The Stanford Prison Experiment

Zimbardo’s and his colleagues infamous experiment in Stanford simulated prison is interesting how they chose the mock prison to get an insight about the behavior of prisoners and guards in real prison life. It is obvious that the situation has given power to the guards to be a sadistic but only because they were acting out roles that they thought were expected of them. They played a role whatever they want to in order to control the prisoners. Each prisoner’s right for toilet was a privilege, they were searched and stripped naked, and even deloused. This made prisoners to be emotional distressed and humiliated due. to the fact that they were so powerless. To me the experiment done was so unethical and inhuman. My question is, should Zimbardo and his colleagues had to go that far of an experiment of cruelty, dehumanizing, and ill-treatment to show the fact that  how the power of the situation influences human behavior? But I am happy for the participants that it didn’t last the whole 14 days.

As I was watching the video, it shows how  the prisoner torture and abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq that came to public attention in late 2003 resembles with Stanford prison experiment . Zimbardo himself was struck by the similarity with his own experiment according to a source from Wikipedia. After his involvement and accessed all investigations and background reports, he was compelled  to write the  book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

The experiment on obedience to authority figures conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram orders the teacher to give what believed are painful electric shocks to a learner and confederate. The teacher believes that for each wrong answer, the learner was receiving actual electric shocks. Even though the experiment also has an emotional  stress towards the learners, It did show how an ordinary person can become agent in a terrible destructive process.

From these two experiments, I learn that how situational power affects people. Too often we respond to the specific requests of the situation rather than referring to our own internal morals or beliefs. But one shouldn’t be swayed just because there is a  bad influence, people or systems.

http://www.prisonexp.org/