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What are the Implications of the Stanford Prison Experiment for Humanity?

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Introduction

What are the Implications of the Stanford Prison Experiment for Humanity? "His desire to squeeze and hurt was overmastering". This is how writer William Golding describes Ralph's feelings in 'The Lord of the Flies' as the children carry out another one of their sadistic rituals. The book was set during the Second World War, a horrific period when five million Jews were slaughtered under the Nazi Holocaust to go along with over sixty million more casualties. As a result of all these human disasters, people have been trying to work out exactly what drives man on and causes him to commit such evil actions. In the summer of 1971, Dr Philip Zimbardo conducted a psychological experiment - The Stanford Prison Experiment -using eighteen students and a real life prison cell. He divided the volunteers into 'guards' and 'prisoners', handing total authority to the guards. The main tools of this authority were bats, handcuffs and better living conditions than the prisoners - the interesting inclusion being silver-reflected sunglasses to make them seem less human and less emotionally weak. Iron bars were put into place inside the cell to make the prisoners feel more contained, and they later nicknamed it 'the hole'. ...read more.

Middle

Milgrim set up his very own investigation where he selected members of the public to take part. They were paid $4.50 an hour to be taken into a room divided by a window, and the volunteers would play the 'teacher' on one side of it. On the other side was the 'subject'. The teacher was given questions to ask the 'learner', nearby in another room. Every time the learner got a question wrong, the teacher was told by the subject to press a button and electrocute him. The voltage was increased with each incorrect answer, however the learner wasn't actually being electrocuted, but an actor pretending to be. You could argue that maybe the test wasn't fair because of the pay. At first, the participants started without any worries, but began to express their concerns as the voltage got higher. They were however told to carry on, and they did so. The results, overall, showed that all people went excess than 300 volts, including a devout Catholic woman, even though Milgrim expected that they wouldn't. One man, after hearing the actor screaming violently and begging for him to stop, mentioned the fact that the learner's well being 'was not his own responsibility', because it wasn't his experiment. ...read more.

Conclusion

The guards decided not to elect him after interviews, and he felt very awkward and disappointed about this - so he later used his leadership skills to start a rebellion. There is a stage similar in Golding's book when Ralph is chosen as Chief instead of Jack, and he also rebels later on. People ask if humans commit evil because of their surroundings. The guards in the Stanford experiment were in a negative place (a prison), in uniform and silver sunglasses with bats and handcuffs, and maybe this made them behave the way they did. Another parallel in Lord of the Flies is Jack's mask, and afterall, people like Hitler and Mussolini always wore military uniform, and this could have influenced others. In conclusion, I think the Stanford Prison Experiment was worth six days of suffering to reflect on what has really been, in some ways, a fiasco of a 20th century for mankind. It shows that evil could be already installed inside us when we're born, but what this does depends on what leads us - whether that philosophy, object or person is good or evil. Plus, experiments like these can certainly help us control our bad ways because they expose our weaknesses and make us aware of what we are doing and how to avoid it. ...read more.

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