Ethics and Stanford Prison Experiment Essay

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Pages: 9

Ethics and the Stanford Prison Experiment

In 1971 Philipp Zimbardo carried out one of the most ethically controversial psychological experiment the ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’. Originally he aimed to study how much our behavior is structured by the social role we occupy. Describing the study briefly 24 undergraduates with no criminal and psychological record were chosen for the research to play the roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison situated in the basement of Stanford University Psychology Building, equipped by hidden cameras and microphones. As the lead researcher, Zimbardo was observing the events from a different room, giving instructions to the guards. The research was supposed to last about two weeks. However,
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Guards were instructing other prisoners to continually keep punching the door of the closet where prisoner 436 was put in. Eventually they tried to persuade the other prisoners that the only way the closet would open and their peer will be free if they give up their blankets and slept on their mattresses. Only one of the prisoners refused to do that. (Bradey, Longsdon.p706) From this sense it shall be quickly concluded that prisoners were also under physical harassments, once guards did adopt the negative attitude towards them, their aggression increased. The other main concern is why the researchers did not end the experiment when they saw what was happening in this stimulated prison? After all these ethical and moral violation the experiment continued for six days. As Zimbardo admitted, he also became immersed with his role of his role of being the instructor, providing orders to the guards. He could no longer objectively fulfill his role of lead researcher, (Harney et al. p.18) still he carried on with the process, knowing that the participants did not realize that they could leave the mock-prison whenever they wanted. When they were asked whether they wish to be released without receiving the amount on the contract, they said yes, but still returned to their cell when they were ordered following this discussion. By then they lost their real identity and voluntarily continued to be carry on the with the prisoner role. On the other