The Stanford Prison Experiment Essay

The Stanford Prison Experiment Essay

Zimbardo and fellow researchers (1973) wanted to know if the cruelty observed within security personnel in American jails was attributable to the officers’ sadistic nature, in other words, dispositional, or had much to do with the prison environment (situational) (Le Texier, 2019). Convicts and guards may have characteristics that make confrontation imminent, with convicts lacking regard for law and order and guards overbearing and violent. Conversely, due to the tight hierarchy of the social milieu in jails, convicts and guards may act hostilely. Zimbardo anticipated that circumstances, rather than disposition, influenced people’s behavior.

Many ethical issues have been leveled at the study, notably a lack of informed consent by respondents because Zimbardo did not know what would transpire in the experiment. Furthermore, the detainees disagreed with being arrested at home. The detainees were not informed, partly because final police consent was not obtained until minutes before the volunteers opted to partake and partly because the researchers intended the arrests to be a surprise (Mcleod, 2020). Participants portraying inmates were not protected from psychological injury and were subjected to humiliation and misery. This, however, was a violation of the ethics of Zimbardo’s contract, which all of the subjects had signed.

The Stanford Prison Experiment is often used to illustrate unethical research. The experiment could not be reproduced by researchers today since it does not fulfill the requirements set by various ethical rules, including the American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code (Mcleod, 2020). Another reason the study cannot be carried out today is that it lacks generalizability owing to several issues. The unrepresentative sample of participants, predominantly white and middle-class males, makes generalizing the findings challenging. The work has also been criticized for lacking ecological validity (Mcdermott, 2019). It lacks the realism that a simulated experimental setting brings to the real-world scenario it aims to imitate.



Le Texier, T. (2019). Debunking the Stanford Prison Experiment. The American Psychologist74(7), 823–839.

Mcdermott, M. (2019). Evaluating the criticisms of the Stanford prison experiment. Psychology Review Magazine25(2), 18–20.×7

Mcleod, S. (2020). Stanford Prison Experiment.


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In this discussion board, you will review a video on BAD psychology experiments:

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5 Psychology Experiments You Couldn\’t Do Today
Duration: 10:55
User: n/a – Added: 9/11/16
Choose one of the five studies discussed in the video. (You can explore other websites/articles/sources to find out more about the study).
Give some thought to the following questions and post your response in the DB:
In a couple of sentences, summarize what took place in the study.
Address the following:
Why do you believe the participants took part in this study?
What ethical principles were violated in this research study?
Would an experiment such as this be conducted today? Why or why not?
Your initial post must be posted before you can view and respond to colleagues, must contain minimum of two (2) references, in addition to examples from your personal experiences to augment the topic. The goal is to make your post interesting and engaging so others will want to read/respond to it. Synthesize and summarize from your resources in order to avoid the use of direct quotes, which can often be dry and boring. No direct quotes are allowed in the discussion board posts.

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