Theories Of The Stanford Prison Experiment

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3. What did we learn from the Stanford Prison Experiment? Include issues of ethics and methodology? Can the findings be generalised beyond this experiment?

Background + Introduction: What was the Stanford Prison experiment, give details as to what the experiment was: The Stanford Prison Experiment was conceived by Phillip Zimbardo with the aim of the Experiment being to observe and analyse the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or a prison guard. The experiment was funded by the United States Office of Naval Research who wanted to study anti-social behaviour (SPE website) 24 individuals were chosen for the experiment, all of them college age males.
The individuals were assigned the role of prisoner or guard at random. With the aid
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Zimbardo’s attributed the prisoner’s obedience to learned helplessness and depersonalisation
“Results”: The credibility of any findings of the Stanford Prison Experiment was called into question due to the lack of a control group and the fact that the experiment group was made up solely of college age, white males. However, the Stanford Prison Experiment, along with Milgram’s Conformity Experiment forced a change in the ethical procedures of the American Psychology Association. These changes included experiments having to be approved by an ethics board appointed by the APA.
Ethical issues: Those involved in the experiment did not know the full extent of what the experiment entailed. None of the “prisoners” consented to being arrested at home.
Methodological issues: Zimbardo’s involvement in the experiment as a prison superintendent meant that he was influencing the experiment while also observing it. Zimbardo confessed that this dual role was detrimental to the experiment and subjected him to the conformity effect that was occurring in the
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No. Many of the individuals in the Stanford Prison Experiment were aware that it was an experiment and their actions cannot be gauged as representative of a prison environment, which was the original intent of the study.
The Stanford Prison Experiment fails in its attempts to understand the dynamic between prison guards and prisoners due to the study being made up solely of male US volunteers which meant that the findings of the study could only be applied to prisons where this was the case. The guards also claimed that they were only performing the roles that were asked of them, thus their behaviour and how it was influenced might not have been the same way in an actual prison

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