The Implications of the Stanford Prison Experiment
In 1971 Dr Philip Zimbardo conducted an experiment in the basement of
Stanford University. This involved imprisoning nine volunteers in a
mock up of Stanford prison, which was policed by nine guards (more
volunteers). These guards had complete control over the prisoners.
They could do anything to the prisoners, but use physical violence.
The subjects were all students applying for summer jobs to get some
money. To make it a fair test, the subjects were made to take
psychological tests to make sure they were mentally fit.
On the first day, the prisoner subjects were picked up by a panda car
and arrested on a mass crackdown on violations of penal codes. They
were arrested like normal suspects are arrested, given their legal
rights and searched. They were then taken away in the panda car as
many of their neighbours thought that they had actually done something
wrong. Then he was given his rights at the station and was
fingerprinted. He was then taken to a holding cell to think about what
he had done
On the second day the guards' behaviour began to degenerate so by the
sixth day the experiment was cancelled. Two prisoners were removed
from the experiment in this time.
The experiment obviously had a serious flaw; this is thought to be Dr
Zimbardo's involvement (he acted as the superintendent). This was
clear when a prisoner 8612 began to show signs of mental harm Zimdardo
believed the prisoner was faking this to try to be released. If
Zimbardo had not been involved he would have released him sooner.
Another minor problem with the experiment is the definitions of a
A great deal about mankind was learnt from the Stanford prison
experiment, the most shocking was how quickly the subjects' behaviour
deteriorated from "good," peace loving people, to violence and lack of
respect for human life. It showed that when given power, many will
abuse it. This is very useful as we can apply these lessons to a real
life situation, which could save thousands of people in a real prison.
A conclusion of the experiment is that if you put good people in an
evil and unfair place they will become evil. It also makes us
conscious of what people are capable of whatever you think of them.
The guards acted the worst in the middle of the night it is suggested
that this is because the believed they were not being watched.
It has been asked if what was learnt was worth the "sacrifice" of the
people involved? I simply think it was worth the sacrifice. The people
involved may have suffered mental anguish due to this experiment but
they will die, and other people can take their place: but the
knowledge gained will not be forgotten so easily. Also I think it is
wrong to simply blame the...