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Stanford Prison Experiment And you thought what happened to Little Albert was bad…

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Presentation on theme: "Stanford Prison Experiment And you thought what happened to Little Albert was bad…"— Presentation transcript:

1 Stanford Prison Experiment And you thought what happened to Little Albert was bad…

2 Procedure On a quiet Sunday morning in August, a Palo Alto, California, police car swept through the town picking up college students as part of a mass arrest for violation of Penal Codes 211, Armed Robbery, and Burglary, a 459 PC. The suspect was picked up at his home, charged, warned of his legal rights, spread-eagled against the police car, searched, and handcuffed -- often as surprised and curious neighbors looked on.

3 continued The suspect was then put in the rear of the police car and carried off to the police station, the sirens wailing. The car arrived at the station, the suspect was brought inside, formally booked, again warned of his Miranda rights, finger printed, and a complete identification was made. The suspect was then taken to a holding cell where he was left blindfolded to ponder his fate and wonder what he had done to get himself into this mess.

4 Volunteers What suspects had done was to answer a local newspaper ad calling for volunteers in a study of the psychological effects of prison life. They wanted to see what the psychological effects were of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. To do this, we decided to set up a simulated prison and then carefully note the effects of this institution on the behavior of all those within its walls.


6 continued More than 70 applicants answered the ad and were given diagnostic interviews and personality tests to eliminate candidates with psychological problems, medical disabilities, or a history of crime or drug abuse. Ultimately, there was a sample of 24 college students from the U.S. and Canada who happened to be in the Stanford area and wanted to earn $15/day by participating in a study. On all dimensions that they were able to test or observe, they reacted normally.

7 Assignments The study of prison life began, then, with an average group of healthy, intelligent, middle-class males. These boys were arbitrarily divided into two groups by a flip of the coin. Half were randomly assigned to be guards, the other to be prisoners. It is important to remember that at the beginning of the experiment there were no differences between boys assigned to be a prisoner and boys assigned to be a guard.

8 Research The Stanford Psych department used the help of ex- prisoners as well as experts in the field of the Psychology of Imprisonment.

9 Set Up The prison was constructed by boarding up each end of a corridor in the basement of Stanford's Psychology Department building. That corridor was "The Yard" and was the only outside place where prisoners were allowed to walk, eat, or exercise, except to go to the toilet down the hallway (which prisoners did blindfolded so as not to know the way out of the prison). To create prison cells, they took the doors off some laboratory rooms and replaced them with specially made doors with steel bars and cell numbers.

10 continued Solitary Confinement Intercom system to monitor conversations Hidden surveillance cameras No windows or clocks

11 Arrival Blindfolded and in a state of mild shock over their surprise arrest by the city police, the prisoners were put into a car and driven to the "Stanford County Jail" for further processing. The prisoners were then brought into our jail one at a time and greeted by the warden, who conveyed the seriousness of their offense and their new status as prisoners.

12 Humiliation Each prisoner was systematically searched and stripped naked. He was then deloused with a spray, to convey our belief that he may have germs or lice.

13 Clothing Prison uniform-smock Prison number Rubber shoes Heavy chain on right ankle Stocking cap to simulate head shaving

14 Enforcing the law The guards were given no specific training on how to be guards. Instead they were free, within limits, to do whatever they thought was necessary to maintain law and order in the prison and to command the respect of the prisoners. The guards made up their own set of rules. They were warned, however, of the potential seriousness of their mission and of the possible dangers in the situation they were about to enter, as, of course, are real guards who voluntarily take such a dangerous job.

15 The Guards Khaki uniforms Whistles Billy clubs Mirror sunglasses worn at all times

16 Asserting Authority Prisoners were woken up by alarming whistles and then counted. This happened several times a day. This was a way for the guards to assert their authority and lessen the independence of the prisoners.

17 Punishment Push ups were used as a form of punishment

18 Rebellion The first day went without much disruption. On the second day, the prisoners removed their stocking caps, ripped off their numbers, and barricaded themselves inside the cells by putting their beds against the door. And now the problem was, what were we going to do about this rebellion?

19 Reaction The guards were very much angered and frustrated because the prisoners also began to taunt and curse them. When the morning shift of guards came on, they became upset at the night shift who, they felt, must have been too lenient. The guards had to handle the rebellion themselves, and what they did was fascinating for the staff to behold.

20 Fighting the Rebellion Called in 3 on-call guards and many of the other guards stayed after their shift. They got a fire extinguisher which shot a stream of skin-chilling carbon dioxide, and they forced the prisoners away from the doors.

21 continued The guards broke into each cell, stripped the prisoners naked, took the beds out, forced the ringleaders of the prisoner rebellion into solitary confinement, and generally began to harass and intimidate the prisoners.

22 A New Strategy The rebellion was temporarily shut down, but the guards realized they couldn’t have 9 guards working all the time. Decided to use psychological rather than physical tactics. Created a privilege cell

23 Privilege Cell 3 prisoners least involved in rebellion Got their uniforms and beds back and were allowed to wash and brush their teeth. Special food eaten in front of other prisoners who got no food. The effect was to break the solidarity among prisoners.

24 Confusion After a day a half, the guards randomly switched “good’ and “bad” prisoners for the purpose of confusion. Distrust among prisoners ensued (suspicion of informants). Broke prison alliances- promoted aggression among inmates This, in turn, promoted stronger solidarity among prison guards

25 It was no longer just an experiment, no longer a simple simulation. Instead, the guards saw the prisoners as troublemakers who were out to get them, who might really cause them some harm. In response to this threat, the guards began stepping up their control, surveillance, and aggression.

26 Total Control Going to the bathroom became a privilege Buckets outside of cells only emptied when the smell became overwhelming Controlling heavy smoking

27 Effects Less than 36 hours into the experiment some prisoners began suffering severe conflicts such as emotional disturbance, disorganized thinking, uncontrollable crying, and rage.

28 Visiting Day Each prisoner was allowed 2 visitors for a half hour Prisoners and prison cleaned Made it seem like a fun experiment

29 Getting the Parents on their Side Some parents were upset at the fatigue and distress on their son’s faces. “Don’t you think your son can handle this?”

30 A Mass Escape Plot Rumor of an escape Should have observed the escape as part of the experiment, but instead tried to prevent the plan

31 Plan 1 1 st plan was to stick an informant in the jail. They also asked to transfer the “inmates” to an old jail, but the request was denied.

32 Plan 2 Dismantle our jail, call in more guards, chain the prisoners together, put bags over their heads, and transport them to a fifth floor storage room until after the anticipated break in. When the conspirators came, one person would be sitting there alone. They would tell them that the experiment was over and we had sent all of their friends home, that there was nothing left to liberate. After they left, they'd bring the prisoners back and redouble the security of our prison.

33 Independent Variable Gordon Bower (Yale grad, former roommate) asked me a very simple question: "Say, what's the independent variable in this study?" “It wasn't until much later that I realized how far into my prison role I was at that point -- that I was thinking like a prison superintendent rather than a research psychologist. “

34 Just a Rumor The escape never happened Guards were very angry because they spent so much time planning for the escape Harassment gets worse

35 Conclusion A Catholic priest visited, talked with the prisoners, consoled them, offered to find them lawyers, etc… This further blurred the line between real roles v. experiment identities

36 Prisoner #819 Refused to speak with the priest because he was sick Offered him rest and food “Prisoner #819 is a bad prisoner. Because of what Prisoner #819 did, my cell is a mess, Mr. Correctional Officer." They shouted this statement in unison a dozen times

37 continued Prisoner #819 sobbed uncontrollably and said eh would go back with the rest of the prisoners and prove he was not bad. "Listen, you are not #819. You are [his name], and my name is Dr. Zimbardo. I am a psychologist, not a prison superintendent, and this is not a real prison. This is just an experiment, and those are students, not prisoners, just like you. Let's go."

38 Parole Board Said they could be paroled if they gave up the $ they were getting- Most said they would They could have just quit the experiment, but none did. Their sense of reality had shifted, and they no longer perceived their imprisonment as an experiment.

39 The end After 6 days, the experiment ended prematurely The guards were becoming more sadistic and the prisoners were becoming more pathological

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