Experiment in the Basement of Stanford University by Professor Philip Zimbardo

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On the first day of Zimbardo's experiment, there was nothing to suggest that something extraordinary or unusual would happen. But, as the days went by, there was a kind of sadistic and inumano behavior on the part of the guards. The outbreak of the prisoners' rebellion was the first sign of the relationship between the guards and the inmates. The prison guards made the inmates recognize their situation of inferiority, as would a real prisoner who is locked inside four walls and with a long sentence. This tenure generated a dynamics of dominance and sum based on the fiction of the Stanford Prison. At one point, the humiliations suffered by the inmates became completely real, as well as the feeling of superiority of the false guards and the role of the jailer adopted by Philip Zimbardo, they did not set limits and did not respect the ethics of society. In addition, the food was denied to certain inmates who were punished in a small, dark cell; They were forced to remain naked in front of the other prisoners, to make indecent and ridiculous acts; They also were not allowed to sleep well which caused mental changes in the prisoners. In the same way, pushing, squatting and jerking were more frequent. The fiction of Stanford Prison gained so much power for many days that neither the volunteers nor the researchers could recognize that the experiment should stop. Everyone assumed that what happened in the prison was, in a way, natural, but on the last day of the experiment, the situation was so out of control that the investigation team had to end it abruptly due to the high content of abuses by the jailers.

The similarities, in both studies, was very difficult for the participants to finish their participation, and the majority continued until the end. Then, the participants did not want to take responsibility for what they were doing even if they 'knew' that they were hurting other people. Also, in both studies, the violence increased relatively gradually, so there was no obvious point they could think was sufficient or that they were putting the participants at risk. An important difference between the studies of Zimbardo and Milgram is that the study of the prison actually used mental and physical violence against the participants and Milgram never hurt the 'student'. But both studies had the purpose of checking whether a figure of authority in society can change or influence the behavior of people.

Milgram's experiment had many consequences for its participants, many of whom showed signs of anguish and tension when they heard the screams of pain in the next room, which were apparently provoked by the electric shocks that the participants themselves were administering to the 'students'. Three of the participants had long and uncontrollable panic attacks, and although most subjects felt uncomfortable doing so, the forty participants obeyed up to 300 volts, while 25 of the 40 subjects continued to apply shocks up to the maximum level of 450 volts. This study revealed that 65% of the participants reached the end, even when the student in some recordings complained of having heart problems. The experimenter concluded the experiment after three 450 volt discharges.

Almost in the same way, the Stanford prison experiment left important psychological traces in its participants. It was a traumatic experience for many of the volunteers, and many of them found it very difficult to explain their behavior during those days and it was also an emotional challenge for all of them. The effect of the spectator meant that for many days the external observers accepted what was happening around them and, in some way, consented to it. The transformation into torturers and criminals by a group of 'normal' young people had occurred so naturally that no one had noticed the moral aspect of the situation, even though the problems had appeared almost immediately.

Otras similitudes en el experimento de Milgram y Zimbardo es que ambos psicólogos declararon que los efectos de las diferencias de personalidad eran muy limitados. Para Zimbardo, la mas importante característica de la personalidad que ha tenido en su experimento momento fue el autoritarismo; Y esta característica era importante solo por el comportamiento de los prisioneros.

Los profesionales de la salud y la seguridad en la prisión y el tiempo, permanecen allí por más tiempo. Una diferencia en estos experimentos es que Milgram intenta reducir la posibilidad de dar una respuesta más posible a sus participantes. Por ejemplo, dejé el tema en cuestión. Y, si exigimos que la sesión terminara, la terminaría. Zimbardo, por otro lado, detuvo su estudio debido a cuestiones éticas. De hecho, años después, dije que el estudio no era ético en su conjunto.

Other similarities in the Milgram and Zimbardo experiment is that both psychologists stated that the effects of personality differences were very limited. For Zimbardo, the most important characteristic of the personality he has had in his moment experiment was the authoritarianism; And this characteristic was important only because of the behavior of the prisoners. The prisoners who had a high authoritarianism were the most capable of handling the primitive and inhuman conditions in prison and, therefore, they remained there for a longer time.

One difference between these experiments is that the psychologist Milgram, in each study, tried to reduce the possibility of harming his participants as much as possible and take great care of their integrity. For example, Milgram each time the experimental session was over explained to them that they had never harmed anyone; and, if the participants demanded that the session end, he would finish it. Zimbardo, on the other hand, stopped his study due to ethical concerns and not because he thought the participants were suffering. In fact, years later, Zimbardo acknowledged that his study was not ethical as a whole.

To conclude, according to Milgram and Zimbardo, the situation has a great importance in our behavior, to the point of imposing on our internal values. These experiments tell us that there are a concentration camp guard and a genocide inside us and that is very difficult to accept. We need a more positive view of ourselves and believe that we would not act like that. 

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Experiment in the Basement of Stanford University by Professor Philip Zimbardo. (2021, Mar 04). Retrieved April 18, 2024 , from

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