The Stanford Prison Experiment

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Stanford Prison Experiment is a study that was carried out in 1971 led by Philip Zimbardo. The prison experiment was done at Stanford University funded by the US Office of Naval Research. The study was to attempt to research on the psychological effect on prisoners and prison guards. This experiment took place in the psychology building, whereby the basement floor was used as a temporary prison. In order to have a prison set up, Zimbardo advertised for recruitment to the experiment. The recruits were to earn $15 per day. Out of 75 responses (white, young people of the middle class), he chose 24 who were put into two groups, 12 prisoners, and 12 prison guards. They were later organized on who was to be the prison guard and the prisoners (Haslam and Reicher 2003).

The prison warders were well equipped and dressed in intimidating military uniforms. They had wooden batons and mirrored shades. They were to operate the prison as they saw fit, but not to use physical abuse. Prisoners wore smocks and had chains on their ankles. They had little food and a small mattress to sleep (Haslam and Reicher, 2003). During the experimental time, prisoners and prison warders played their roles exceptionally. The prison guards inflicted pain and extreme torture on the prisoners. On the other hand, the prisoners became passive and accepted to be tortured. The few prisoners retaliated from the harsh treatment. Philip Zimbardo allowed the torture to go to extreme ends as a true prison. The experiment had to be stopped because of the torturing of the prisoners.

Benefit-Risk Analysis

The study was meant to reveal the psychology of prison life. It was created to show what happens in the minds and lives of prisoners when put under extreme living conditions. On the other hand, the prison warders felt powerful and abused the authority given to them. Thus, is the human nature when given freedom, a person goes overboard to misuse the power. A person can easily become rude and rebellious when pushed against the wall and tortured. Such a person may scheme evil practices only to hit back from the harsh treatment. It becomes a self-defense practice.

 We learn that it is necessary to ensure that every person is given human treatment. By mistreating prisoners, one will not get the best out of them but makes the prisoner develop rebellion. For instance, the participants in the experiment could not hold on to the torture from the prison warders. Hence, they opposed to the orders and commands in order to defend themselves. Some people can become fearful and inferior while others who are weak may succumb to diseases and even death.

The Stanford Prison Experiment was noted as one of the acts that demonstrated the life of prisoners and the prison guards. Through this experiment, a person can clearly see the torturing of lives in prisons. It is through the experiment that prison experience was exposed to the whole world. Nevertheless, the experience on the prisoners was negatively transforming both physically and psychologically (Haslam and Reicher, 2003).

Haslam and Reicher have detailed the events of the experiment from start to the time it was suddenly stopped. In this article, they ensured to record testimonies of the prison warders and prisoners. This gives the correct picture from the people involved. While some say that the event was a revelation, others opposed because it was an inhumane experiment, which should never have happened. Although scary, the experiment portrayed the state of most prisons today. While others are tortured in the prisons, many still undergo inhumane treatment in hidden places. The experiment also reveal to people about men and women in authority who abused the power they have been given. Today, there are many people suffering because others have taken advantage of the superior position they have to override others.

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