readers may be interested in a study that simulated
prison life. While experiments involving crime,
prison and the law may seem more suited to the fields
of Criminal Justice, Law and Psychology, the study
is also useful to those interested in conflict management
in higher education. You will discover, as people
involved in the study did, that simulating prison
life involved conflict resolution on the part of
the researchers and simulation volunteers. The Stanford
Prison Experiment is also a valuable teaching tool
for conflict management faculty.
wanted to uncover the "nature of human nature"
when he planned a two-week investigation into the
psychology of prison life. The experiment, called
Prison Experiment: A Simulation Study of the Psychology
of Imprisonment', took place at Stanford University
in 1971. Researchers involved with the now classic
psychology experiment wanted to find answers to
the following questions: What happens when you put
good people in an evil place? Does humanity win
over evil, or does evil triumph?
of the Experiment
Stanford Prison Experiment involved 24 male college
students from the United States and Canada who answered
a local newspaper advertisement calling for volunteers.
The volunteers had to be in the Stanford area, psychologically,
mentally, emotionally and physically healthy and
willing to participate in the study for 1-2 weeks.
Volunteers would receive $15 per day for their participation.
Stanford Prison Experiment research team relied
on consultants to help them construct a prison in
the basement of Stanford's Psychology Department.
The prison contained prison cells, a toilet room,
an eating and exercise yard, a solitary confinement
room and an intercom system used to make announcements
to the prisoners. Researchers observed the guards
and prisoners via secretly placed video cameras
randomly divided the 24 volunteers into two groups.
One group was assigned to be guards while the other
group was to be prisoners. Volunteers assigned as
prisoners found out about their acceptance into
the experiment when they were arrested in their
home or on campus by real
followed was investigation into human nature. Prisoners
experienced degradation, punishment, despair, oppression
and depression as they started to actually believe
they were prisoners. Guards took their role seriously
as they enforced the law and asserted power and
authority. The Stanford Prison Experiment, which
was supposed to last for two weeks, ended after
six days when researchers realized that guards were
becoming abusive and prisoners were forgetting that
they were not real prisoners.
to Learn More About the Study
Stanford Prison Experiment is fully detailed online
The website contains a slide show that is divided
into the following sections: prelude, setting up,
arrival, guards, rebellion, grievances, escape and
conclusion. Also included are discussion questions,