"Suppose you had only kids who were normally healthy, psychologically and physically, and they knew they would be going into a prison-like environment and that some of their civil rights would be sacrificed. Would those good people, put in that bad, evil place—would their goodness triumph?" questioned Phillip Zimbardo (1). In 1971, Zimbardo transformed part of the basement of the psychology building at Stanford University to answer that very question. This became known as the Zimbardo Experiment. The Zimbardo Experiment shows the behavioral changes people undergo while faced with the cruel reality of being imprisoned or enforcing rules.
The experiment began after 75 people responded to a newspaper ad looking for “male volunteers to participate in a psychological study of prison life” in exchange for $15 per day. From the list, Zimbardo narrowed it down to 24 people who seemed to be “the most stable, most mature, and least involved in anti-social behaviors.” From his careful selection, he assigned half of his subjects to the role of guards and the other half as prisoners and put them into a simulated prison to observe any behavioral changes. Before the experiment started, a few subjects decided to drop out, leaving ten prisoners and eleven guards for the duration of the study.
To represent a real prison setting, the prisoners were given very little. The cells they were forced to spend 24 hours every day in were small, furnished only with a cot for each prisoner. However, items were not the only things limited to the prisoners. They also had very little privacy, no personal belongings (clothing), and some of their basic rights were taken away. Both guards and prisoners were assigned a uniform while being apart of the study. The wardrobes for the prisoners consisted of a simple smock with their identification numbers, as well as a chain around their ankles. These uniforms were used to dehumanize and humiliate the prisoners.
The men chosen to be guards were only required to be at the prison...