Topic 5: The Stanford Prison Experiment 44 Years Later: What Have We Learned?
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[Image of Guard from experiment]. Retrieved from https://psychohawks.wordpress.com/tag/stanford-prison-experiment/

Ms. R,
First of all we would like to thank you for choosing our group to do your research! We hope the material found by our group will assist you in writing your article about what we have learned from the Stanford Prison Experiment. Our research is presented in a very orderly manner starting off with a brief background of the experiment followed by definitions, to an in depth look into the events of and psychology behind the experiment. We finally rap it all up concluding with the main takeaways. Thanks again and best of luck on your article!
-Andrew, Lara, Luis & Matthew

Introduction/Background:

The Stanford Prison Experiment was an experiment conducted by a psychology professor named Philip Zimbardo who was interested in the overall psychology behind being in a prison environment. This study took place in the basement of the psychology building at Stanford University that was converted into a mock prison. For this experiment twenty-four male students were selected and assigned roles of either guard or prisoner. From August fourteenth to twentieth of the year 1971 these student lived their roles in an isolated prison environment. The researchers had the goal of being able to understand the effects of labels and social expectations on human psychology in this environment. Basically, seeing if “normal” people can conform to their given roles as prisoners and guards. This experiment was done to see the causes of conflict and brutality in prison guards in light of the exposure of the torture and abuse which took place in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib; both American prisons. This lead to psychologists and citizens wanting to understand if this torture had to do with the prison environment or the person themselves. Thus it was funded by the US Military forces. This experiment has lead to some very startling and interesting results in regards to human psychology.

Definitions:

1. Self-fulfilling Prophecy:- Causing something to happen simply by believing it to be true.
2. Dehumanization:- The treatment of someone as though they were less then a human being.
3. New Jack:- A new, inexperienced prison guard.
4. Banality of Evil:- An unequal measure between the greatness of the evil committed and the banality of the persons responsible.
5. Banality of Heroism:- The potential of doing heroic deeds despite in spite the insignificance of the person.

Scientific Method:

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The purpose of this experiment was to study how individuals would act if they were suddenly placed in a prison like environment. This experiment was used to investigate the influence of situational variables on human behaviour. This prison simulation was to be conducted as close to a real life scenario as possible, meaning the participants that were selected to be the prisoners would be arrested at their own homes and then subsequently taken to a local police station. Guards on the other hand were issued uniforms, handcuffs and whistles. This experiment was expected to last approximately two weeks and there was one rule, any form of physical violence would not be permitted. The Prisoners went through standard procedure by being fingerprinted and photographed before being blindfolded and taken to Stanford University where a basement in a school building was designated as the prison. In this mock prison, prisoners were to remain confined inside the basement walls for 24 hours a day while the guards worked in three man teams for eight-hour shifts. After each shift, guards were allowed to go home until their next shift. This experiment has created a dynamic similar to a real world prison where prisoners have completely lost their freedom as they have been forced to forfeit certain rights and live their lives according to the rules of other individuals which is not much different from the real world itself. The underlying question asked through this experiment is whether an institution can come to control an individual’s behaviour or does a person’s attitude and morality allow them to rise above an adverse situation. The social value of this study is in demonstrating what a prison environment could do to healthy young men in less than a week.
[Image of Phillip Zimbardo with Prisoners]. Retrieved from https://lib.stanford.edu/special-collections-and-university-archives/700-images-added-stanford-digital-repository
Please direct your attention to the first seven minutes of the video below where it explains the experiment in more detail.



[Video on the Procedure of The Experiment]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=760lwYmpXbc


Ethical Behaviour in human psychological research:

After the Stanford prison experiment was conducted, with the conclusion being what it was where the experiment had to be prematurely terminated than expected because of the ‘prisoners’ succumbing into a state of misery while the guards were behaving in a way that degraded their fellow colleagues, questions of unethical behaviour began to arise. The prisoners suffered physical and psychological abuse while volunteer guards had abused their power to make other individuals suffer (Zimbardo, 1973). Ethics represent individual and communal codes of conduct based on a set of principles which may be immaterial and objective or concrete and personal (Zimbardo, 1973). Whether it be intervening in the life of an individual, group or the environment it can all be considered a matter of ethics. The model of ethics typically follows what is known as a loss-gain equation. By examining the Stanford prison experiment it is evident there were some gains achieved as well as losses suffered. In regards to the gains there was a developing consciousness regarding prison conditions and the need for prison alterations and a substantial amount of publicity in the mass media (Zimbardo, 1973). Even with these positive gains there was a considerable amount of losses as well. The most noticeable loss being the students that suffered physical and psychological abuse as well as lingering memories that may have an impact on their daily lives even after the conclusion of the experiment (Zimbardo, 1973). Another major loss was the fact that this experiment could not come close to depicting the harsh reality of a prisoner in a real life prison. Although, it was a praiseworthy attempt to create that type of environment there were simply too many flaws. For example, the experiment used such a small sample size of people who were also predominately young white men, roughly about the same age. Minorities tend to make up the majority of the population in the prison systems that it is very implausible to really depict the kind of lifestyle they have in prison with a vast amount of unpredictable factors involved such as racism, age differences and many different types of personalities as they are in prison under different circumstances whether it be through committing a violent crime, a drug related crime or a minor crime. This is precisely why it is difficult to create the ‘perfect’ prison as what may be beneficial to one inmate can be detrimental to the other.
Zimbardo, P. G. (1973). On the ethics of intervention in human psychological research: With special reference to the Stanford prison experiment. Cognition, 2(2), 243-256.



Bennet, B. [Video On Experiment]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcEPFMEtLIo


Good Vs. Evil:

Does humanity win over evil?

Humanity does win over evil when there is some humanity. We often hear of the heroic deeds people do for complete strangers and charities that we have to save lives and help people who are in need. When you start to take someone’s humanity away, it is easy to convince yourself or let others do evil; they become something else in your mind. In the case of the Stanford Prison Experiment, all applicants were completely equal in the eyes of the experimenters and the participants and they were throughout the experiment but for some reason we see that the guards were able to commit horrible atrocities; they intimidated, manipulated, harassed and abused the inmates to the point of mental breakdowns, rebellion and early termination of the experiment. They were able to become these sadists through dehumanization of the inmates and belief that the prisoners somehow deserved this treatment. “Dehumanization is one of the central processes in the transformation of ordinary, normal people into indifferent or even wanton perpetrators of evil,” Philip Zimbardo, the lead researcher of the experiment stated. All of the guards were given absolute authority and power over the inmates with the only condition being that they were to maintain order and command their respect.
The guards begin the experiment with the average prison guard uniform and procedures that right away alienate the inmates. The procedures are degrading and emasculating, stripping them down and using lice powder, constant reminders of severity of their crimes and creating fear, wearing a dress, being referred to as a number and when the prisoners would look to their captors, they would see emotionless faces masked by their sunglasses. Once the guards began to dehumanize the inmates they became more involved by creating their own sadistic spin on the prison like having them defecate in their own cells, keeping people in a dark room for more than the maximum time limit of one hour, and worse. College graduate students were able to become these monsters to their own fellow classmates.

What happens to good people in evil places?

During the Stanford prison experiment, there were many participants from patients to experimenters to bystanders, who saw what was happening inside the prison but chose not to speak out. All of them good people but in an evil setting they abandoned their morals and chose to accept what was happening within the prison. The concept of “banality of evil” can be seen in this situation; Arendt's thesis on the banality of evil as stated by Edward S. Herman was that “people who carry out unspeakable crimes, like Eichmann, a top administrator in the machinery of the Nazi death camps, may not be crazy fanatics at all, but rather ordinary individuals who simply accept the premises of their state and participate in any ongoing enterprise with the energy of good bureaucrats.” Even though the guards may have been good people, through their innate will to fulfill their duty they became these monsters. The guards, the perpetrators of the evil, were asked why they started to commit these atrocities and stated that they were playing a role as the guard and it is something that they needed to do to get the job done.
Not all people are like this though; as stated by Philip Zimbardo, we also have a banality of heroism. In the prison experiment we see many people ignore the obvious signs of abuse, even the prisoner’s parents; but one person, Christina Maslach, saw what was happening at this experiment and demanded it be shut down; She was able to see what was happening even though so many were not. Zimbardo states that this banality of heroism is rare and these acts of courage and bravery should be praised more often.

Zimbardo, Philip G. "The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo." The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo. N.p., 3 Apr. 2007. Web. 6 Apr. 2015.
– A detailed overview of the book, the Lucifer Effect, by the lead researcher, Philip Zimbardo, in the prison experiment relating in to situations in terrorist prisons in Iraq and the middle east. This is an important resource because it talks a lot about dehumanization and his views on it. It also gives a look at the concepts of Banality of evil and heroism.

Herman, Edward S. "The Banality of Evil." The Banality of Evil. Information Clearing House, 13 Nov. 2004. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.
- An in depth look at the concept of Banality of evil that was referenced in Zimbardo’s The Lucifer Effect.

Haslam, Alex, and Steve Reicher. "The Stanford Prison Study." The BBC Prison Study. BBC, 4 Oct. 2008. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.
– Another look and summarization of the prison experiment.

Zimbardo, Philip. "Stanford Prison Experiment." A Simulation Study of the Psychology of Imprisonment. N.p., 11 May 2000. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
– This website is a first person account from the lead researcher, Philip Zimbardo and his perspective on the events that happened with the experiment.

Cherry, Kendra. "The Stanford Prison Experiment." About.com/education. About.com, 1 Nov. 2009. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.
– An explanation of events that occurred at the prison and detailed summarization of the horrors that went on there.

Ratnesar, Romesh. "The Menace Within." Stanford Magazine. Stanford University, July-Aug. 2011. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.
– Summarized the experiment and gave a different perspective in the experiment and we used two pictures from this website.

Psychology of the Oppressor and the Oppressed:

“Newjack” is the term used for a new, inexperienced prison guard. The term started as slang solely belonging in prisons, but eventually it expanded to other parts of the world, and now the term refers to a variety of things.
A Newjack is often a target in prisons, someone prison guards and prisoners like to prey on because they are naïve to the life behind bars. The only way to lose one’s label as a Newjack is to harden them self against abuse and judgement, to “lose their scruples and adopt group norms, even if it violates their previously held attitudes about how prisoners should be treated.” (Elaine Cassel)
Ted Conover wrote a book entitled Newjack, all about his year-long undercover role as a prison guard in New York’s Sing Sing prison. The book reveals the horrors of prison for all parties, and Conover touches on how his role as a prison guard carried over into his personal life and changed him bit by bit.
Considering all this, perhaps it isn’t so hard to believe how quickly the participants of the Stanford Prison Experiment succumbed to their roles.

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The adage ‘safety in numbers’ has interesting implications when combined with the topic of prison. Stephen Reicher and S. Alexander Haslam conducted an experiment on stress and stressors in which the prisoners of a prison united and formed social bonds in order to cope with the harassment and all around life that cycles in a prison environment. Their determination to stick together made it much harder for the prison guards to control them, and gave them an upper hand in the long run. The prison guards, on the other hand, did not form a sense of shared identity, and thus their stress and reactions to the emotional and mental abuse from the prisoners only escalated, making controlling the prisoners doubly hard. On the flip side, in Zimbardo’s experiment, the prison guards worked together to devise menial and humiliating tasks for the prisoners to perform whilst the prisoners began to turn on each other, refusing to help each other out in times of need (for example when one prisoner was thrown in an isolation closet for doing something wrong, the rest of the prisoners were given a choice of either giving up their mattresses or of keeping their mattresses and awarding the wrong-doer an extra day in isolation. Surprisingly, most prisoners opted to keep their bedding.)
Another factor that is indicative as to why the participants in the Stanford prison Experiment so readily succumbed to their roles is their surroundings. For example, the prisoners were made to wear unusual uniforms with no undergarments, which forced them to sit in uncomfortable and feminine ways. The guards used the prisoners’ awkward shifts as fodder for humiliation and emasculation. Making the prisoners feel like less than they really were was what made them so obedient, and was the deciding factor in why, even though at all times there were three times as many prisoners as guards, there was never a revolt/rebellion. The guards were later described by the prisoners as ‘huge’ even though the heights of the guards were just as average and different as those of the prisoners.
The guards wore smart, pressed uniforms with shining badges, which greatly impressed upon them their authority. The aggression began when it became apparent that their humiliation tactics used on the prisoners were more effective than they’d originally intended. As the prisoners became meeker and began to suit their roles of the oppressed, the dominance and belligerence of the guards augmented.

Carnahan, T., & McFarland, S. (2007). Revising the Stanford Prison Experiment: Could Participant Self-Selection Have Led to Cruelty. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(5), 603-614. Retrieved April 10, 2015, from http://psp.sagepub.com/content/33/5/603.full.pdf html
-Carnahan and McFarland ponder a potential differing outcome of the Stanford Prison Experiment had the prisoner and guards been self-selected. Curious insight and ideas chock-a-block with data.

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Zimbardo - Stanford Prison Experiment. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/zimbardo.html
-A brief overall summary of the experiment. Is an excellent reference to check back on and make sure you have your facts straight.

Haney, C., Banks, W. C., & Zimbardo, P. G. (1973) A study of prisoners and guards in a simulated prison. Naval Research Review, 30, 4-17.
-An in-depth exploration into the experiment, focusing on key psychological factors such as the manipulation of one’s mind due to environment and surroundings or the varying possible explanations for why the pathology that erupted in the experiment occurred as it did.

Cassel, E. (n.d.). Psychology Resource Center for Students. Retrieved April 7, 2015, from http://college.cengage.com/psychology/resources/students/shelves/shelves_20021218.html
-An intelligent review on the book Newjack by Ted Conover. Very quotable source.

Richard N. Downey, E. I. Signori, The Selection of Prison Guards, 49 J. Crim. L. Criminology & Police Sci. 234 (1958-1959)
-Potential theories on why the prison guards in Zimbardo’s experiment reacted the way they did. At one point Downey and Signori state that guards with a higher intelligence and more maturity were more well-liked by prisoners. Indicative of differing variables affecting this study.

Haslam, S., & Reicher, S. (n.d.). Stressing the group: Social identity and the unfolding dynamics of responses to stress. “Journal of Applied Psychology”, 91 (5), 1037-1052. Retrieved April 15, 2015, from http://bbcprisonstudy.org/pdfs/ JAP (2006) Stress.pdf
-A Highly insightful documentation of the effects stress has on aggression and aggravation, explaining the psychology behind why the prison guards reacted to their prisoners the way they did in the experiment. Answers many questions such as “what could possibly have driven average, ordinary people to take on their roles to a psychological level and react so seriously?”

Conover, T. (2000). “Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing”. New York, New York: Random House.
-A book about a man who takes on the job of a prison guard in New York’s Sing Sing prison for a year to learn exactly what went on behind bars. A deep exploration of real prison life (and how it could possibly relate to the one simulated in the experiment). Conover also covers how being in his position of power affected his beliefs, his home life, his mannerisms, etc.

Zimbardo, P. G., Musen, K., Stanford Instructional Television Network., & Insight Media (Firm). (1991). Quiet rage: The Stanford prison study. New York, NY: Distributed by Insight Video.
-Step one to researching the Zimbardo experiment is watching his documentary on his own work. This movie is one of the main sources of documentation on the experiment. Would highly recommend watching this first before starting any research oneself.

[Image of Guards from experiment humiliating prisoners]. Retrieved from https://psychohawks.wordpress.com/tag/stanford-prison-experiment/

The Lasting Effects:

"While we should never give up our principles, we must also realize that we cannot maintain our principles unless we survive." -Henry A. Kissinger

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The Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted to understand whether a prison guard being abusive to the prisoners was based on their human nature or being in such an harsh environment. From this experiment it is evident that environment plays a major role in human nature and one's individual behaviour. A human can be morally sound and virtuous, but when put in a situation of power it can compel them into do things that are against their morals and abuse their power; whenever there is an idea of power it's in human nature to take advantage of it. The prison guards were normal "Average Joes" but when put in this environment they began to fill their roles with brutality and force. This study confirmed the idea that an environment shapes the individual.

This idea can lead to a very scary notion that if we were put in these conditions as a guard we would most likely act exactly how the prison guards did. Thus one can conclude the notion that although humans are inherently good, it is very easy for us to be led down an "evil" path. (Roller, 2008) Thus when presented with an environment where power is involved we can be manipulated into wrong doing which can leave us scratching our heads and feeling regret after the fact. Many of the guards from the actual experiment after the experiment themselves felt regret for what they did as one in fact stated, "I thought I was not capable of this behaviour." with another saying, "Afterward, I felt regret. A part of me came out that I had not recognized." (Roller, 2008) This experiment has shown us the dreadful truth to humanity that although we are prone to good it is so easy for us to be manipulated into doing malicious acts without even knowing the difference.

[Image of Philip Zimbardo]. Retrieved from http://shop.skeptic.com/merchant.mvc?&Screen=PROD&Store_Code=SS&Product_Code=av175
Jansson-Boyd, C. (2007). Review of the experiment. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 6(2), 163-164. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/docview/622142862?accountid=15182
[Quote on human nature]. Retrieved from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/survive.html
Roller, B. (2008). A Quiet Rage, The Stanford Prison Experiment. International Journal of Psychotherapy. 58(3), 431-434. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/docview/194771933?accountid=15182

Conclusion:

The Stanford prison experiment continues to be a topic of much debate to this day. There are many lessons to be learned stemming from the conclusion of this experiment. This experiment demonstrated the harmful impact a prison like environment could have on a young healthy middle-class man. This in turn may have helped to demonstrate to those same men that make the laws and enforce them that they may have been ignorant when it comes to the current prison system that is in effect today. The roles of both the prisoners and the guards in this experiment could have been used as a tactic to help create public awareness to help people understand the small amount of suffering prisoners have to endure on a daily basis. This experiment taught us that the environment we are encompassed by can have a great effect on our individual behaviour, capable of overwhelming our morals and values. A person’s individuality can quickly be changed as it begins to be defined by the environment. This displays that the longer individuals are attached to a label, slowly but assuredly they begin to define themselves by that label; this is known as the self-fulfilling prophecy. Another key point demonstrated by this experiment is the abuse of power. Whenever there is a power difference, individuals tend to take advantage of the situation and try to grab all the power for themselves succumbing to those preconceived inner desires that is said to be in everyone which is usually released under the right circumstances. The problem with these types of experiments is that it is impossible to truly define human behaviour as individuals are far too unpredictable and are capable of doing anything, thus behaviour can never truly be measured efficiently.

References:

Bennet, B. [Video On Experiment]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcEPFMEtLIo

Carnahan, T., & McFarland, S. (2007). Revising the Stanford Prison Experiment: Could Participant Self-Selection Have Led to Cruelty. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(5), 603-614. Retrieved April 10, 2015, from http://psp.sagepub.com/content/33/5/603.full.pdf html

Cassel, E. (n.d.). Psychology Resource Center for Students. Retrieved April 7, 2015, from http://college.cengage.com/psychology/resources/students/shelves/shelves_20021218.html

Cherry, Kendra. "The Stanford Prison Experiment." About.com/education. About.com, 1 Nov. 2009. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

Conover, T. (2000). “Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing”. New York, New York: Random House.

Haney, C., Banks, W. C., & Zimbardo, P. G. (1973) A study of prisoners and guards in a simulated prison. Naval Research Review, 30, 4-17.

Haslam, Alex, and Steve Reicher. "The Stanford Prison Study." The BBC Prison Study. BBC, 4 Oct. 2008. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

Haslam, S., & Reicher, S. (n.d.). Stressing the group: Social identity and the unfolding dynamics of responses to stress. “Journal of Applied Psychology”, 91 (5), 1037-1052. Retrieved April 15, 2015, from http://bbcprisonstudy.org/pdfs/ JAP (2006) Stress.pdf

Herman, Edward S. "The Banality of Evil." The Banality of Evil. Information Clearing House, 13 Nov. 2004. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.

[Image of Guard from experiment]. Retrieved from https://psychohawks.wordpress.com/tag/stanford-prison-experiment/

[Image of Guards from experiment humiliating prisoners]. Retrieved from https://psychohawks.wordpress.com/tag/stanford-prison-experiment/

[Image of Phillip Zimbardo with Prisoners]. Retrieved from https://lib.stanford.edu/special-collections-and-university-archives/700-images-added-stanford-digital-repository

[Image of Philip Zimbardo]. Retrieved from http://shop.skeptic.com/merchant.mvc?&Screen=PROD&Store_Code=SS&Product_Code=av175

Jansson-Boyd, C. (2007). Review of the experiment. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 6(2), 163-164. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/docview/622142862?accountid=15182

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Zimbardo - Stanford Prison Experiment. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/zimbardo.html

[Quote on human nature]. Retrieved from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/survive.html

Ratnesar, Romesh. "The Menace Within." Stanford Magazine. Stanford University, July-Aug. 2011. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

Richard N. Downey, E. I. Signori, The Selection of Prison Guards, 49 J. Crim. L. Criminology & Police Sci. 234 (1958-1959)

Roller, B. (2008). A Quiet Rage, The Stanford Prison Experiment. International Journal of Psychotherapy. 58(3), 431-434. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/docview/194771933?accountid=15182

[Video on the Procedure of The Experiment]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=760lwYmpXbc

Zimbardo, Philip. "Stanford Prison Experiment." A Simulation Study of the Psychology of Imprisonment. N.p., 11 May 2000. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

Zimbardo, Philip G. "The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo." The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo. N.p., 3 Apr. 2007. Web. 6 Apr. 2015.

Zimbardo, P. G. (1973). On the ethics of intervention in human psychological research: With special reference to the Stanford prison experiment. Cognition, 2(2), 243-256.

Zimbardo, P. G., Musen, K., Stanford Instructional Television Network., & Insight Media (Firm). (1991). Quiet rage: The Stanford prison study. New York, NY: Distributed by Insight Video.

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