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The world was in darkness about the causes of conflicts between prison guards and prisoners. An experiment which aimed to erase all the doubts and misunderstanding was carried out under the support of the US Navy. This was managed in 1975 by a social psychologist known as Philip Zimbardo assisted by Haney, David Baffe and Banks. The three were his fellow graduate students in social psychology.
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Situational hypothesis states that the conflicts are attributed to external influences on a person’s behaviour. The big question that arises is whether the situation in the prison causes the behaviour of the prisoners. Therefore, that is why Edridge Cleaver said the things he withheld from and denied to the prisoner while in prison. This is regardless of whether they are vital or not. Prisoners get the feeling of powerlessness, exploitation, and hopelessness and see dehumanized relation to them. When a prisoner finds harsh situations in a prison, he or she would like to counteract and defend themselves. The guards would also want to show that they have full control over the prisoners which would in turn spur conflicts.
Dispositional variables also cause the conflicts between the guards and prisoners. Dispositional hypothesis states that the variables always result from the subject’s inner behaviour. The variables are actually the inner determinants of the behaviour and, thus, are known as organismic variables. This hypothesis is based on the fact that the sense of power of a person is more vivid when he or she breaks another man’s spirit. For instance, violent guards are capable of bringing their violent side to the prisoners. The prisoners will defend themselves and, hence, a conflict between them will occur. People tend to be very vengeful when they undergo suffering due to the nature of others. Some guards always use their power to exploit prisoners by being over authoritative.
How Milgram and Zimbardo studies helps in understanding human behaviour.
Human behaviour is prone to an abrupt change. The Zimbardo study showed that a person’s moral nature was likely to vanish when he/she got the opportunity to be authoritative. For instance, the fact that the guards in the study were students meant that they would be human once they took over the role of guards. However, once they got the power they turned immoral, irrational, and violent. Such is the nature of the human behavior, and through the studies, one gets to know about how people behave in different environments.
Different circumstances determine a person’s behaviour because the human behaviour is not the same under different conditions. For instance, with exposure to harsh conditions an individual’s personality is more likely to undergo changes. This is because a certain individual will lose his or her capacity to intellectually and morally judge of the situations. In addition, human beings tend to fear their authorities or superiors. This is true, even if they ask them for something beyond ethics as well as their rights. Therefore, the shock study and the mock prison study help to understand that the human beings sometimes do what they are asked to do, not because they want to, but because they fear the superior. Thus, fear is a trait of the human behaviour and the situation is even experienced today and it is understandable.
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Furthermore, for one to inflict harm or pain to others he or she does not need to be evil. Milgram demonstrated that the human behaviour can be dangerously affected by too much authority. The desire to please authority causes a person do anything so long as he/she attains the goal. They simply tend to please the authoritative figure. Generally, morals are nothing when it comes to pleasing seniors and therefore these studies play a great role in helping authorities as well as common beings in dealing with different human beings.
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