Power of The Situation

psychpost | 7/24/2011 11:40:00 PM
Link to video.

In Phillip Zimbardo's famous Stanford Prison Study he converted a basement of the Psychology department at Stanford University into a mock prison. Participants were randomly assigned to play either a "guard" or a "prisoner". Zimbardo tells the guards "You can create in the prisoners feelings of boredom, a sense of fear to some degree, you can create a notion of arbitrariness that their life is totally controlled by us, by the system, you, me, and they'll have no privacy... We're going to take away their individuality in various ways. In general what all this leads to is a sense of powerlessness. That is, in this situation we'll have all the power and they'll have none."

He wanted to discover the key to abusive prison situations. Either there was something inherently "bad" about guards that caused them to abuse prisoners or there was something about the situation they were in that causes them to abuse prisoners. Pretty soon into the experiment, the guards are seen demoralizing and treating the prisoners poorly.

"The results of the experiment are said to support situational attribution of behavior rather than dispositional attribution. In other words, it seemed the situation caused the participants' behavior, rather than anything inherent in their individual personalities." Source.

24 responses to "Power of The Situation"

  1. Dude...that's crazy! I'd love to do something like this but in a smaller scale for my Research class. Seems pretty intense.

    hit me back :D

  2. Fascinating

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  4. I remember watching a documentary on this in class, as well as re-learning about it in other classes. Very relevant experiment in a lot of courses.

  5. people change psychologically after prison.

  6. crazy stuff ...

  7. This was a very interesting experiment. I learned about some of this in IAPS class.

  8. Theres two movies based on this story, one a geman original and another quite recent american remake...

  9. The Stanford Prison experiments were pretty intense, really enjoyed reading about it - as I have your post.

  10. I've tried finding all the controversial experiments performed. Some are quite frightening, like this and the Milgram experiment mentioned. The Monster study was also disturbing.

  11. Very interesting research, good read. Never heard about this before. Sounds pretty cruel though!

  12. That was quite heavy material, but I'm glad I read it anyways =D

  13. So, if I understood correctly, this is saying that power corrupts?

  14. I have always been fascinated by psychology, you got some good material here!

  15. Nice post man keep it up

  16. It's kind of freaky in you really think about it.

  17. Mock prison, that sounds like a greeeeat idea, haha.

  18. Interesting research, enjoyed reading this post. Great blog!

  19. Very interesting. I have a BA in Psych myself, and I remember learning about this in Social Psych. One of the most interesting and useful subdivisions of psych. Great blog! follow +1

  20. god i remember when i heard about this experiment for the first time...its sick and fascinating at the same time..but im glad it got discontinued :\

  21. People's thinking definitely changes after prison. Nice post, interesting read.

  22. fascinating blog +follow

  23. i agree to many of these comments, psychology is interesting and there are some very good posts on this blog. thanks for sharing!

  24. I’m still learning from you, but I’m making my way to the top as well. I absolutely enjoy reading all that is posted on your

    blog.Keep the stories coming. I loved it!
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