Zimbardo 1971 - Prison effect

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Name: Philip Zimbardo

Year: 1971

Topic: conformity 

Case Study Aim: Zimbardo set up a mock prison in the basement of Stanford University in America. He wished to investigate if the brutality found in many American prisons at the time was a consequence of the personality of the guards or identification with the social roles in which they are placed.

Sample:  24 male volunteer students. Selected from the variety psychological tests they had to complete to determine who were the most stable, with no violent or anti-social tendencies. 


  • Each student was randomly allocated to the role of prisoner or guard
  • Prisoners were arrested at their homes early on Sunday morning, taken to prison, searched, de-loused and dressed in stock


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