Reicher and Haslam

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  • to conduct prison experiment wihtout ethical issues (Stanford Prison Experiment) 
  • look at conditions that lead individuals to identift with a group and accept/challenge group inequalities
  • examine the role of social, organisational and clincal factors in group behaviour


  • lab experiment over 10 days 
  • BBC created prison environment, all videod
  • ethics: 2 clinical psychologists, 5 ethics committee, paramedic on scene, independent security guards


  • 15 men (prisoners and guards) 
  • advertised in national press - 332 -> 25 after 3 screening phases
  • psychometric testing, full weekend assessment, character/medical references and police checks
  • only well adjusted/pro-social people included
  • diversity of age, class, ethnic background
  • personality matched to groups of 3 - one randomly allocated guard


  • Repeated measures
  • Time series approach


  • Initiation for guards: shown timetable, 'ensure insitution ran smoothly', asked to draw up rules/punishments lists, given uniforms, 
  • Initiation for prisoners: arrived on at a time, heads shaven, given uniform, only given list of rules, rights and told there was possibility of promotion
  • Day 3 - Permiability: At beginning all told guard selection was due to reliability/trustworthiness, told movement between groups was possible but on Day 3 told CHANGE WAS NOT POSSIBLE
  • Day 6 - Legimitacy of group situations: 3 days after ONE PROMOTION took place told there were actually no differences but it would be impractical to change groups (Random allocation) 
  • Day 7 - Possibility of change: New prisoner (trade union official) - expected that he would introduce plan of action, organise to have more equality


  • Observation - visually/audibly recorded throughout
  • Daily psychometric testing - questionnaire - adressed social, organisational and clinical factors e.g. identifcation with group
  • Daily saliva swabs - cortisol levels - stess - to look at their wellbeing


  • prisoners behaved as expected - working hard at first (possibility of promotion)
  • after promotion eliminated prisoners began to…


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