcuffs and keys. Told they had complete power
    • Findings
      • guards took up roles with enthusiasm, threatened prisoners' psychological and physical health
      • study stopped after 6 days instead of 14
      • prisoners rebelled after 2 days
      • guards harassed prisoners constantly, created opportunities to enforce rules and punish
      • after rebellion was put down, prisoners became depressed and subdued
      • guards identified more closely with their role. Some seemed to enjoy power
    • Evaluation
      • Control of variables
        • e.g. selection of participants
        • random assortment - rule out personality differences, behaviour only due to situation pressure
        • good internal validity
      • Lack of realism
        • Banuazizi & Mohavedi (1975)
          • pp's were play-acting, based on stereotypes
        • Zimbardo showed through quantitative data that 90% of prisoners' conversations were about prison life - real to them
          • high degree of internal validity
      • Role of dispositional influences
        • Fromm (1973)
          • Zimbardo exaggerated the power of the situation to influence behaviour, and minimised the role of personality factors
        • 1/3  of the guards acted brutally. Clearly able to exercise right and wrong choices
      • Lack of research support
        • Reicher & Haslam (2006)
          • BBC Prison Study
            • prisoners took control and harassed guards
            • guards failed to develop shared social identity as group prisoners did
      • Ethical issues
        • Zimbardo's dual roles
        • one pp wanted to leave - Zimbardo more concerned about running of prison in role of superintendent

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