soc 101

1. The experiment happened the way it did perhaps because the psychologists’ idea was correct that positions of power in such places as prisons can indeed corrupt people, and that prisoners subjected to such treatment lose their identity and sense of self. Since the guards were given relative freedom in handling the prisoners, they soon learned to abuse their power to demean and humiliate the prisoners. The prisoners in turn were quickly taught to submit to the authority of the guards and thus forgot their identities. The fact that the researcher himself was involved so deeply in his role as superintendent also contributed to the severity of the experiment’s procedures as well as his lack of focus on research elements, such as variables to be measured. The experiment would probably not have gone the same way if it were conducted today. Researchers would likely not be so careless in their research due to rising concerns of ethics in research in fields such as sociology, such as the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (1) which was developed to control and regulate psychological research. This document was created relatively recently and features recent amendments as well. With the existence of such documents today, research like that conducted in the prison experiment would likely be highly moderated and regulated to prevent unethical means of research such as the increasingly brutal and cruel punishment of prisoners in the experiment. The subjects would hopefully be more protected from harm and abuse both mental and physical. Researcher bias and intervention would also hopefully be better curbed to reduce the impact on the study and to prevent further abuse of research subjects. With these limitations in place, a similar research experiment conducted today would likely be safer for the subjects as well as yield more fruitful results from the research.


2.  In the 1970’s, a psychology experiment took place that I think would have the same results if done today. Originally, the prison life experiment consisted of volunteering college students and was to last 2 weeks. The students were divided into two groups; prisoners and guards. The experiment soon ended after 6 days due to the students showing extreme signs of depression and stress.

During the first day, all students seemed to take the situation lightly, even though the guards made each prisoner strip naked, sprayed them with lice killer and made them wear dresses. The guards also wore sunglasses to block any personal or emotional feeling between them and the prisoners. Both groups trying to get “into their roles” and unaware of how human nature would soon take over.

By day two, their environment and characters started to become real. The guards felt powerful in the situation, taking immediate action to control the prisoners. Unable to use physical force, the guards tried to find ways to mentally take over and get more power of the situation. The guards did this by getting prisoners to turn against each other, put them in “the hole,” exercising in the middle of the night, cursing at them, yelling and harassing them.  Over the next couple days, both groups were completely in their characters and the prisoners were showing signs of stress and depression from not eating, being mentally broken and overcome with a sense of no control and harassment. The professor and prison warden on day 6 ended the experiment for the college students.

If this experiment was allowed to take place in 2013, 40 years later, I think you would see the same results. In the majority of situations, when a person is put into a position of power, even if unwanted, they will do what it takes to keep it. For the students, it was easier to take the guard role and find ways to over power and take control of the prisoners and not show weakness. Because this theory continues to show the same result in many positions, not just this one experiment, I think it could easily happen again.


3.  The Stanford Prison Experiment was to study the psychological effects of becoming a prison guard and a prisoner. The men volunteers were middle aged, intelligent, and healthy at the beginning of this experiment. This group of men were randomly split up into being ether a guard or a prisoner. The guards harassed, abused, and humiliated the prisoners. They were asked to drop down and do push ups which I thought was interesting because this was a form of punishment used in Nazi concentration camps. Conditions became far worse as time went on! Of course this drove the prisoners to deviance, I mean what else were the prisoners supposed to do? Everyone involved in this experiment began to actually believe that they were whatever their role was. This no longer was just an experiment to them but actually their life as these roles. Even the physiologist himself got wrapped up in his role. An example of this is when he says, ” It wasn’t until much later that I realized how far into my prison role I was at that point — that I was thinking like a prison superintendent rather than a research psychologist.” I feel like everything happened the way in part of the labeling theory. The labeling theory in our book id defined as, “A consequence of external judgments, or labels, that modify the individual’s self-concept and change the way others respond to the labeled person.” (161) With that being said, I believe that the prisoners gave up all hope, and the guards took advantage of their power. If this study was to take place again in today times, then I do think it would go the same way as it did before. This experiment was about portraying a role, and I think that people now would still get caught up with the same emotions and behaviors as before. What would stop men now not acting the way they did before? Men now are going to be walking into the experiment thinking they are portraying a role, but before their eyes they are going to transform just like the men in 1970’s did.  Of course, this is just my opinion. But I even remember reading on the slideshow that the guards weren’t as happy as the prisoners as the experiment came to a close. But what does this mean exactly? The guards emotions felt some sort of joy being deviant. I’m not convinced that these emotions will ever change.



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