Friday, September 25, 2009

The Stanford Prison Experiment


Please click on this link to read about one of the most controversial experiments of our time: The Stanford prison experiment. Read meticulously, as some of the most fascinating (and disturbing) elements of this experiment are in the little details.


When you have finished reading, I'd like you to use the blog to respond to what you have read. I'm not going to give you guiding questions this time; instead, I'd like you to ask your own questions and offer your own, authentic responses. On Monday in class we will be connecting this experiment to The Crucible, so feel free to start making those connections right now.


Remember that the blog is space to have a conversation, so read others' comments, respond to others' questions, and react to others' reactions.
Note: The image above was taken from wikipedia.org

45 comments:

  1. "Stanford prison experiment were frightening in their implications about the danger which lurks in the darker side of human nature"
    When the people who volunteered to be in prison and work as a guard had been there for a while, they started to go wild. They were leading to dangerous mind situations and had to get out after 6 days before any real damage was done.
    This relates to the crucible because once the girls who got them selves into witch craft got into it, they couldn't get out. their minds were possesed and they start lying and stuff.

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  2. This is definitely shocking and disturbing. What I don't understand is why when the "guards" were put in their positions, they started acting so much differently then they normally did. The article said that they had picked males who were the most stable, so they didn't have any real problems. However, as soon as they had power over others, they abused it and acted very cruely. That just shocked me. I can understand why this scarred the prisoners. They had to see perfectly normal people go crazy over their power and endure their harsh punishments and poor treatment. I agree with Morgan in the fact that this relates to "The Crucible" because the girls liked the feeling of power they had over the people in the town just like the people assigned to being guards. The girls had the power to get rid of certain people in the town and the guards had the power to punish the "prisoners".

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  3. I agree with Xavia that the experiment was shocking and disturbing. I think the guards acted the way the did because of the mob mentality. The guards started out by acting the way they thoughts guards acted and then it grew into something much worse. This relates to "The Crucible" because mob mentality took over the town of Salem. The people took ahold of both situations and ran with it. And nobody questioned it because everyone else was doing it. Why did the guards act so violently so fast, the experiment only last six days and the guards were abussing the inmates by day 2?

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  5. I agree with Aaron about the mob mentality and how it connects to the crucible with the whole town going insane and blaming others, but it doesn’t seem disturbing to me because they only acted that way to fit in with the rest of the group and they all weren’t thinking straight and were power hungry because they were given extreme amounts of power that they couldn’t handle. I just don’t understand how someone could actually get in to their role so fast especially since they knew it was a mock trial

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  6. This experiment just shows how people change when they feeel they have a certain amount of power. The so called "gaurds" in this experiment show that even in something so staged they felt superior to the imprisioned that they literally changed the way they began to think and act. The town of Salem also seemed to take power and use it to wrong other people and make them seem as a lesser beings, as they did in the witch trials. It is strange to me how much a person can change in such little time and in such a strange situation.

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  7. This experiment shows how when people are put into a situation, even if it is just a school project, can let themselves be consumed by whatever they are doing and become obsessed with it. It also shows how in human nature people have a tendancy to gang up on one another. People love to show power over eachother, and this ecperiment proves that point on such a higher scale that it is almost scary to think what a person can do when given a powerful position.

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  8. I agree with Aaron and Xavia when they said that this experiment was shocking and disturbing. I can't even believe that people would even agree to do an experiment like this. I think the guards started to take their power to an extreme causing them to treat the prisoners like that. They seemed to think of themselves as a higher authority and thought that they could do whatever they wanted and get away with it. This relates to The Crucible because the group of girls realized how powerful they were and took their power to a level that turned into most of the towns people being in jail.

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  9. This experiment seems disturbing, I can't believe that people wouold actually want to sign up for an experiment like this. But it does show that when people have power they can let that power consume them and they use it in a bad way. I think that since they felt they had power they thought that they could do anything they wanted to the 'prisoners' and get away with it. I agree with April this is like the crucible because in both situations the people who had power realize they can control the situation and do whatever they want wether it is considered right or wrong.

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  10. I can't believe that once put into the position as a "guard" they started taking a different and cruel role. The results were shocking what happened to the prisoners, but I somewhat expected that the guards would change somewhat like this in some degree. Some people will abuse power if you offer it to them, that is what I learned and what I believe. It's a shame that this is the world we live in.

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  11. It is interesting to see how such a simple experiment could completely change the behavior of and psychologically hurt the participants. The fact that the results of the experiments were from how the experiment ended horribly is fascinating. I'm wondering what the actual point of this experiment was. Was this psychological torture the hidden goal? I agree with many of the comments above that it's interesting that the people actually became the roles they were given and that one guard could determine the intensity of the entire experiment. This definitely relates to The Crucible in that when someone who seems to be psychologically stable is put in a difficult situation, their actions can be the complete opposite of their character. The participants in this experiment seemed to be psychologically fine, but when placed in the experiment they completely changed and in The Crucible this also happened when talk of witchcraft began. This experiment seems incredibly inhumane, but it did end with some fascinating results. How did this experiment get approved by Stanford is the ultimate question.

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  12. As inhumane as everyone thinks this experiment was, I believe it was necessary in order to understand certain aspects of how the human mind works. Results basically show that those with too much power will generally abuse it. This is something we experience on a daily basis through multiple sources. The understanding of human thought process was well worth the mental pain of a couple dozen college students.
    The Crucible displays a lot of examples of mentalities similar to those exhibited in this experiment, especially in the girls that participate in "witchcraft" or in the men and women that are the accusors.

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  13. Some of the results were a little bit shocking to me but i also could have predicted some of them. But I agree with Casey that this experiment was needed to show real life, everyday examples of how people abuse their power. These were normal college students who were given play roles in a prison environment and on day 1 the ones who were given more power took control of it. Even thought the experiment was a little unscientific and a little inhumane it showed things that happen in our everyday lives that people don't even realize.

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  14. People when put in power always take advantage of it. We are human and when you’re given the chance to have power it is everyone’s human nature to take advantage of it. That’s what I got from this reading. But I agree with Trace and that this needed to be done to show how after just six days the guards started to take advantage of the prisoners who before were all students that were equals. Once you’re given power why do we start to take advantage of it? I did understand why they did some of the things to try and reenact the prison life but other things were just so unnecessary I couldn’t believe it. The prisoners were so humiliated that they tried to escape the prison area, and the guards were so serious the actually tried to put the students in a prison. The people who were chosen for the experiment were chosen for their lack of psychological issues, crime history, and medical disabilities. So the question I have does everyone have mental problems to some degree?

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  15. In the article and in corbins blog they talk about human nature. I completely agree that it is human nature to do exactly what the students did in the experiment, in that they take their power a little too far and abuse it. I found it a little bit extreme to me that a couple of the students had to be removed from the experiment early. But I guess that is just how humans work, when put into situations such as these they can go too far. Far enough to where it becomes unbearable. It is a little scary to think about a real life situation exactly like this where the guards are consumed by power to this extent. How much power does it take to bring out this level of human nature?

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  17. I agree with Brian about the mob mentality but I am a little surprised about how the guards treated the prisoners so cruelly. I was not surprised though about how quickly the people adapted to their roles and how the guards were causing physiological problems for the prisoners. If you give someone power they are going to take it and continue to abuse it until someone stops them which is what he had to do after only six days.

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  18. This experiment is a disturbing way to show what it would be like to be a prisoner or a prison gaurd. I was suprised how quickly this experiment ended. It only lasted six days. I thought that this wouldnt effect them as much because they arent actually part of it, but I guess they really got into the parts. It kind of scares me that they got so attatched to their roles. Did they just convince themselves that they actually were the role that they were supposed to be playing? Why is it that sone of them were so emotionaly stable before they started and now they had to quit before the experiment was even over? In suprised how much this effected them.

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  19. This experiment proved that when someone is giving a uniform they think that their power is automatically there. The guards took advantage of their roles, they would abuse the authority a prison guard normally holds. If the creator of the experiment saw this going on, why didn't he try and stop it earlier? I think that if he had seen what was going on in the first couple of days he should have called off the experiment right then and there. I think that this experiment would really help with psychological purposes. However, if this experiment is ever re-done we would need to take extra precautions to avoid any more psychological damage. It is weird to think that a group of emotionally stable students got so emotionally freaked out the experiment had to be stopped. I think it was a good thing the experiment stopped, it is just weird to think of the effect of someone getting power hungry can have on us.

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  20. I was also shocked and disturbed by this experiment. I could not believe that the experiment only lasted 6 days and how much the prisoners and the prison guards embraced their roles in such a short time. Why did the prisoners so quickly accept the treatment they were given by the guards? Why did the guards treat the prisoners with such cruelty even though they knew it was just an experiment?

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  21. The mob mentality comes into play again in the Stanford Prison Experiement. I find it very interesting and shocking that people are so easily changed. People change there mindeset so quickly just because of the roll they have been told of. The people in the experiment took there rolls so seriously and took it to a dangerous level. It is scary to think that people are changed and persuaded so easily. The human brain is very easily changed. The mind has so much power. The brain will cause a person to act the way in which it thinks it should act. It is a frightening to think about how easily changeda human can be.

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  22. I think this article well shows humans aptness to corruption, as an addiction. The guards took the experiment out of hand but it continued to go on in chaos for the six day period. The power in the hands of the guards was taken much too seriously. It just shows how when put in a position of authority, humans are more inclined to express the limits of their power. Why would this experiment go on even with all of the emotional disturbances of the prisoners? Why did the guards not allow the prisoners to leave the experiment when requested, even though it was only just an experiment?

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  23. I was also very shocked by this experiment. It was interesting how a stable man could abuse the amount of power given to him. The guards felt in control of the prisoners and started to go "over the top". What shocked me the most was the short amount of time it took the "guards" to become corrupt. This article relates to the crucible because the girls in Salem also became corrupt after realizing their power over the town.

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  24. In both, people who were friends changed once they were either accused of witchcraft or became the prison guard

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  25. I agree with something that was said in the small group, this stanford prison experiment is kinda like a mob mentality same with the crucible. The people got "psycho and unstable" eventually in this experiment as a group and so did the girls in the crucible.

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  26. (I am in the outer circle)
    1. People are saying... that the students in the experiment are power hungry and are using that as an excuse to abuse their power. It is almost uncontrollable.

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  27. An interesting comment made in the inner circle is that the guards were upset that the experiment ended early because they enjoyed the pain and torture of others which in the crucible Abigail also felt this way. I agree with this and that she enjoyed watching people suffer at a very unhealthy level.

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  28. How come they didn't do anything after they realized that things started to go wrong? Why did they wait even though it was a short period of time, they still waited.

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  29. Power, mob mentality and taking a role in society are the three most important things in the Standford prison.

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  30. I think that anybody is vulnerable to enjoy the feeling of power, and sometimes, it can be abused. There's that mindset to where they think that have to keep doing what they're doing. Sometimes power is used to take your feelings out on somebody, and in other cases, when someone gets caught up in knowing they have power, they become mad.

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  31. Morgan- I think that being on the inside they didn't see it go wrong except for maybe the prisoners. From a guards point of view though I think it seemed fine. It took an outside source to stop the experiment.

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  32. Morgan had a great point with mob mentailty if they didnt have friends to back them up or gang up one person people wouldnt act like this. The people who gang up i think are more inscure because they cant stand up for what ie right and just want to follow so they dont get caught

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  33. In the experiment, the guards, I think, have really outdone themselves. I can understand that they got caught up in the moment of their power over other people, but it shows that the self-control wasn't a factor. I am wondering why the creator of this experiment didn't see it coming and why the prisoners didn't stand up for themselves, when they could've because it was meant to be an experiment, not a intentional beating of people.

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  34. They didn't leave because they started to believe that thats who they really were a prisoner that has done something wrong and needed to be at the prison.

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  35. I agree with Xavia. She was saying that it is a little odd that people who were put in this scenario for 2 days and they couldnt help but change their personality in two days. I also agree with KarlyH. She said that people were so disappointed because they had to end the experiment early. They were so caught up in the experiment and were actually enjoying the pain and the new treatment that they were receiving in the Stanford experiment.

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  36. Another part of the standford prison experiment is completely taking away the identity of the prisoners and calling them by numbers. We see this also in world war II with the jews in the concentration camps. I think that in the crucible the girls take on the identity of being a witch because other wise they will be hung. I think for these girls eventually they believed they were witches and lost their actual identity that they knew.

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  37. I think Corbin is definitely right, when people are with other people they also would be less likely to help out a person in need or something. Because the people are doing the experiment in a big group setting, they are less likely to help each other out so Karly had a really good point too.

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  38. I agree with Corbin and Karly that people are less likely to help other people out, especially when everyone else around them are the guards or the accusers who torture people, emotionally and physically. They want to look cool and/or not betray what all of the others are doing around them.

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  39. Unofficial Fishbowl Notes

    - it was kind of a mob mentality
    - we are all vulnerable to the ‘darker’ side of our human nature
    - you would think that at the first sign of people getting out of control the people in charge of the experiment would have ended it instead of letting the guards and prisoners get deeper in their roles
    - the human mind can be easily manipulated
    -if you really truly believe that you are something you will become that thing, that’s one of the reasons some actors go slightly crazy or have mental breakdowns, they get too into their characters and when the movie is over they cant get out of that mindset. The danger comes when they play characters that are dark, sadistic, insane…
    - why didn’t the students just get up and leave when things began getting out of hand?
    - maybe they figured it was just an experiment and so they should just wait it out
    - the abuse was just part of the deal
    -they got too into the characters and thought that’s who they were
    - people can be brainwashed easily
    - in the Crucible its possible that the girls began believing in their hallucinations and they get swept up in the adrenaline
    - they knew it was fake but they got swept up in the moment, so at the time they were able to faint and scream and actually believe in what they were pretending to see…

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  40. I agree with Nowlan about how if everyone labels you as something then overtime you might begin to believe that thats what you are.

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  41. Fishbowl:
    -guards became obsessed with their roles, became very power hungry. also, in the crucible, the girls have the power when they start accusing other people.
    -Mob mentality: guards being abusive, girls believe they are witches, town going on a witch hunt.
    -Prisoners in Stanford experiment changed from being emotionally stable to being emotionally corrupt from the 6 day experiment.
    -Instead of the guards gradually adjusting to their roles in the experiment, they immediately took up a very abusive role, even though they were all volunteers.
    -why did the experiment still last 6 days, doesn't that still seem like a long time when he proved his point early on?
    -Roles can take over personalities, and soon people will identify themselves by their role. if you are treated like a prisoner long enough, soon you will become one
    -Witchcraft started off as something people didnt believe in, but as time went on more and more people warmed up to the idea of witchcraft and they started believing it. Switched mentalities from start to finish.

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  42. I agree with Karly to call people out by numbers, how awful and your identity is gone. What freaks me out is that a prisoner and a guard could have been best friends but when put in this situation your friend becomes just a number. Just like in The Crucible if you had a great neighbor but once they were accused of witchcraft they were no longer a good neighbor they became evil because they were accused.

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  43. I also was very shocked with the experiment. It does remind me of WWII with the Jews in the concentration camps, but that wasn't an experiment. I think the way that that relates is that all of the guards in both events, got way too into the power that they were given to practically annihilate people. It was just absolutely crazy and I can't believe how vulnerable human beings are to power.

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  44. Some people are able to handle power and some others don't know how to. The guards didn't know how to handle power. They abused it. I think the person who did the experiment should of stopped this if he/she saw the extremeties of the experiment. It says that they took original kids that had no problems in life, if this is true than the conditions in the basement had to be extreme. What was going on in the experiment? Why do you think people abuse power? I think people need to slow down and think how they would feel if they were on the other side, which The Stanford Prison Experiment is a prime example of it. During the fish bowl today people had some good points. The thing that had my attention and got me thinking was how in the Crucible and in the experiment people strived for power. In both examples people don't know how to deal with power.

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