Zimbardo Study

This study was funded by the?
U.S. Navy

The US Navy & the US Marine Corps were interested in investigating the causes of?
Conflict between guards and prisoners in naval prisons

•To show how the taking of social roles would lead to excessive conformity to those roles
•To test the dispositional hypothesis

Experiment or simulation

Independent Variables
The conditions the participants were randomly assigned: prisoner or guard

Dependent Variable
The resulting behavior

The participants were gained through a?
Newspaper ad

How many participants responded to the ad?

The participants were required to fill out a?

The questionnaire contained?
•Family background
•Physical & mental health
•Any involvement in crime
•Prior experiences & attitudinal tendencies in respect to psychopathology

The final amount of participants who were chosen to participate were?
24 men who were judged to be the most physically & mentally stable, the most mature, & the least involved in antisocial behaviors were chosen to participate

The guards uniform
Black, reflective sunglasses. Khaki tops and bottoms. Billy club (baton)

The prisoners uniforms
Muslin smock, no undergarments, ankle chain, rubber sandals, stocking cap, id number tag.

The uniforms of the prisoners made them feel?
Loss of personal identification, emasculation (loss of masculinity), a psychological state of imprisonment.

How many days was the study supposed to be?
14 days

How many days did the study actually last?
6 days

What was the hypothesis?
Dispositional Hypothesis (Prisoners and Guards behave the way they do, because of who they are as individual). Opposite of situational, that prisoners and guards behave the way they do because of the situation they are placed in.

Was the hypothesis proven correct?
The Dispositional Hypothesis was negative. Prisoners and guards were chosen for the experiment, because they acted in ways opposite of how most real prisoners and guards do. However, the participants behavior and personality was changed drastically by the situation.

Was there any dispositional (individual differences) noticed?
Half of the prisoners endured the oppressive atmosphere, and not all the guards resorted to hostility, some guards were tough but fair, while some went far beyond their roles to engage in creative cruelty and harassment.

What is the pathology of power?
When someone has become sufficiently involved in their role that they now enjoy the extreme control and power which they exercised (it “gets to their head)

What is learned helplessness?
A behaviour in which an organism forced to endure aversive, painful or otherwise unpleasant stimuli, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are escapable.

What is pathological prisoner syndrome?
social deterioration of the prisoners: the prisoners rebelled against their conditions, but the guards undermined every attempt at rebellion, and any solidarity between the prisoners collapsed. Half of the prisoners responded by becoming sick, and eventually had to be released before the study was finally brought to a conclusion. The remaining prisoners became passive, dependent and had flattened emotions.

What did Zimbardo believe led to pathological prisoner syndrome?
The loss of personal identity, arbitrary control exercised by the guards, dependency/emasculation

What did Zimbardo mean be “loss of personal identity”?
the prisoners were de-individuated by being stripped of their individuality, their name, dress, appearance, behaviour style, and history. Living among strangers who do not know your name or history, dressed like all the other prisoners, all led to the weakening of self-identity among the prisoners. The prisoners became de-individuated not only to the guards, but to themselves

What did Zimbardo mean by “arbitrary control exercised by the guards”?
on post-experimental questionnaires, the prisoners said they disliked the way that the way they were subjected to the arbitrary and changeable decisions and rules of the guards as this made life unpredictable and unfair. For example, smiling at a joke could be punished in the same way that failing to smile might be. As the environment became more unpredictable, the prisoners’ behaviour showed signs of learned helplessness.

What did Zimbardo mean by “dependency and emasculation”?
the prisoners were made to be totally dependent on the guards for commonplace functions such as going to the toilet, reading, lighting a cigarette and this emasculated them. The smocks, worn without underwear, lessened their sense of masculinity.

Ethical Grounds! (Deception/Potential Harm), Unrepresentative sample (all white males in college), Lacking ecological validity (no real harm, prisoners know it is fake, no racism, no rape)

What did Zimbardo say in defense of those who called his experiment unethical?
They were given for the most past informed consent, they were debriefed, the study was approved, when he realized potential harm he stopped, benefits outweigh negatives.

What did Zimbardo say in defense of those who called his sample biased?
The men were from different colleges, and all fares were paid (so no difference in socioeconomic status)

What did Zimbardo say in defense of those who said his study lacked ecological validity?
They bought into it (mundane realism), private conversations monitored showed lack of talking about anything except for prison life, prisoners referred to themselves by ID number, a prisoner asked his lawyer to help get him out, guards always on time and willing to work extra hours with no pay.

What are the strengths of this study?
Some degree of control, some degree of ecological validity, collection of lots of qualitative data (rich in detail, explores range of feelings and “why”) and some quantitative data (unbiased, easy to score and analyze)

Evaluate in terms of situational vs dispositional (individual) debate.
Situational: individual differences did not matter, behavior changed due to the situation people were put in and the roles they were assigned, major changes in behavior and personality

Dispositional: Zimbardo overemphasized situation, maybe they reacted because of stereotypes learned in TV and books? Some people did not change their behavior

Evaluate in terms of free will vs determinism.
Zimbardo’s argument can be seen as too deterministic. For example in Zimbardo’s study not all of the participants behaved in the same way. For example, some of the guards were less willing to abuse their power. Perhaps the reason why some of the participants were less willing was something to do with their personalities, and their control over their free will.

Be careful! Doesn’t generalize to all situations, races, ethnics groups, gender etc.

In general, the guards and prisoners showed a marked tendency towards increasingly negative emotions, and their overall outlook became increasingly negative. Despite the fact that guards and prisoners were essentially free to engage in any form of interaction, the nature of their encounters tended to be negative, hostile, insulting and dehumanising. The prison was internalised by both the prisoners and the guards, that is, they started to believe in it. They adopted very contrasting behaviours, which were appropriate for their respective roles. The guards started most of the interactions, most of which were in the form of commands or verbal affronts, while the prisoners adopted a generally passive response mode. Although it was clear to all participants that the experimenters would not permit physical violence to take place, varieties of less direct aggressive behaviour were often observed.

One of the most dramatic evidence of the impact of this situation upon the participants was when five prisoners had to be released early due to extreme emotional depression, crying, rage and acute anxiety.

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