stanford prison experiment

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The Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) was a social psychology experiment that attempted to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power, focusing on the struggle between prisoners and prison officers. It was conducted at Stanford University on the days of August 14–20, 1971, by a research group led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo using college students. In the study, volunteers were randomly assigned to be either “guards” or “prisoners” in a mock prison, with Zimbardo himself serving as the superintendent. Several “prisoners” left mid-experiment, and the whole experiment was abandoned after six days. Early reports on experimental results claimed that students quickly embraced their assigned roles, with some guards enforcing authoritarian measures and ultimately subjecting some prisoners to psychological torture, while many prisoners passively accepted psychological abuse and, by the officers’ request, actively harassed other prisoners who tried to stop it. The experiment has been described in many introductory social psychology textbooks, although some have chosen to exclude it because its methodology is sometimes questioned.

The U.S. Office of Naval Research funded the experiment as an investigation into the causes of difficulties between guards and prisoners in the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. Certain portions of it were filmed, and excerpts of footage are publicly available.

Some of the experiment’s findings have been called into question, and the experiment has been criticized for unscientific methodology and possible fraud. Critics have noted that Zimbardo instructed the “guards” to exert psychological control over the “prisoners”. Critics also noted that some of the participants behaved in a way that would help the study, so that, as one “guard” later put it, “the researchers would have something to work with,” which is known as demand characteristics. Variants of the experiment have been performed by other researchers, but none of these attempts have replicated the results of the SPE.

gray research law – and why he doesn’t have it in any of his books


adding page while watching doc:


toss coin to see who’s prisoners and who’s guards.. then tells guards they were chosen because of strength they demo’d in interview

z: we’re trying to make them uniform (putting them in dresses) .. feminize them.. take away all the things that makes them them.. we’re trying to understand how an institution affects an individual’s behavior.. we’re trying to do something good

42 min – after 1 day.. students doing experiment asking z to step in .. when physical violence escalates.. z says no.. let them handle it

45 min – then z has talk w guards to establish order/authority (when prisoners gang up and rebel).. then physical violence huge

3 prisoners don’t rebel and get special dinner – and guy gets his glasses.. ‘exemplary’

day 2 – 8612: you have no right to mess w my head.. students let him go.. and z gets pissed off.. ‘i leave for one shift and you’ve tampered w the integrity..time/money invested in this’ sir the contract was broken..

z: what did we miss in the screening process.. he was only in there for 2 days..

z: 8612 was fine while others were serving him

guard served the system.. 8612 served himself

z: the point – only thing that separates those two was a coin flip

1:01 – z: tell them 8612 has been taken to max security.. get more fear into them

1:09 – when parents concerned w kids appearance.. z: i think your kid is tough enough to take it.. don’t you?..’ dad says yeah

1:12 – other prof: ‘what’s the independent variable in your study.. this is an experiment.. not just a simulation’ z: gets ticked and says.. i don’t need you to challenge my research

1:13 – day 4 – prisoners saying 8612 didn’t come back for them

1:15 – 2nd guy goes crazy.. asks to see a dr

1:16 – priest visits.. telling prisoners they need to take charge of getting out.. steps taking to secure release.. ie: get a lawyer

1:18 – priest guy leaves.. telling z what he’s doing here is a good thing.. teaching boys privilege they have.. ‘prisoner 819 did a bad thing’

1:19 – z: i think the priest is calling a lawyer.. shutting us down

1:21 – 819 says.. i’m a bad prisoner.. z talks to 819.. saying.. that’s not a prison.. and you can go.. says he has to in case he gets ratted on

1:22 – z’s girls comes to replace guy on parole board.. z says thank you .. now you can see.. this is significant

1:26 – prisoner before board.. acting like he is.. scum

1:28 – z: what do you think if everyone in nation disrespected.. board totally crushes prisoner’s spirit (what’s left of it)

girlfriend asks.. would you forfeit pay for parole.. he says – yes ma am i would w/o a doubt

jesse (san quinten 17 yrs): i was just trying to do it exactly how i was treated.. completely re enact what they did.. their feelings/attitudes/indifference.. gets choked up and leaves.. says to z.. you know what it was an experiment.. and i went along with it .. but i really hate myself right now.. (z: you did nothing wrong.. that was just protocol).. protocol?.. back in that room i became everything i’ve hated for so long.. and i let it happen.. and i enjoyed it.. you can’t possibly understand how that makes me feel..

z: i need you to stay

j: parole 1037 for me please  z: sure  .. and j leaves

girlfriend leaves

z: what is happening here mike.. is this thing over?

mike: we have become part of this experiment.. whether we like it or not.. and frankly.. i don’t even think we can call this an experiment anymore.. it’s a demo..  and part of me thinks we already have the results we were looking for.. i’ve wanted to say that the last day or 2 but didn’t want to question.. you know if i didn’t admire you so much.. i don’t know.. because of all that’s happened.. now i realize that you have to see it thru

1:33 – z: i think.. this could be great.. i had no idea it would turn out this way.. but.. this is important.. to me.. but the results are important

mike: they are

1:34 – new guy: my problem is that the guards and the people running this experiment are not treating the prisoners like human beings.. the guards are clearly i violation to rules set up in this experiment and i refuse to endorse an unfair system

1:36 – as girlfriend leaves  z: what’s wrong  g: you’re a psychologist and you’re asking me what’s wrong.. z: you’re missing the bigger picture.. this study has the potential to help people.. g: yes felons maybe but those are kids.. kids who have never committed a crime in their lives

wtf.. no one deserves that.. what’s the lesson for felons? how did we get to the point of labeling a human a felon..?

1:35 – z: kids who volunteered.. who are getting paid.. who can leave whenever they want to  g: they tried.. every single one came to your parole board.. and i was going.. what’s wrong with this kids.. why don’t they just quit.. what are they so afraid of.. it’s you.. they are afraid of you  z: that is absolute nonsense.. you are not looking at this like a psychologist..  g: i’m a human being..   z: you’re not going to cut it if you’re going to get so emotional over some basic procedure

z: you of all people.. i thought would understand what i have tapped into in my prison  g: your prison.. omg.. you are so in over your head.. those are not prisoners/subjects/students.. those are boys.. those are boys and you are harming them.. you need to fix this now..  z: wow – are you finished

so disgusting

1:51 – z finally ends it – aug 20 1971 after 6 days – ‘this experiment is over’.. they didn’t get it until he said ‘stanford county jail is now closed.. now free to leave’   .. main guard said: ‘so does this mean we’re not getting paid for full 2 weeks’

1:54 – mock guard: it’s easy for you to say i wouldn’t have acted that way.. but you don’t know.. and now i know what i’m capable of .. and it hurts

prisoner: i was losing my identity.. it was and still is a prison to me.. it was a prison run by psychologists instead of by the state

z: the consensus is that they did suffer.. but i think that they also learned a great deal about themselves and about human nature and i think most of them would say that in hindsight it was a very valuable experience

not human nature.. whales in sea world.. and the supposed to’s.. of school/work are doing much the same to all of us .. behind closed doors

1:55 – extensive interviews conducted by teh researchers determined that noen of the participans were permanently harmed or suffered any long term effects


z shifted focus of his work to ed-ing others about psych of authority and abuse of power

1:57 – head guard on doing his own experiments.. trying to see how far he could go.. and nobody stopped me.. and that really shocked me.. i started to get so profane.. and still people didn’t say anything


from experiment page:

stanford experiment
from jon ronson‘s so you’ve been publicly shamed:
loc 1165 – couldn’t help thinking evil captured in zimbardo’s filmed footage looked a bit hammy… what had really gone on in that basement
on guard saying not true… only guard who really seemed to lose his mind was eshelman.. and he says – i faked it.
1193 – so you faked it to give zimbarado a better study? – it was completely deliberate on my part, i planned it. i mapped it out. ..i thought i was doing something good at the time.

loc 1235 – Peter Gray.. published essay: why zimbardo’s prison experiment isn’t in my textbook……… this is a study of prisoners and guards, so their job clearly is to act like prisoners and guards – or, more accurately, to act out their stereotyped views of what prisoners and guards do.

Much research has shown that participants in psychological experiments are highly motivated to do what they believe the researchers want them to do.

peter grayscience of people in schools ness
why standford exp isn’t in my textbook:
may 2018

The Stanford Prison Experiment was massively influential. We just learned it was a fraud.

The most famous psychological studies are often wrong, fraudulent, or outdated. Textbooks need to catch up.

Excellent @B_resnick piece on why it’s hard to trust the results of the Stanford Prison Experiment; why it hasn’t held up in replication; why some of its findings may be good; and generally why science is hard:
Original Tweet:

its findings were wrong. Very wrong. And not just due to its questionable ethics or lack of concrete data — but because of deceit.

 guards in the experiment were coached to be cruel. It also shows that the experiment’s most memorable moment — of a prisoner descending into a screaming fit, proclaiming, “I’m burning up inside!” — was the result of the prisoner acting. “I took it as a kind of an improv exercise,” one of the guards told reporter Ben Blum. “I believed that I was doing what the researchers wanted me to do.”


stockholm syndrome – highway – oh my