Stanford Prison Experiment, 1973

This maps out the aim, method and evaluation of Zimardo's, 1973, Stanford prison experiment

**there are a few typos that I need to edit out**

  • Created by: tiaayana
  • Created on: 28-05-20 12:29
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  • Zimbardo,1973- Stanford Prison Experiment
    • method
      • Zimbardo had converted a basement in Stanford university into a mock prison
        • volunteers underwent extensive testing of their mental stability- in the end there were 24 healthy volunteers
          • participants were to spend a fortnight as their randomly assigned role, either prisoner or guard
            • prisoners were unexpectedly arrested at their homes, issued a uniform and referred to by their number only
            • guards worked eight hour shift, going home between shifts and were issued a uniform, including batons and dark sunglasses (to make eye contact impossible). they were told they had complete control over prisoners but no violence was permitted
              • Zimbardo observed the behaviour of the guards and prisoners as a researcher and also acted as prison supervisor
                • prisoners were unexpectedly arrested at their homes, issued a uniform and referred to by their number only
    • findings
      • within a  very short time, both prisoners and guards surprisingly assumed their roles with zeal
        • on day two, prisoners rebelled against the harsh treatment of the guards, but the guards quelled the rebellion and threatened them with batons
          • as the guards came to harass the prisoners in an increasingly sadistic manner, the prisoners became submissive and apathetic
            • complete lack of privacy, lack of basic comforts (e.g mattress), degrading chores, late night counts
            • severe anxiety, hopelessness, nervous rash, hunger strike
            • some prisoners also took the rules very seriously and told tales on fellow prisoners to the guards as they new they were dependant on the guards for everything so behaved in a way that would please them
              • the study only lasted 6 days due to the participants' deteriorating behaviour
                • this study shows the power of social roles, social norms and scripts
            • Zimbardo himself also found himself acting a real prison supervisor
    • evaluation
      • low ecological validity
        • could suffer from demand characteristics as most of the guards later claimed they were acting
          • Evidence to disprove this is that 90% of the prisoners' private (secretly recorded) conversations where about prison conditions and only 10% was about life outside of prison
            • despite Zimbardo's best efforts to simulate real life in his study (e.g arresting prisoners at their homes), some aspects couldn't be ethically allowed, such as involuntary homosexuality, racism, beatings and threats to life
              • this means we have to be cautious when generalising results to real life prison settings
      • population validity
        • the sample was comprised of US, male, healthy,predominantly white and middle class so it is unrepresentative
          • the study's findings cannot be generalised to female prisons or those from other countries
            • America is an individualist culture, and are less likely to conform and results may be different in collectivist cultures (e.g Asian cultures)
      • ethics
        • the study has receive many ethical criticisms, however it was approved by the committee of human experimentation
          • both the committee and Zimbardo didn't anticipate the prisoners' extreme reactions
            • as all the details weren't know at the start, participants couldn't give informed consent (although did sign a consent form), neither did they consent to being arrested at home (deception)
            • while participants were protected from physical harm, they weren't from psychological- experiencing humiliation and distress
              • e.g one prisoner had to be released after 36 hours due to uncontrollable bursts of crying, screaming and anger
                • Zimbardo did extensively debrief for several years afterwards and concluded there was no lasting harm
      • dispositional factors vs. situational factors
        • Fromm, 1973, argued that Zimbardo exaggerated the power of the situation to influence behaviour and minimise the role of dispositional (personality) factors
          • 1/3 of the guards were brutal, 1/3 wanted to apply the rules fairly and 1/3 tried to protect the prisoners from abuse
            • this indicates dispositional factors affect the way we approach situational factors
      • real life application
        • this study can be used to explain situations like Abu Ghraib and can be used to prevent these situations form developing by putting measures in place, such as independent supervision an d training staff
        • this study has altered the way US prisons are run- juveniles accused of federal crimes are no longer housed before trial with adult prisoners, sue to the risk of violence
      • formal recognition of ethical guidelines
        • the harmful treatment of participants lead to studies now needing ethical approval before they are conducted
          • an ethics committee reviews whether the potential benefits of the research are justifiable considering possible physical and psychological harm
      • good internal validity
        • good control over extraneous variables
        • control over individual characteristics by testing participants for mental stability
        • random allocation of prisoner and guard
      • related
        • Reicher & Haslam BBC prison study: findings differed- prisoners took control of prison and harassed guards. Could be explained by Social Identity Theory or cultural differences
        • confidentiality: participants were filmed but only those who consented are seen on publicly available footage
        • cost-benefit analysis: Zimbardo argued that the understanding gained about human behaviour and the how we can change society out-balance the distress caused by the study


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