Zimbardo Et Al (1974) Stanford Prison study

Revision on Zombardo et al's Stanford prison study.

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  • Created by: Sky
  • Created on: 06-12-12 21:44


  • Male psychology students at the prestigious Stanford university in California.
  • Voluneered to be participants in the study.
  • Randomly allocated into two groups - Prisoners and prison guards.
  • Prisoners: To spend 2 weeks locked in cells in a wing of the university.
  • Prison guards: To look after the prisoners and keep them under control.
  • Prisoners arrested at home unexpectantly and taken to the university, stripped, deloused and given prison uniforms and prison numbers.
  • Prisoners to spend 23 hours a day locked in their cells.
  • Prison guards given uniforms with sticks and sunglasses.
  • Prison guards worked shifts and went home after shifts.
1 of 5


  • Called off after 6 days.
  • Guards became brutal.
  • Two prisoners had some form of nervous break down.
  • One prisoner developed a nervous rash.
  • One prisoner went on a hunger strike.
  • Guards gave orders and prisoners became apethetic - Did as they were told, though it caused them distress.
2 of 5


  • Conformed to social roles.
  • Deindividualisation - Immersed in the norms of the group, lose sense of identity.
3 of 5

Strengths and weeknesses

+ Maintained a degree of control and some ecological validity - As close to real life as possible (EG prisoners arrested from home).

+ Zimbardo collected data efficiently.

- Unrepresentative sample - 24 healthy, male college students. Middle class and white.

- Lacks ecological validity - Couldn't be completely realistic.

4 of 5


  • Deception - Being unexpectedly arrested at home.
  • Experiment was abandoned after the 6 days.
  • Approval for the study was given by the Office of Naval research.
  • No suitable alternative methodologies.
  • Extensive group and individual debriefing sessions held.
  • Benefits gained about understanding human behaviour.
5 of 5



Simple but effective evaluation cards for Zimbardo's classic Prison Experiment!

Crystal Blue ♥

Good summary, 5 star :)

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