It is surprising that average people quickly change their behavior to fit the social role of either prisoner. The slide shows of the Stanford Prison Experiment by Zimbardo Philip highlight how good people suddenly change to bad people depending on the context. Sound and upright people surprisingly took their roles seriously and begun to act like it was a real life situation prison. The guards became brutal, abusive while the prisoners began to rebel and were emotionally affected by the prison condition. The experiment was going out of control and this was surprising since it was not expected that a simple experiment would escalate out of control. It is indeed surprising to see normal people turning into evil people when placed in an evil environment.
Researches took a number of measures to ensure that each of the participants would best experience his social role. Firstly, they did not advance any particular hypothesis since this would have made them interfere with the natural behavior of the participants in terms of interaction, state of their mood-when their emotions were measured-, their capacities for coping with the new situation and the attitudes towards themselves. However, the researches were aware that there will certainly be significant differences between the role of Prisoner and guard in the above aspects.
Researchers identified the most stable males-in terms of mental and physical fitness-after they came for the interview following an advertisement placed in the local newspaper, by zimbardo, calling for volunteers who would receive a good package for the exercise. The candidates were supposed to have been least engaged in anti-social behavior and mature enough for the exercise. Questionnaires were provided and extensive psychological tests were carried on the candidates to ascertain their mental and physical conditions as well as maturity.
Another step taken by the researcher was to provide each group with identical uniforms to promote group identity. Guard had the symbol of power; a whistle, sun glasses to impede eye contact, Khaki uniform and wooden baton. On the other hand, prisoners wore ID numbers and plain loose dresses, stocking cap on their head and a chain around one ankle. Prisoners were arrested and taken to a real police station, booked for burglary or armed robbery suspicion. Later in prison they were stripped and given prison uniforms all in a bid to make the situation appear as real as possible and for them to experience the roles assigned as full as possible (Anderson & Zimbardo, 1984).
Some prisoners broke down emotionally due to the harsh treatment they received from the guards. The solitary confinement, verbal abuse from the guards, line-ups, arbitrary punishment and reduction of privileges like showers and proper sleep was dehumanizing and psychologically tormenting to the prisoners. During their incarceration, the prisoners were locked up all day and all night in their tiny cells. This is dehumanizing and leads to antisocial behavior in the part of the inmates. The prisoners felt pain and anguish as well as hate for the prison and society for putting them under such conditions. During their arrest, prisoners were taken to a real police station and put under standard procedure: they were booked for being suspects in armed robbery or burglary after being taken from their homes. Te delousing, stripping, provision of the mug shot and uniform in prison was also dehumanizing.
The emotional stress that these prisoners experienced in jail will negatively impact o the real social behavior of the prisoner after they have been released from prison. The ex-prisoner will have antisocial behavior. These behaviors include: shying away and enjoying solitude, irritability, aggressiveness, brutality and being out rightly rebellious to any authority as a result of the harsh prison life.
The resocialization that took place in the prison explains the vulnerability of man towards his environment. The conditions under which a person is put under influences their behavior. This is why the sound individuals behave in an evil manner when put in an evil environment. The total institution in this regard therefore is depicted in the prison life where there are guards and prisoners each playing their roles. In addition the society is still there because the prison is a single place within the society. Each individual plays his role in the society to bring a total institution where there are good and evil people.
On one occasion I was given the role of a class prefect. This entailed changing from being a normal student to a watchdog, a policeman in fact. The position required feigning of seriousness each time and being controlling than is generally expected.
Part 2 - Research Ethics
It was unethical to make use of the city police. It is out of order to use real state resources for an experiment since this jeopardizes the integrity of this important institution. People will view it as a tool for experiment rather than an important agent for maintaining law and order in the society.
The use of body searches and humiliating control tactics by the guards is not ethical. This is in fact a form of torture and an infringement to the right of privacy of the individual. However, for the sake of the experiment, these conditions were reasonable and necessary to bring up a mock real life prison situation.
The experiment could have used alternative conditions that were reasonable enough for the experiment. However, these conditions are not easy to put in place and come up with a real prison environment. The harsh conditions were in deed necessary for the success of the experiment (Haney & Zimbardo, 1973).
The experiment should have been made as real as possible by providing even harsher conditions in order to minimize the bias in the out come of the experiment. The participants should have also been real inmates taken from real prisons and real guards who are experienced in handling prisoners. This would have removed any bias in the experiment.
The danger of the chief investigator assuming the prison superintendent role was that he could jeopardize the experiment by adding his input of what he already preempted the result could be. Zimbardo could reengineer the experiment in whatever direction he so pleased because he was the head of the prison and the experiment as well.
The untimely end of the experiment reveals that men have an overhaul of their behavior from good to evil whenever given a chance. Zimbarrdo ended the experiment because it had gone out of control. This shows that man has the potential of resocializing depending on the environment he is in.