Essay on The Stanford Prison Experiment by Philip Zimbardo

1887 Words 8 Pages
Social psychology is an empirical science that studies how people think about, influence, and relate to one another. This field focuses on how individuals view and affect each other. Social psychology also produces the idea of construals which represent how a person perceives, comprehends or interprets the environment. Construals introduce the idea that people want to make themselves look good to others and they want to be seen as right. It is also said that the social setting in which people interact impacts behavior, which brings up the idea of behaviorism. Behaviorism is the idea that behavior is a function of the person and the environment.
The ideas of social psychology mentioned above can be applied to the Stanford Prison
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1). The guards themselves did not feel any guilt while enacting their behavior against the prisoners until after the experiment ended. The behavior of the guards may be related to the term of demand characteristics, which means that they acted the way they did just because they knew they were a part of a study. Zimbardo had told them how he wanted them to behave and they gave him just that. In a way the social desirability bias applies here because they were trying to conform to the “normal” idea of a prison guard.
A guard who had taken on the persona of “John Wayne” believed that the experiment was not very harmful, just degrading to the prisoners. He admitted to running his own experiment throughout the course of the study by seeing how far he could push people before they would tell him to stop. In Ratensar’s article, the guard says “… the other guards didn’t stop me. They seemed to join in. They were taking my lead. Not a single guard said, “I don’t think we should do this”” (p. 4). A social psychologist may refer to his response as effort justification. He had put effort into the study so he wanted to be able to justify his actions, and in doing so, the idea of construals can be introduced here because he is trying to make his behavior look right and in a sense, make himself look good to others.
The prisoners were made to feel as if the experience was

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