The aim of the study was to provide data on unfolding interactions between two groups of unequal power and privilige.
Experimental Case study as the groups were observed over a peroid of time in depth and the researchers manipulated the situation
332 Male volunteer via newspaper ad.
15 chosen for ranges of age, social class, ethnicity.
They had to go through a three phase screening which included:
Psychometric tests- to measure personality, emotions and intelligence
Full weekend assessment- conducted by psychology
Medical, character reference and police checks
They were divided into 5 groups of three matched for personality, out of each group one was randomly selected to be a guard and the other two were prisoners.
Day 1 Permeability- ppcs were told that the guards were selected on specific traits
such as reliability, trustworthiness and initiative, and that these may
have been missed in some prisoners, thus a promotion had become available.
Day 3 Legitimacy- After the one and only promotion took place, PPC's were then informed that in fact there was no difference in qualities between guards & prisoner. This meant that what was previously thought to be based on qualities now seen to be random, the groups had become impermeable (unmovable)
Day 5 Cognitive Alternatives - A new prisoner was introduced because of his experience as a trade union official. It was expected that he would introduce a new alternative plan of action based on negotiation and equal rights. He was also expected to hav e the skills necessary to organise groups that would allows prisoners to turn on the guards to see a way of acheiving more equality.
The guards had been overthrown by day 6, and it had been decided that a self-governing commune was to be created. Some former prisoners and guards attempted to impose much harsher rules on the others which lead to the experiment being cut short as it would have went on to break ethical guidelines.
Reicher and Haslam
-Both argued that the guards failed to identify with their roles, making them reluctant to impose their authority and lead to them being overcome by the prisoners