Stanford prison experiment


Different psychological set ups can induce a variety of impacts on individuals subjected to such set ups. The prison set up is thus expected to have similar impacts on its inhabitants. Establishment of such impacts of the prisons set upon prisoners or prison guards was the basis of Stanford prison experiment that was carried out by Philip Zimbardo. This paper seeks to discus the experiment. The paper will look into the results of the study and apply such findings to the real life events that are experienced today.

The Stanford Prison Experiment

The experiment was meant to investigate the response that people develop when they are exposed to different environments from their original environmental set ups. Taking volunteers and posing them as prisoners was the test that was to reveal the acquired responses of such individuals.

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Nature of the experiment

The individuals who were to assume the role of prison guards were not subjected to any form of formal training but were only offered a range of actions that they could take with respect to the experiment. The prisoners were on the other hand given shocking arrests that was followed by blind folding before they were driven to the experimental location. They were then subjected to humiliating experience that involved being stripped off their clothes, chained and subjected to an assimilated real prison setups.

Results of the Experiment

One of the results that were realized from the experiment was the level of rebellion that the prisoners developed after some time within the prison set up. The guards then called for reinforcement and resorted to forcefully counter the rebellion of their prisoners. Measures like confinement of rebellion leaders and intimidation of individual prisoners were then adopted by the guards.

An adopted psychological treatment of the prisoners that involved interchange of privilege treatment was then proposed by one of the guards and adopted on the prisoners.

This resulted in distrust among the prisoners and eventually weakened the organization of another rebellion. A level of psychological complications that included “acute emotional disturbance, disorganized thinking, uncontrollable crying and rage” (Zimbardo, n.d., p. 1) were however developed by the prisoners with difference in degrees leading to the release of one prisoner within two days. There was also a development of a planned escape by the prisoners (Zimbardo, n.d.).

Review of the result of the experiment also revealed some developed characteristics. It was, for instance, realized that induced situations cause significant inconsistent reactions on individuals. Role acting was also realized to create some sense of actual individual reactions when circumstances are pushed to the extremes.

It was also realized that changing an individual’s set up can also induce changes in individual’s behavior. Good people will for instance adopt bad characters if put in evil conditions (Zimbardo, Maslash & Haney, n.d.).

Application of the Findings

People generally react to any form of change that they are exposed to. One of the identified responses to changes in environmental set ups include attempts to withdraw from such changes. Such was the identified attempt by prisoners to escape from the set up (Leadership, 2004). Reactions of disorientation and emotional set ups are also common reactions together with anger (Resources, 2003).


The result of the experiment reveals that any induced change in environment induces psychological changes in people and consequently people find or develop ways to counter that.


Leadership. (2004). Pennsylvania child welfare training program. Retrieved on June 9, 2011 from:

Resources. (2003). Normal emotional reactions to change and transition. Retrieved on June 9, 2011 from:

Zimbardo, P. (n.d.). The Stanford prison experiment. Retrieved on June 9, 2011 from:

Zimbardo, P., Maslash, C & Haney, C. (n.d.). Revelations on the Stanford prisons experiment. Retrieved on June 9, 2011 from: