Sample English Essay Paper on Zimbardos prison Experiment

Zimbardos prison Experiment

The experiment was a psychological study of human responses to authority by captivity, and how it affects behavior which was carried out by Philip Zimbardo. The results proved that people become obedient when confronted with a legitimizing ideology and an institutional support, for instance, the prison environment. Such support was found to be able to influence the behavior of individuals to a certain extend by making them to be more obedient for a number of reasons. Authority has an influence on the behavior of individuals in different circumstances, as it is evident from the study. The paper looks at how the behavior of people can be controlled by the power of authority basing on the experiment and the views of critics, such as Fromm. The experiment was important in understanding human behavior in different situations for instance when provided with support.

The experiment commenced when an advert was put in the local dailies and different people volunteered to play different roles in the experiment. Volunteers who were mostly college students played crucial roles, whereby some acted as guards and others as prisoners living in a prisons that were used in the study.  The participants who had volunteered to be part of the study played their roles as it was expected of them but at some points overstepped their roles, thus resulting in psychologically damaging situations. Some of those participants who had volunteered as guards in the study were seen to have shown sadistic behavior. A number of prisoners who had volunteered were emotionally traumatized by the conditions that they were subjected to and for this reason; some were relieved and do not take part in the whole study.   Zimbardo, who was distressed at the increasingly offensive anti-social behavior from the participants, stopped the experiment earlier than it had been planned. The experiment was terminated earlier for the reason the guards became abusive by making prisoners to do demeaning works. The participants were permitted to interact in different ways but the guards stared to conduct themselves in ways that were hostile towards the criminals, and this made the prisoners to be unhappy. The people who were researching lost sight of reality of the situation, for instance, Zimbardo, who was the warden, overlooked the behavior of some of the participants until objections were raised by the prisoners. The morality of the experiment was raised by various people as a result of the conduct of the participants and this resulted to its termination. The conduct of all the participants in the experiment raises questions on the morality of the experiment, and this makes the findings of the experiment to be non factual for failing to adhere to conventional ways of experimenting. The study did not adhere to all the ethical standards of the experiments, and thus the results and conclusions of the experiment are questionable.

            The aim of the study was to test the notion that  guards in prison and prisoners were self-selecting of disposition that would result in poor conditions that could change the way they behave.  The guards were provided with uniforms and  sunglasses to avoid eye contact whereas the prisoners were assigned numbers that were used in referring to them as opposed to names, Prisoners were to expected adhere to certain rules that were pinned on the walls.

            Prisoners were known by the numbers, which they were assigned and were expected to wear tight-fitting nylon pantyhose caps so that they could be easily identified and differentiated from other participants. Zimbardo instructed the participants to behave in a way that befits their position, for instance, he told the guards to create feelings of boredom in the prisoners to elicit certain behaviors from the prisoners, and he also told them to create a sense of fear for the prisoners to feel that they were controlled. In addition, prisoners cleaned toilets with hands to humiliate them and make the conditions tougher so as to see how they behaved during and after the duties. The prisoner’s endured humiliation by the guards during the whole of the study, for instance, they were humiliated sexually in the entire study before it was stopped.

            The experiment’s results confirmed the obedience of individuals when compelled with institutional support, for instance, the prison environment.  The participants in the study became obedient for the reason that they were provided with institutional supporting meaning that the circumstances in which they lived in made them to behave in that way. The findings of the study can also be used to support how behavior of individuals can be influenced by situations rather than attribution; from the experiment, it is clear the participants behaved in that manner as a result of the situation in which they were in rather than their personalities or individual attributes.     The findings are criticized by various scholars as being unethical and not adhering to scientific standards that have been laid down about experimentation. There were several issues in the prison during and after study for instance the participants did not adhere to standards that are required of a scientific experiment. For instance, at some point during the study, the experiment grew out of control by the experimenters because prisoners accepted embarrassing treatment from the guards. The stress the participants went through made them to rebel and thus the results were not accurate; prisoners showed emotional disturbances. Fromm challenged the findings for the reason that they were generalized, he argued about how personal attribute of an individual affects behavior when imprisoned rather than the power of authority. He also argues that the sadism of people who were used in the study could not be arrived at with the methods that were used.

Because it was an experiment that was carried out in the field, it was not possible to keep traditional scientific methods of control. Zimbardo was not just an observer, but had an influence on the study because he was superintendent because he gave instructions to the participants on how they were expected to behave for instance he told the guards to instill fear in the prisoners. Conclusions from the study were subjective  and this makes it hard for other researchers to reproduce since it was not objective as an experiment is supposed to be.

The participants based their actions on the expectations of the experimenters and they knew how the prisoners behaved before the beginning of the exercise. This made them to ape the behavior of prisoners; they were engaging in role-playing. Most guards altered their behavior because they wanted to impress Zimbardo who was trying to elicit and wanted them to behave in a certain manner.

The study proved that the behavior of individuals can be influenced by the power of authority but it did not adhere to all the ethical requirements. Most of the participants, for instance, the prisoners, changed their behavior to conform to what were expected of them and this made the experiment to be unscientific.