Social Approach

Reicher and Haslam

To investigate whether people accept the roles they are given. Do those with with power enforce it willingly and those without accept their situation?

Experimental case study funded by the BBC. The mock prison was conducted in Elstree Film Studios and had lockable cells which help 3 prisonners, a central area and a gaurds quarters.

The experiment was assessed by the BPS Ethics Committee.

- Paramedics were on duty at all time.

- Securty guards were present to intervene.

- A 5 person ethics commitee monitered the experiment, they were able to terminate the experiment at anytime.

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Reicher and Haslam

Reicher and Haslam

To investigate whether people accept the roles they are given. Do those with power enforce it willingly and those without accept their situation?

Experimental case study funded by the BBC. The mock prison was conducted in Elstree Film Studios and had lockable cells which help 3 prisonners, a central area and a gaurds quarters.

The experiment was assessed by the BPS Ethics Committee.

- Paramedics were on duty at all time.

- Securty guards were present to intervene.

- A 5 person ethics commitee monitered the experiment, they were able to terminate the experiment at anytime.

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Reicher and Haslam

Participants were recruited by leaflets.and adverts in the national press.

- 332 applicants took psychometric tests to measure social and clinical variables.

- Ppts when had a full weekend assessment by clinical psychologists.

- Medical and character references were obtained and police checks conducted.

- The number of applicants was reduced to 27, 15 men were chosen to show diversity.

- They were matched on personality into 5 groups of 3 and one from each group was randomly selected to be a guard. The other two were prisoners.

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Reicher and Haslam

Guards -

The evening prior to the experiment, 5 ppts were told they had been allocated the role of gaurd.

They were told the prison timetable, informed of their duties and asked to draw up their own set of rules and punishments with NO PHYSICAL VIOLENCE. They were then taken to prison.

On the day of the experiment, the guards were given a tour of the prison and keys to all the doors. They has superior accomidation, uniform (formal trousers, shirt and tie) and food. They could give snacks and cigarettes as rewards to the prisoners and put them on a bread and water diet as punishment.

Prisoners -

Each prisoner arrived alone and had their heads shaven on arrival. They wore a t-shirt with a 3 digit number on the back, loose trousers and sandals. They were told NO VIOLENCE WAS ALLOWD and the prison rules were posted on the walls.

The only information they recieved from the researchers was through a loud speaker that promotion to a guard was available in due course.

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Reicher and Haslam

Results -

Phase 1: Rejecting Ineqality (before the collapseing of the prisoner/guard system)

The guards did not develop a group identity as they did not agree on common norms. Some felt uncomfortable with their power and shared their food with the prisoners. 

For the first 3 days the prisoners failed to identify as they were eager to gain the promotion to guard. Their behaviour was goverend by their individual self-interest. After a prisoner was promoted, the rest developed a group identity and started to challengfe the gaurds leading to a shift in power.

After day 3, prisoners self efficiancy increased and their levels of depression decreased. The trade union official made the prisoners aware of their cognitive alternatives causing them to plan a overthrow of regime by braking out of their cells on day 6, collapsing the prisoner/guard system thus creating a commune

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Reicher and Haslam

Phase 2: Embracing inequality

All ppts decided to continue as a self-governing commune. All preformed their work and chores to a mch higher standard. However, ppts who had been centerally involved in challenging the old regime felt marginalised and began to violate the communal rules.

By day 8 the opponents of the 'communal' regime were plotting to destroy the commune. At this point the researchers decided the stdy had come to a gridlock as the existing system was not working and the new system would be unethical. The experiment had come to a natural end and was terminated at lunch time on day 8.

Conclusions - 

  • Pro- or anti- social behabiour is dependent on the norms and values of ther group's social identity.
  • Failing groups create problems - the guards did not have a shared identity and therefore over thrown by the prisoners.
  • The breakdown of groups create the conditons for tyranny.
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Reicher and Haslam

Change - 

Sample: From a androcentric sample to both male and female. There could be two mock prisons which are run identically and all would have to go through the screening progess. Total of 40 ppts.

Research method: From a experimental case study to a overt observation. CCTV would be placed in a real prison (corridors, recreational areas, cells from volenteers and guard quarters) with permisson. Consent will be needed.

Implications -

Sample: The insight gained into be behaviour can be applied to both men and women increasing the overall validity. However the increase in ppts make it difficult to control.

Research method: Increased application to the target population as in the orginal study the roles were randomally allocated and ppts may not have conformed whereas the prisoners and guards have the actual characteristics ie. guards are authoritive and successfl in their jobs/prisoners have commited a crime. However it is difficult to observe a prison as some ppts may not give consent or permission may not be granted. 

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