Stanford Prison Experiment


Stanford PrisonExperiment

The Stanford prison experiment was conducted by a team of researchersled by Stanford University’s Professor Philip Zimbardo in 1971. Thegoal of the experiment was to demonstrate the psychological effectsof incarceration. Those who participated were students who acted asguards and prisoners for 6 days. The basement of the building thataccommodated the psychology department is where the study wasconducted, although it was refurbished to simulate a prison. Forexample, the prisoners ate and exercised in a yard. Besides, thestudents who acted as prisoners were formally arrested which meansthat they were fingerprinted at the local police station and wereinformed of their Miranda rights upon arrest (Zimbardo, 2016). Beforebeing allowed inside the prison, all the prisoners were searchedafter which they were stripped of their clothes. Additionally, theywere sprayed with a liquid meant to make them feel dirty. Eachprisoner was given a number which was the only way of identifying himwhile in the prison.

On the other hand, the students who acted as guards wore a khakiuniform and were given sunglasses, a whistle, and handcuffs. Theguards did not receive any formal training and were given totalauthority to make any decision they deemed fit. Whatever happenedinside the Stanford prison simulated the conditions of a real prison.For example, there were riots which the guards responded to throughviolence. Also, the buckets were rarely emptied. Besides, those whoviolated the rules of the prison were punished by being made to stayin isolation rooms located on one side of the yard. ProfessorZimbardo and his colleagues did not involve a control group in theexperiment and neither did they get involved with the running of theprison. They aimed to discover how the different power roles in theexperiment affected the participant’s behavior, mental state, andattitude. For example, the researchers observed that prisoner 8612who only spent one and a half days in the prison showed signs that hewas slowly becoming insane in addition to experiencing moments ofrage. Besides, he suffered from acute disturbance (Zimbardo, 2016).


Zimbardo, P. (2016). &quotThe story: an overview of the experiment.&quotAccessed on August 4, 2016.