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Friday, January 4, 2013

Essay on the Zimbardo Stanford Corrections Experiment

 Essay on the Zimbardo Stanford Corrections Experiment

Write a 600-word essay that discusses the Zimbardo Stanford Corrections Experiment. Explain why 
this type of dangerous experiment is no longer allowed.

The Zimbardo Experiment was a study conducted by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo. It was conducted by a team of researchers led by professor Zimbardo at Standford University on August of 1971. The main goal of the study was to examine the effects of becoming a prisoner and a prison guard. The research team were set out to test the hypothesis that the inherent traits of both the prison guards and inmates are the main cause behind the abusive behavior and treatment in prison (Baynard, et al 60). 

The study involved recruiting 75 respondents who were informed that they would participate in a simulated prison for two weeks. Out of the 75 participants, Zimbardo selected 24 males who are deemed to be the healthiest and psychologically fit. Most of the respondents were also white males coming from middle-class families. The selected respondents were also asked to take on randomly assigned roles of guards and inmates in a simulated prison located at the basement of Stanford psychology building. The group was equally divided to play the roles as 12 participants were given the role of a prisoner while the remaining 12 were assigned to be the prison guards. Zimbardo on the other hand, tool the role of a superintendent while one of the research assistant played the role of a warden (Baynard, et al 60). 

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In order to fully play the role, the researchers held an orientation session for the guards before the experiment. Part of the instructions were not to physically harm the prisoners, however, they can create a feeling of boredom and some degree of fear among the inmates. Similarly, Zimbardo instructed the guards to create a notion that the prisoner’s lives are under their total control and that they are powerless. They were also given a wooden baton as part of their new identity. The prisoners on the other hand, were arrested and were given full arrest procedures such as mug shots and finger printing among many others. In addition, the prisoners wore uncomfortable smocks and were called by the numbers sewn in their uniforms (Baynard, et al 60).

The result of the experiment showed how the prison guards fully performed the role given to them. In fact, most of the guards verbally abused the prisoners and used psychological tactics in order to control them. This includes forcing the inmates to memorize their numbers to forge their new identity and event protracted exercise for mistakes. The condition began to exacerbate as some of the prison guards refused to let the inmates to use the toilet and instead use the bucket placed in the cell to urinate and defecate and as a punishment, prisoners were not allowed to empty the bucket. Some of the guards also showed genuine sadistic tendencies by letting the prisoners sleep on the concrete floor. Even Zimbardo admitted how he himself was completely absorbed with the experiment. Meanwhile, the prisoners experienced fear while some even acted crazy and was released from the experiment (Baynard, et al 60).

The experiment lasted for only six days after a graduate student raised concerns regarding the morality of the test. However, Zimbardo concluded that this experiment only showed how people obediently respond to ideology. Today however, this extreme type of experiment is not conducted primarily because of its strong psychological impact on its respondents. In particular, respondents such as those who played the role of guards and prisoners suffered from fear and even developed negative behaviors. This only means that experiment such as this is morally and ethically incorrect as it puts the well-being of the respondents in danger, despite the fact that it is conducted to obtain knowledge (Baynard, et al 60).

Cited Works

Baynard, Philip & Cara Flanagan. Ethical Issues and Guidelines in Psychology. New York:
Routledge, 2005

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