Zimbardo's prison study

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  • Zimbardo's Conformity study
    • Aim
      • Do prison guards behave brutally because they have sadistic personalities or is it because of the situation such behaviours are created?
    • Procedure
      • A mock prison was set up in Stanford University
      • Participants were recruited via advertisement for student volunteers and they were each randomly assigned the role of prisoner or guard
      • All participants were deemed emotionally stable before taking part
      • Volunteers were 'arrested' from their homes, blindfolded, ***** searched and given a uniform and a number. They were only referred to by this number and guards were given complete power over them.
      • The study was ended after 6 days instead of the intended 14
    • Results
      • After 2 days, prisoners began to rebel
      • Participants displayed characteristics of depression and anxiety
      • one participant had to leave early due to psychological disturbance
    • Conclusions
      • The power of situation influences peoples behaviour
      • Participants began acting as though they were in an actual prison
    • Evaluation
      • Good control over variables - increases external validity
      • Psychologists Banuazizi and Movahedi argue participants were play acting
        • Zimbardo stated the situation was very real for the participants (90% of conversation was prison talk)
      • Zimbardo could have exagerated the power of situation - only 1/2 of guards behaved brutally
      • A BBC prison study found different findings to Zimbardo
      • Ethical issues - majority of participants experienced physical and psychological harm


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