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Psychology: The Stanford Prison Experiment

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The infamous Stanford Prison experiment, was a pyschological simulation conducted in Stanford University August 14-20 1971 by a research team lead by professor Phillip Zimbardo. The study was to look at the psychological effect authority would have in a prison environment. To do this they recruited students from Stanford University and seperated all participants into either a prisoner role or a guard role. The simulated prison was created in the University basement and the the participants were respectively chosen because they had no criminal background and showed no signs of psychological issues.

 

As the study began and they left the students to assume their role and observed through hidden cameras and microphones, the experiment very quickly got out of hand. The simulation was scheduled to last 14 days but it had to be stopped after just 6. The guards had become extremely abusive and auhtoritarian while the prisoners showed signs of extreme stress and anxiety. Some of the prisoners had to abandon the study after a few days due to severe anxiety while the guards were allowed to harrass and ultimately subject psychological torture on the prisoners. This documentary by the BBC offers an insightful view in this incredible study.  

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