Philip Zimbardo and The Stanford Prison Experiments

Philip Zimbardo wanted to determine how prison life affected mental behaviour in prisoners and guards. He planned his experiment and gathered 24 college students. The students were randomly chosen to be either prisoners or guards. Philip set up an entire ‘fake’ prison for his experiment. The ‘guards’ had to make their own rules to keep order in the prison. The guards were given no training. The guards used push-ups as their main source of punishment.

By the second day, many of the prisoners decided to rebel by barricading the prison doors, and taunting the guards. The guards solved this problem by spraying the disobeying victims (I mean prisoners) with fire hydrants. The guards forced one of the prisoners into solitary confinement. The guards would then continue to harass the prisoners.

The guards soon changed their tactics, and they attempted to use psychology to make the prisoners behave. The prisoners that didn’t participate in the ‘rebellion’ were given the ability to do simple things like brushing their teeth, and sleeping on a mattress instead of the floor. Misbehaving prisoners didn’t get fed, and all of their food was given to behaving prisoners.

The guards then took the misbehaving prisoners, and gave them better conditions. All of the other prisoners now thought that the misbehaving prisoners were informers. Nobody could trust each other. The prisoners then lost the privilege of using the washroom, and they were simply given a bucket.

After only 36 hours, one of the prisoners began experiencing extreme emotional disturbance. He began telling the other prisoners that they weren’t allowed to leave or quit. He was quickly removed from the prison.

After this, parents and friends were allowed to meet up with the prisoners for the first time in days. Philip was worried that the people visiting would discover the inhumane conditions. Philip cleaned the prison, and limited visitors to only ten minutes of conversation.

After that, people began to make rumors about an escape plot. The next visiting session, a group of prisoners would break out with the help of the prisoner that was let free earlier. Philip warned all of the prison guards in advance.

Philip brought a new prisoner into the experiment. The prisoner was going to share all of the details of the escape with the guards. The guards managed to keep the prisoners in a ‘lockdown’ to prevent the escape. They succeeded, and nobody escaped.

Philip decided to bring a priest into the prison to explain some of the psychological effects. The priest spoke to some of the prisoners. The priest realized how horrible the conditions of the prison where. The priest helped all of the prisoners leave by hiring lawyers, and getting the fake prison shut down. In the end, all of the prisoners and guards were only paid $15 for each day they were in the prison.


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