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The Stanford Prison Experiment A study into the effects of prison life.

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Presentation on theme: "The Stanford Prison Experiment A study into the effects of prison life."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Stanford Prison Experiment A study into the effects of prison life

2 Set-Up Volunteers: Used volunteers to play the roles of guards and prisoners. They had 24 final participants who were randomly assigned ‘guard’ or ‘prisoner’. There was no difference between the two groups. Construction: They had a consultant to create a realistic jail. He had spent roughly 17 years in prison. The prison had a series of cells for three people, a closet for solitary confinement and a corridor. There were no clocks or windows to show the time. They had a video camera to record events and listened via an intercom.

3 The were arrested, read their rights and searched then taken to the police station. At the station they were formally charged, fingerprinted, photographed and left blindfolded in a holding cell. They were striped, deloused, supplied with a uniform. The uniform was a smock with their ID number on it, a chain on their right ankles, and a stocking on their head. The Prisoners

4 The Guards They had complete freedom within reason to do what was necessary to maintain law and order. They worn a uniform of kaki, they wore a whistle, carried a club and wore reflective sunglasses. They were originally unsure of how to assert authority. At first they used “counts” to do so. Rousing prisoners in the middle of the night. There were 3 guards to the 9 prisoners, taking shifts of eight hours each. (the rest remained on call)

5 The prisoners barricaded themselves in their cells. The guards called in re-enforcements, and put the ringleaders in solitary, generally harassing the others. As a longer term solution (they couldn’t keep all nine guards there) they set up a “privilege cell”. The three least involved were allowed in there with clothes food and beds. The solidarity of the prisoners had been broken and the ring leaders thought those in the “good cell” were snitches. The prisoners became mistrustful of each other. The guards tightened their control over the prisoners, down to their use of the toilet. Rebellion

6 The First Release Prisoner #8612 began suffering from acute emotional disturbance. He wanted to leave but Zimbardo reacted like a prison governor. He offered him security if he became a snitch. #8612 began spreading a message among the prisoners that it was real and they couldn’t leave. The line between role play and reality became further blurred. #8612 began to act “crazy” to the extent that Zimbardo released him.

7 Escape Guards heard rumors about a planned escape from the prisoners, released prisoner #8612 was going to come back and liberate them. After several plans they moved the prisoners to another part of the building. Zimbardo waited for the liberators to come. Instead he had a visit from a colleague and he realized that he was no longer acting like a psychologist but rather a governor. The rumor turned out to be a rumor and the liberation never happened. The guards took it out on the prisoners and stepped up their controls and harassment.

8 Conclusions Prisoner Coping Styles: Some tried being good prisoners. Four broke down emotionally. Some tried rebelling against the guards. One developed a rash. The Final Rebellion: Prisoner #416 was newly admitted prisoner and coped by going on hunger strike. The guards put him in solitary confinement for longer than even their rules said. They offered the other prisoners a choice, they could get him free by giving up their blankets. They chose to keep them. he should have been a hero to them for standing up to the guards, but they saw him as the guards did; a trouble maker.

9 Conclusions cont… Types of guard: The tough but fair guards who followed prison rules. The “good guys” who did little favors to the prisoners and never punished them. The hostile and inventive in their humiliation. This included the toughest known as ‘John Wayne’. The Parole Board: When asked prisoners were willing to forgo any money they made in order to leave the ‘jail’. They did so even when they could have left simply by quitting the experiment. It had become such that only the correctional staff had the power to grant paroles.

10 The End of the Experiment The Experiment ended for two main reasons: Guards were escalating their abuse. Christina Maslach, a recent Stanford Ph.D questioned the morality of the study when she visited making it clear that it needed to be ended. After it ended they held a series of discussions with all the member to clear the air and discuss different experiences.

11 The prisoners especially suffered… Prisoners exhibited rebellious behaviour Guards retaliated - harassed, intimidated and used psychological tricks on the prisoners They made them do degrading tasks The humiliation and dehumanisation got so severe, that the experimenters had to frequently remind the guards to refrain from such tactics.

12 Effects on the Prisoners The participants suffered form physical and psychological distress: They started to experience acute emotional disturbance and rage. They exhibited disorganized thinking, uncontrollable crying, withdrawing, and behaving in pathological ways.

13 Cost-Benefit Analysis Study was of value because….. Illustrated affects of majority influence. Illustrated how the prison system operates. Showed that power of behaviour can have an effect on peoples behaviour “No one is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but can be shaped to ‘good’ or ‘evil’.” Study is of value, but this does not justify the level of degradation and physical assault that the ‘prisoners’ experienced. Therefore any replication of the experiment would have to rectify this.

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