Philip Zimbardo is the psychologist that conducted the prison simulation experiment which was intending to discover how much of human behaviour is determined by the social roles that we occupy.
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Philip Zimbardo is the psychologist that conducted the prison simulation experiment which was intending to discover how much of human behaviour is determined by the social roles that we occupy. Zimbardo placed an advert in a newspaper which asked for male volunteers to participate in a psychological study of prison life. 75 people responded to the advert, these people completed a questionnaire and had an interview. This was designed to screen the subjects. The description of the 24 chosen subjects was described as 'normal' healthy, male, college students who were predominantly white and middle class. The subjects were told that the experiment was for a study of prison life but were not told that it was also an investigation into how people adapt to roles and how people's behaviour is affected by the roles that they occupy. This is a form of deception which breaks the ethical guidelines, but can be justified because the subjects would have behaved differently if they ha known the full reasons behind the experiment. The simulated prison was made at Stanford University in the basement of the psychology department.
The 'guard' subjects worked eight hour thre man shifts and returned home after their shifts. Both the guardsand prisoners were given uniform to promote feelings of anonymity. The guards uniform was a plain khaki shirt and trousers, a whistle and baton, and reflecting sunglasses, this was intended to express a military attitude and to give symbols of power. The reflecting sunglasses would have helped the guards act as they did because the prisoners would not be able to force eye contact with them because they were behind the reflecting glasses. The uniform that the prisoners were given was intended to be uncomfortable, humiliating and create symbols of subservience and reliance on the guards. This unfirm was a loose fitting smock, number on front and back, no underwear, light chain and lock around ankle, rubber sandles and a cap made from a nylon stocking. The purpose of the unifporms was to enhance the behaviour of the subjects , the guards would have felt more powerful with their unfirom which would have made them act in a more powerful way and because the prisoners would have felt humiliated and of a lower level to the guards they would have acted in a more dependant way and would have been more accepting of the guards attempts to control the prisoners.
The uninformed control applied by the guards. This made the prisoners lives' erratic and their treatment became progressively more unfair. Dependency and emasculation. The created a dependency in the prisoners which emasculated them to the extent that when the prisoners were debriefed they suggested that they had been assigned to be the prisoners in the experiment because they were smaller than the guards. In fact, there was no difference in average height between the prisoners and guards, the perceived difference was a response to their perceptions of themselves and their lack of power. In conclusion this experiment was not what Zimbardo described it as 'a simulation of prison life'. None of the prisoners had had any experience of actual prison life before the study, and their social perceptions of how prison life should be dictated the way in which they played their roles. The experiment was in fact a simulation of how we expect prison life to be. Nevertheless, the study does give a compelling revelation of the effect of social roles, and also the power of the social psychological experiment to make us behave in ways that we would not have thought possible Zimbardo - Prison Simulation MartinGatenby/27/04/2007 1
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