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Evil is in the good

Updated on May 28, 2012
The "guards"
The "guards"
Philip Zimbardo
Philip Zimbardo

This is a paper I wrote in class that I thought you hubbers would find interesting.


Social Psych

One of the most talked about and controversial experiments for Social Psychology is the Stanford Prison experiment. This is one case that I have always wanted to research and learn more about this case and what happened. The experiment happened in 1971 in California. The study was advertise with compensation of 15 dollars a day, 75 five men responded to it. Philip Zimbardo, the creator of the study, picked 24 men who were the most emotionally and mentally stable he split them up into different categories which were “prisoners” and “guards”. There were 12 prisoners and 12 guards.  The prisoners were instructed to go home and wait for a call about the day to participate in the experiment. Instead on a Sunday they were picked up by the actual police at their homes under the charges of armored robbery.  The participants were finger printed and stripped searched as if they were real criminals they were then put in smocks and went to their cells. The prison was constructed in the psychology department basement of Stanford.  The prisoners were to answer to a number instead of their name and had to wear stocking caps that would make them appear bald as if their head had been shaved. The other 12 participants who were the “guards” were dressed in military type clothing. They were given a bat and sun glasses. Zimbardo gave the guards one rule, No physical abuse was able to be used on the prisoners. The guards had freedom to do whatever else they wanted. Prisoners knew that there would be some harassment and they would have a specific diet because this was stated when they signed the volunteer form.

After everyone was in there places the experiment was to take place for 2 weeks. Zimbardo played the part of the warden and was supposed to oversee the experiment.  They experiment started with 9 guards and 9 prisoners the other 3 of each category were on call if they were needed. On the first day the guards disciplined the prisoners by making them do pushups. The second day of the experiment prisoners started a riot. They ripped of their stocking caps and numbers and put their beds against the openings to barricade themselves in their rooms. The guards became angry and handled the rebellion by spraying the prisoners with fire extinguishers.  The guards took prisoners’ beds and clothing and started harassing them. The guards had the prisoners simulate sexual acts on each other and they were not allowed to go to the bathroom. Zimbardo got so into this experiment that he was angry when the police wouldn’t let him move the prisoners into the real jail. Prisoners were deeply emotional disturbed after this experiment ended. Guards were also disturbed and trying to figure out why they had treated the prisoners the way they did.

The connection between this experiment and Social Psychology is how power and society can affect people’s morals and beliefs. The guards became sadistic since they were in a role of power these were normal men who turned into something they weren’t because of a position of power.  I think this experiment was over the top and completely immoral. If Zimbardo was in the right mind set he would have seen that the prisoners were in a bad condition but he was also blinded by power.

Social Psychology gives us information on how different aspects of society effect what we do. What the norm is to society is the norm anything outside of that box is not appropriate. Social psychologists do experiments to see how this can be measured and to figure out this phenomenon. When I heard about this experiment I thought to myself “I’d never do anything like that.” But in the situation you never know what you might do. According to social psychology it isn’t just about being in a place of power it is also about becoming compliant with the authority. People do what their bosses tell them to do because the boss is a higher rank. If your boss asked you to do something “ridiculous” you might actually do it because in society we learn that you MUST listen to authority or else deal with punishment. Even the fact that I am writing this paper or going to college shows the effects of hierarchy and social norms.  Social psychologists run experiments so we can better understand why we do things when told and why we can do things we never imagined when in a position of power.

Good v.s. Evil

 In there good person there is a little bit of "evil" at certain times this can come out. i believe in places of power some people can actually become a bit evil. For example some police officers have been known to do terrible things but have been good people previously. Also some priests who decided to use the excuse "god made me do it."


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    • Bredavies profile image

      Bredavies 5 years ago

      Your welcome!

    • Tom Cornett profile image

      Tom Cornett 6 years ago from Ohio

      Much like many German soldiers who became emotionally and physically sick in the concentration camps. Interesting hub....thanks. :)