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The Ethics Of The Stanford Prison Experiment

941 words - 4 pages

When put into the position of complete authority over others people will show their true colors. I think that most people would like to think that they would be fair, ethical superiors. I know I would, but learning about the Stanford Prison Experiment has made me question what would really happen if I was there. Would I be the submissive prisoner, the sadistic guard, or would I stay true to myself? As Phillip Zimbardo gave the guards their whistles and billy clubs they drastically changed without even realizing it. In order to further understand the Stanford Prison experiment I learned how the experiment was conducted, thought about the ethical quality of this experiment, and why I think it panned out how it did.
To begin the experiment the Stanford Psychology department interviewed middle class, white males that were both physically and mentally healthy to pick 18 participants. It was decided who would play guards and who would be prisoners by the flip of a coin making nine guards and nine prisoners. The guards were taken in first to be told of what they could and could not do to the prisoners. The rules were guards weren’t allowed t o physically harm the prisoners and could only keep prisoners in “the hole” for a hour at a time. Given military like uniforms, whistles, and billy clubs the guards looked almost as if they worked in a real prison. As for the prisoners, real police surprised them at their homes and arrested them outside where others could see as if they were really criminals. They were then blindfolded and taken to the mock prison in the basement of a Stanford Psychology building that had been decorated to look like a prison where guards fingerprinted, deloused, and gave prisoners a number which they would be called by for the rest of the experiment. The first day went by without incident while both groups became used to their roles, before things turned for the worst.
I believe that although valuable information came from it, the ethical quality of this experiment is very questionable. I suspected that the guards would turn more authoritative than any of them would have in real life, but I never thought that they would go as far as ridiculing some prisoners to tears. Although there were none of the prisoners had any long term effects from participating, while in the experiment they would be harassed and punished for no reason, which is where I think the experiment should have been discontinued. Control of the experiment was lost as everybody involved, including Zimbardo became completely engulfed in their roles of the prison. This really makes me question Zimbardo and the other researchers to how they could be too involved in their own experiment to stop the experiment when it began to...

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