InstructionsThe BackgroundAn innocently planned study to examine the relationship of actions andattitudes spiraled in to an out of control violation of participant rights thatwas stopped six days. What went wrong?The TaskGo to http://www.prisonexp.org/ and progress through the slide show onPhilip Zimbardos Prison Experiment. Make note of the rapid transformationof participant behavior, paying close attention to the way the situationaffected the subjects behaviors. Since we have used a variety of toolsthroughout the semester, using any form you choose (i.e.Glogster, Prezi, Bubbl.us, and so forth), please address the following:
1. How did the police procedures used duringarrests lead people to feelconfused, fearful, and dehumanized? They are surprised about actually being arrested and ordered by “police” to comply to the rules. They were actually handcuffed, mirandized, and fingerprinted. Also they felt dehumanized because they were handcuffed, stripped of their clothes and wore dress-like uniforms. They were put in jail cells and they felt like they were animals at the zoo. It is as if they had all of their rights taken away.
2. In the debriefing, many of the guards exemplifiedcognitive dissonance. In fact, one said he was running hisown little experiment and that is why he was so mean.Explain cognitive dissonance and why the guards would bedemonstrating this. If you were a guard, what type of guardwould you have become? How sure are you? Cognitive dissonance is when we act to reduce discomfort (dissonance) we feel that two of our thoughts (cognitions) are inconsistent. The guards may feel discomforted by how they are treating the prisoners so to reduce this discomfort, they will have to change their attitudes. For example, one guard may be wrestling with the fact that he hit a prisoner for disobeying and he normally isn’t aggressive toward the prisoners. So to reduce his guilt, he may become a tougher guard to match his actions. I feel that I would have been a kinder guard. I am somewhat sure because I may change my mind because of the rebellion rumor but I would try to do my best to treat the prisoners fairly and make sure that the other guards are not abusing the prisoners.
3. What prevented "good guards" from objecting orcountermanding the orders from tough or bad guards?In comparison to Milgram’s study, why do we conformeasily to perceived authority figures? The “good guards” did not object because they did not want to be rejected and they wanted to be accepted by the other guards. This is called conformity, which is when we adjust our behavior to fit in a group or to match a group standard. In Milgram’s study, he saw that we conform easily when the authority figure is close at hand, when the victim is at a distance or in another room, and the fact that there is no one else seen disobeying the authority figure.
4. If you were a prisoner, would you have been ableto endure the experience? What would you have donedifferently than those subjects did? If you wereimprisoned in a "real" prison for five years or more,could you take it? If I were a prisoner, I honestly don’t think that I would be able to endure the experiment. Being in a small cell with two other men and taking orders from guards would probably make me go crazy. Also using the bathroom in front of others and having them directing me to the bathroom with a blindfold on would be humiliating, degrading, and embarrassing to me. What I would have differently from the other prisoners would be to pray everyday, obey every order like the prisoner nicknamed “Sarge”, and not spread any rumors. Also, I don’t think I would be able to endure a “real” prison without my faith . If I didn’t have it, I know I would not make it.
5. Given what we have discussed on ethics, was it ethicalto do this study? Was it right to trade the sufferingexperienced by participants for the knowledge gained by theresearch? (The experimenters did not take this issuelightly, although the Slide Show may sound somewhat matter-of-fact about the events and experiences that occurred). I don’t believe that this experiment was ethical because it was done in a proper place. It was done in a small space and it didn’t amount to a real prison in that the prisoners were blindfolded when they were walked to use the bathroom. It was not fair to the participants in the experiment because they were not treated fairly. They were given orders, sometimes had to use the bathroom, in front of others, and the guards made up their own rules as they went along with the experiment. And the researchers actually “got into” the experiment themselves, especially when they believed that there was going to be a rebellion. Zimbardo himself waited in the hallway for the prisoner they released to come and break the other prisoners free. The researchers did not record any research that day due to the impending “rebellion”. Everyone actually believed their roles: prisoner, guard, warden, etc.
6. If you were the experimenter in charge, would you havedone this study? Would you have terminated it earlier? Isthere any other scenario that could have been set up thatwon’t have turned out the way this study did? If I were the experimenter in charge, I would have not done this study. I would have terminated the experiment earlier when the guards started to become too aggressive towards the prisoners, when the prisoners started becoming depressed and withdrawn, and when I, myself started to believe that the experiment was real. They could have done a study on how bosses and workers interact. This could probably turn out better because the workers can go home, whereas the prisoners could not. If they had constantly reminded themselves everyday that it is an experiment, then maybe it would not have turned out so bad. They could remind themselves by doing a daily interview on everyone a the end of each day, (including themselves), and then evaluate the research.