Haslam and Reicher (2006) - BBC Prison Study

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  • Haslam and Reicher (2006) - BBC Prison Study
    • Method
      • Controlled observation
      • Mock prison - filmed for television
      • Volunteer sample
        • 15 male volunteers who had responded to an advert
          • randomly assigned to two groups of 5 guards and 10 prisoners
          • 5 groups of 3 people according to similarities in personalities - 1 guard picked from each
      • Daily tests to measure depression, compliance with rules, and stress (saliva)
      • Prisoners knew that one of them would be randomly selected to be a guard after 3 days.
      • Independent ethics committee
        • had to power to stop the experiment at any time in order to protect participants
    • Results
      • The guards failed to form a united group and identify with themselves
        • Didn't always exercise their power
          • unwillingness of guards
            • caused the unequal system to collapse
        • Said they felt uncomfortable with the inequality of the situation
      • First 3 days - prisoners tried to act in a way that would get them promoted to guard status
        • After one was promoted they became a much STRONGER GROUP as there were no more chances of promotion
          • strength of prisoner group
            • caused the unequal system to collapse
        • Day 6 - prisoners rebelled and participants decided to live in democracy
          • collapsed due to tensions within the group
            • former prisoners wanted to set up a stricter regime with them as leaders
      • Study abandoned early on the advice of the ethics community as participants showed signs of stress
    • Conclusion
      • Participants didn't fit into their expected social rules
        • suggests roles are flexible
    • Evaluation
      • In contrast to Zimbardo's findings, H & R's prisoners were a strong group, and the guards were weak
        • However, it is possible that H & R's guards were not as empowered as Zimbardo's, who were actively encouraged to maintain order
      • Study has been criticised for being made for TV
        • Many people (including Zimbardo) argued that elements of it were staged and the participants played up to the cameras.
        • Artificial situation - results cant be generalised to real life
      • Ethically good
        • Participants were not deceived
          • They were able to give informed consent
        • Participants protected by ethics community
          • Study abandoned as soon as the showed signs of levels of stress
        • Debriefed and offered counselling afterwards
    • Aims
      • To investigate how group dynamics change  over time
      • To provide evidence of the unfolding interactions between groups of unequal power
      • To investigate if dominant group members will identify with their group from the start and impose their power
      • To investigate if subordinate group members will identify collectively and challenge intergroup inequalities when groups are seen as impermeable and insecure
      • To measure social, organisational and clinical effects of the study on participants
      • To develop a practical and ethical framework for examining social psychological issues in large-scale studies


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