Stanford Prison Experiment Research Paper

This essay sample essay on Stanford Prison Experiment Research Paper offers an extensive list of facts and arguments related to it. The essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and the conclusion are provided below.

The prison Experiment conducted at Stanford University in 1971 was intended to find out what would happen if average innocent people were placed in a prison environment on both sides (inmate and guard). The experiment began with a newspaper add asking for male college aged volunteers to participate in the experiment and outlined some of the things they might endure.

The large number of volunteers was reduced through a series of psychological tests to find those who appeared the most stable.

The researchers anticipated some psychological effects on the participants, but the results they discovered were far more intense than they had prepared for. These overwhelming effects on even the research professionals involved led to an early end to the experiment. Procedure The experiment began with an ad in the paper asking for college aged male volunteers, who would be paid fifteen dollars per day (Zimbardo, 1999).

There were more than one hundred people who responded to the ad. The large number of respondents was narrowed down through a series of psychological experiments.

The group was narrowed to twenty-four young men, who were determined to be mentally stable and average. The twenty-four were divided randomly into two groups by a coin toss. Half were to be prison guards and the other half was to be prison inmates. In order to set the stage for the prison to look realistic, three rooms in the basement of one of the Stanford buildings were sectioned off and the doors were replaced with doors containing bars and cell numbers.

Get quality help now

Proficient in: Experiment

4.9 (247)

“ Rhizman is absolutely amazing at what he does . I highly recommend him if you need an assignment done ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

There were no windows or clocks provided to keep the prisoners from knowing the time of day (Zimbardo, 1999).

The Harvard Prison Experiment

Both ends of the hallway were boarded off to keep the prisoners from seeing ways to escape. The head psychologist was assigned as the prison superintendent. Other researchers participated in various capacities, but the direct supervision of the prisoners was left up to the experimental guards. A person who had spent time in prison was called in to be a consultant for treatment of the prisoners to determine how close the simulation was to a real prison setting. Methods The first day of the experiment, the people selected to be inmates were arrested from their homes by real policemen and placed in real police cars.

They were taken to jail for processing and were then taken to the made-up prison. Once inside the prison the guards were given free reign within reason to treat them as prisoners. There were nine prisoners in the prison unit at all times with three on-call at their homes in case a replacement was needed. Each prisoner was strip searched and de-liced and was then given a gown with no undergarments and with an inmate number printed on it. The inmates were forced to wear hats made from panty hose to simulate shaved heads (Zimbardo, 1999). The purpose of this was to start them off with a feeling of humiliation to gain control over them.

They were placed three per room and with the placement of the beds in the rooms were left little room for anything besides sitting or lying on the bed. There was a small closet designated as the solitary confinement room for the prisoners deemed as trouble makers. The restroom was down the hall, which was outside of the prison area. For this reason the prisoners were blindfolded, when they went to the restroom. Any incidents of non-compliance were met with punishments ranging from in the beginning push-ups to later much harsher punishments. At the beginning of the experiment, the guards were hesitant to be strict with them.

The experiment continued with priests and lawyers coming in to interview the inmates. Results The researchers had anticipated that the prisoners and the guards would have some reactions based on their assigned roles, but the results of the actual experiment were amazing even to the people who had studied it. The people all started out to be considered relatively equal, but once they became involved in their roles personality differences became more apparent. The first day of the experiment, the inmates seemed to react in surprise to the initial treatment and complied with the directives given to them throughout the day.

The second day, the prisoners began the day with a rebellion. They barricaded the guards out by placing their beds against the doors. This was met with the guards calling for reinforcements and strict punishments including using clubs to get them back under control. Following this the guards used other methods to create mistrust among the inmates to keep them from grouping together. Some of the non-compliant prisoners were placed in solitary confinement and others were forced to go without food for a period of time.

The prisoners were called by their numbers instead of their names and after only a few days began addressing themselves by their numbers. This was a way of taking away their identities. After only a few days the guards and prisoners became entangled into their roles to the extent they called lawyers at the suggestion of a priest to help get them out and they went before a parole board to find out if they could get out of prison. When parole was denied some of them became seriously depressed. They had apparently forgotten they could request to leave the experiment at any time.

The parents of the inmates also requested help to get their sons out of the experiment, as if they were really in prison. Some of the guards became sadistic and would use demeaning and in some cases pornographic punishments during the night when they thought the researchers were not watching. Two of the prisoners had such a strong reaction that they became distressed to the point of violent sobbing and needed medical attention. They were both released early. After the two were released, one of the on call prisoners was brought in. He did not have the opportunity to gradually become accustomed to the conditions and treatment.

He went on a hunger strike shortly after becoming part of the experiment. After all attempts to get the new inmate to eat failed, he was placed in solitary for a longer period of time than anyone was supposed to be in it. The other inmates were given the choice of leaving him in solitary all night and for some special privileges, they chose to leave him in all night. The guards did eventually let him out and he was then quite distressed. The head researcher discovered he was too involved in his role as the prison superintendent, when he rearranged everything to hide the prisoners to keep them from escaping.

He realized he had lost sight of the experiment and had actually become the role he was playing. When the researchers discovered how far out of control the experiment had become, they decided to end it after just six days out of the planned two week experiment. The men were all interviewed to get their views on how they were treated and what they thought had happened. Discussion Ethically the experiment would never be allowed in current society. Even prisoners are required to have some basic rights and dignified treatment. An experiment in which innocent people, even with informed consent are treated like prisoners would never be permitted.

Human experimentation in any form in which there could be danger is rarely allowed. This experiment was beneficial in helping discover the effects that the prison setting could have on innocent people. It was interesting to see how the guards became involved in the roles to the point they could not separate themselves from it. They forgot that the people they were guarding were not real prisoners. The prisoners forgot their real names and became their prisoner numbers. They became depressed and to some degree almost mentally unstable.

Since these people were determined to be stable before the experiment, it is easy to see how people in prison could become depressed and even suicidal if treated the way the people in the experiment were. It was enlightening to see how if people are treated poorly and stripped of their identity, they are not likely to become better people. Although this experiment could have been permanently detrimental to people’s mental health, it was beneficial to the world of psychology by providing a glimpse of what happened to people inside an institution. It showed how people were affected when their basic human rights were stripped from them.

Cite this page

Stanford Prison Experiment Research Paper. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Stanford Prison Experiment Research Paper
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7