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The Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971

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Abstract

The Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971 was a study that determined how a group of people would react when put into certain psychological circumstances. It was held at the Stanford psychology building, which was temporarily designed to look like a prison. The participants were all college students who got paid $15 a day to take part in it. They were separated in half, some being prisoners and the others being guards. They were to act out how life would actually be in jail. The study was two last for one to two weeks, but because of how seriously the participants took it, they had to end a week early. The study is still an influence to experts today.

The Stanford Prison Experiment was held in the basement of the psychology building. It was designed to look like a real prison. Twenty-four college students were chosen to take part, out of a group of 75, depending on their health and psychological wellness, which had to be in good shape. They would be paid $15 a day to participate. The decision of whether they would act as prisoners or guards was determined by the flip of a coin. They were expected to play their roles the best that they could. This turned out to be extremely well. So well, in fact, that the experiment had to be cut short a week before it was really supposed to end (Cherry).

Upon their arrival, the prisoners were stripped down for the customary check. They were sprayed down with repellant, because the guards falsely said that they had lice. They were each put into uniforms, a smock, with their prison ID number stamped onto it. This added to their humiliation and emasculation, and the ID made them feel anonymous, keeping the personal annotation away. They had to wear a heavy chain that was locked onto their right ankle. It was there to give the prisoners a feeling of oppression, a constant reminder that they were locked away in prison. They were only allowed to wear rubber sandals. A woman's stocking was put over all of their heads to give the feeling of having their head shaved, which pushes away their individuality.

The guards were not given any actual teaching on how to treat their prisoners. They were allowed to do whatever they wanted to keep the prisoners in line. They could make up their own rules that they could enforce upon the prisoners. They were all dressed in khaki uniforms and wore sunglasses that prevented the prisoners from seeing their eyes, which gave a "poker face" to themselves. They had a whistle that they wore around their necks and a billy club from the real police.

The experiment began with 9 prisoners and 9 guards, and the rest of the students were there for backup if needed. The guards worked the eight hour shifts, and the prisoners stayed there 24/7. They would be awoken at 2:30 AM to do their first count, which made it easier for the prisoners to memorize their own ID numbers. It also gave a reason for guards to control the prisoners. In the beginning, the prisoners were not taking the counts seriously, as they were still trying to be rebellious and keep their manliness. The guards were also not yet sure how to show their authority over the prisoners. If a prisoner refused to do something, the guards usually asked him to do a series of push-ups, with their foot, or another prisoner sitting on them, while they did it.

Soon, rebellion broke out. The prisoners took off their numbers, stocking hats, and pushed their beds against the door to keep themselves inside their rooms. The guards had to act with extreme force. They used a fire extinguisher to spray the rebellious prisoners with carbon dioxide, came into the cells, stripped the prisoners down, and put them into solitary

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