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What are the Implications of the Stanford Prison Experiment for Humanity in the Long Run?

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What are the Implications of the Stanford Prison Experiment for Humanity in the Long Run? In 1971 a group of 18 students took part in what was to become the most controversial experiment of the decade. The students were divided randomly into prisoners and wardens. The wardens were given complete control of the prisoners and the experiment left to run. The idea of the experiment was to find out the causes of such atrocities as the Holocaust. Dr. Zimbardo, the conductor of the experiment, was intrigued as to why normal Germans, who thought the idea of extermination of all Jews was morally wrong, still allowed it to happen and in extreme cases aided Hitler's cause in the death camps. Zimbardo was sure that man's true nature would shine through in his experiment to reveal humans for what they really are. In his experiment this human nature shone through in only a few days and the experiment had to be abandoned. Dr. Zimbardo was working to find out man's potential for evil and what caused violence to arise in even the most calm of people. For this reason, the 18 students were handpicked and screened for any mental disturbances or violent behaviour. The students were described by Zimbardo as "peaceniks," they were some of the calmest people to be found. ...read more.


Jack also takes responsibility away from the group by giving them some authority under which to assert themselves. During the experiment, Dr. Zimbardo became the Prison Superintendent. Through this role he learnt and observed many things about the group and the treatment of the prisoners, but in turn this reflected on human nature. However the place soon began to take its toll on him. He began to get sucked into the experiment himself. He began acting as the Superintendent rather than as a psychologist conducting an experiment. However, when an independent psychological examiner came in to inspect the prison, she told Zimbardo of what was happening and he realised that it was him who had ultimate responsibility for the prisoners and the guards. Before this inspection he had treated the guards as inferior. This part of the study raises another question: what happens if you put good in an evil place? (the evil place of course being the prison and the good being Dr. Zimbardo and the rest of the people taking part). His conclusion was that the evil place would always win, it having more of an effect than the will of the good people. He also began to realise that the prisoners were losing their identity. ...read more.


It would be easier to dismiss this case as a 'one off' but this is exactly how disasters such as the Holocaust happen to begin with. It starts with "it's only one Jew" and ends up with the extermination of over 6 million. However, it is arguable that without this knowledge the horrors of World War II could happen again and that the price paid for such knowledge is worth the cause. But, is it possible from looking at the Lord of the Flies to read the hypothetical results of such an experiment? People suffering because of their physical appearances, such as Piggy, and people assuming power, such as Jack with others too afraid too stand up to him, does seem to reflect the Stanford Prison Experiment. However, the Lord of the Flies ends as being a hypothetical set of results. It can never really show the true results of such an experiment because it is only a fictional novel. The only real answer to the question will come in time, when the results of the Stanford Prison Experiment may one day have to stand up to regimes such as the world has previously seen. Man's potential evil can only be shown through such experiments as the Stanford Prison Experiment but that may not necessarily be a good thing. "Man's essential illness" may not only be his inner evil, but also his sick fascination with it. Josh Sanders 4H ...read more.

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