Science Of Evil

Posted by Ali Reda | Posted in | Posted on 12/15/2010

The Stanford prison experiment was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted from Aug. 14-20, 1971 by a team of researchers led by Psychology professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University. Twenty-four students were selected out of 75 to play the prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Roles were assigned randomly. The participants adapted to their roles well beyond what even Zimbardo himself expected, leading the "Officers" to display authoritarian measures and ultimately to subject some of the prisoners to torture. In turn, many of the prisoners developed passive attitudes and accepted physical abuse, and, at the request of the guards, readily inflicted punishment on other prisoners who attempted to stop it. The experiment even affected Zimbardo himself, who, in his capacity as "Prison Superintendent," lost sight of his role as psychologist and permitted the abuse to continue as though it were a real prison. Five of the prisoners were upset enough by the process to quit the experiment early, and the entire experiment was abruptly stopped after only six days. The experimental process and the results remain controversial. The entire experiment was filmed, with excerpts soon made publicly available, Over 30 years later, Zimbardo found renewed interest in the experiment when the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal occurred.

I'd like to discuss few of its results

  1. everyone has a breaking point (prisoners will riot and try to escape attempt) until their spirit breaks completely and accept what happens to them or commit suicide.
  2. people who has power and authority(Guards) will always violate them,Several guards became increasingly cruel as the experiment continued. Experimenters said that approximately one-third of the guards exhibited genuine sadistic tendencies. Most of theguards were upset when the experiment concluded early.
  3. Zimbardo argued that the prisoner participants had internalized their roles, based on the fact that some had stated that they would accept parole even with the attached condition of forfeiting all of their experiment-participation pay. Yet, when their parole applications were all denied, none of the prisoner participants quit the experiment.Zimbardo argued they had no reason for continued participation in the experiment after having lost all monetary compensation, yet they did, because they had internalized the prisoner identity, they thought themselves prisoners, hence, they stayed.

The experiment's result has been argued to demonstrate the impressionability and obedience of people when provided with a legitimizing ideology and social and institutional support. It is also used to illustrate cognitive dissonance theory and the power of authority,until their breaking point if they have one because most people wouldn't and would accept the authority and accept being victims. the study demonstrates the powerful effect roles can have on peoples’ behavior. 
Never Underestimate the power of situations to change human behaviour, normal people are capable of doing the most cruel things

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