Stanford Prison Experiment Self Theory

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Stanford Prison Experiment In 1971, Philip Zimbardo, funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment to pursue an enhanced comprehension of the tension and conflict between military prisoners and their guards (“Stanford Prison Experiment,” 2015). In this infamous psychology experiment, participants were arbitrarily allocated to the role of prisoner or guard: prisoners stayed in the cells of a Stanford University basement while the guards worked eight-hour shifts. The guards developed authoritarian and draconian manners; the prisoners were cruelly treated and pitted against each other. This experiment raises questions concerning reality, identity, and ethics.
Reality in a Prison Setting The basement of
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Humans are social beings so our identity is dependent on how society defines or how we define ourselves through the lens of others. The self-concept is the sum total believes one has about oneself (Kassin, Fein, & Markus, 2013). Charles Horton Cooley maintains that people serve as a mirror in which we view ourselves (Kassin, Fein, & Markus, 2013). We have a core identity, but a major part of our identity is acquired when we compare ourselves to others. The Social Comparison Theory contends that people evaluate their opinions and abilities in comparison to others (Kassin, Fein, & Markus, 2013). The Social Comparison Theory and Looking-Glass Self assist in explaining the changed identity of the subjects in the experiment. The guards built their identity of being in authority in comparison to the identity of others in their position and those who were prisoners. This influenced their behavior and identity of being superior to the prisoners. In the same way, the prisoners, knowing they did nothing to acquire their degraded prisoner status, acted like prisoners. This behaviors that occur in a genuine prison were extreme in intensity and effect (Haney, 2007). The guards gained and maintained power after the initial prisoner resistance, and then escalated the mistreatment of prisoners at any sign of disobedience. Thus demonstrating that it was not too difficult to remake the subjects into a person with a new

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