1. How did the police procedures used during arrests lead people to feel confused, fearful, and dehumanized?
They made the arrests as if it were real and not part of an experiment. The people were handcuffed, stripped of their clothes and wore uniforms. They were put in jail cells like animals in a zoo. They were to be identified by number and number only, creating an environment where the prisoners virtually had no identity. Prisoners were put into isolation. It is as if they had all of their rights taken away. The prisoners were stripped and humiliated with name calling. It was made a point to give them no sense of comfort. Sleep was interrupted often, causing disorientation and confusion. Many prisoners were losing control of their emotional balance, due to the extreme stressful situations. The experiment showed that the psychological effects of being in a prison can be devastating. Three prisoners had lost control of their emotions after only 3 days, and by the fifth day, almost every prisoner had some sort of psychological issue to deal with. The prisoners even resulted to acting disturbed with screaming and cursing out of control in order to be released. Often guards would put out anger on the prisoners. When a single prisoner disobeyed, they were all forced to suffer and do certain things. Doors were kicked, threats were given, and fear was certainly created. The study showed how difficult it was for them to defend themselves and it showed how sometimes people have no choice in the situation. The entire booking and arrest process was set up to make the prisoners feel less like humans and more like objects or animals. The amount of stress in a prison environment where mental abuse, humiliation, and degradation, are present, plays a big role in both the mental state of the prisoners, but for the guards as well. These things can change the identity of a prisoner completely.
2. If you were a guard, what type of guard would you have become? How sure are you?
In this experiment, the volunteers that were guards were left to fill out their position without any sort of training . This led to the guards acting however they wanted cause the volunteers did what felt natural and necessary to be a guard. There were good guards and bad guards. Although most guards did, I don’t believe I would’ve taken advantage of my powers. I could not feel right with myself harming another being mentally or physically. I could never find the courage in me to do so. There is no way I could do the things the guards in the experiment did without feeling unpleasant. I feel that my spirit far too kind and humble to allow myself to be so controlling. It just isn’t in me. In this situation I would probably choose to stop participating all together. Even though prisoners were never seriously physically harmed they were left mentally traumatized. I believe that I would be an extremely fair guard but also very quiet at the same time. Due to my inability of abusing powers I’d probably be too afraid to confront the bad guards. I would feel useless. This could possibly lead to me becoming a silent bystander that does nothing about the situation. I would not be able to stop the guards. I am sure things would remain the same if I actually experienced this situation hands on. Throughout the experience I would feel disgusted. I am pretty sure actual guards do not notice the change in their ethical morals and behaviors unless they sit down and realize their actions. People tend to get carried away especially when presented with more authority over others. Even so, I am positive I wouldn’t get to the point other guards did.
8. What is identity? Is there a core to your self-identity independent of how others define you? How difficult would it be to remake any given person into someone with a new identity?
Identity is a person’s distinct way of which they are recognized. Even though it’s mostly how others see you, I believe identity is actually a mixture between how others see you and how you see yourself. There are certain differences that mark an individual from the rest of the population. These characteristics can be things such as gender, race, culture, history etc.,the things that are recognizable. These things are made by outside forces and there is no single thing we can call our own due to the universality of it all. However, we can all use these things to explain ourselves and show ourselves. You may see yourself totally different from how others see you because we will always define ourselves differently than others might. Most people think identity comes from within but it has a lot to do with our environment. It might be quite difficult to remake a person’s identity. But, I don’t think it’s impossible at all. I believe it depends on the person individually and the circumstances involved to say how easy it is to remake somebody’s identity. In the experiment, peoples identities were completely taken from them and they immediately began new ones as prisoners or guards like they were assigned to do so. This pretty much required a rebuilding of identity during and after the experiment.
9. Do you think that kids from an urban working class environment would have broken down emotionally in the same way as did our middle-class prisoners? Why? What about women?
I think urban and middle class citizens greatly differ. Environment has a huge influence and effect on the way in which a person acts. Growing up in an urban environment gives a high chance of being more tough than one growing up in a middle class environment. Middle class doesn’t always face the harsh realities of life and are likely to be more sheltered than the urban. Rough living conditions force people to become stronger. In the experiment, urban class would have been more used to bad conditions and wouldn’t have been so surprised in being treated poorly. They have also probably worked harder. They would in all likelihood have a greater chance of enduring the physical hardships within the prison. Many might have even been arrested before due to being brought up in such a troubling environment. This doesn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t feel the same being treated this way it just means they would most likely be able to handle it better. Everyone has feelings and no one is invincible. Most middle class prisoners would probably have never been to jail prior. The situation introduces a whole new environment of fear for the prisoners. This makes it a lot easier for them to break down faster because it is such a shock. Women in this situation would react similar to men in my opinion. If anything women might be more sensitive in some cases but it overall has a to do with mental health and gender doesn’t necessarily determine that. Women are very strong and put up with a lot so I wouldn’t say men are generally tougher either.
12. Was it ethical to do this study? Was it right to trade the suffering experienced by participants for the knowledge gained by the research? (The experimenters did not take this issue lightly, although the Slide Show may sound somewhat matter-of-fact about the events and experiences that occurred).
This study was clearly unethical, with no argument. The men were put in great mental stress and harsh conditions. It was wrong to degrade them and although they pretty much volunteered, I don’t think they realized what was coming to them. The conditions the prisoners faced were definitely not what they had volunteered for. They were never informed of what really went down. I think the psychological state of a human being is very important and those men didn’t deserve to endure the mental stress they went through. The men who participated were victimized, humiliated and dehumanized for the sake of research. The study most likely influenced some permanent psychological damage on the before mentally stable prisoners.
Although the experiment was very unethical, I think it was interesting to see the way humans can become so evil. In this case, the knowledge gained by the research was good to know, but not worth the great suffering of the prisoners. But also, I don’t think that the results of the study would have turned out how they did if they did not take the way they did. It was necessary to treat it as a real prison to see the results that came about. I think the results of the study were completely unexpected by everyone involved in the study, including the volunteers and Zimbardo. It was the first time a study like this was ever performed to this degree. I don’t think anyone understood the potential amount of damage this study could have on everyone involved either.
Those conducting the research had no idea there would be such horrible effects from their study, so the psychologists can’t be blamed for the fact that this study was unethical. Although the findings were helpful to psychologists, this study could never be reproduced.
16. Knowing what this research says about the power of prison situations to have a corrosive effect on human nature, what recommendations would you make about changing the correctional system in your country?
I would suggest the aggression level be taken down a notch. There is no need to be so aggressive and dehumanizing. The prisoners are treated like animals, and everyone deserves basic human rights. The prisoners are already in suffering for the crimes they committed, but the abuse from the guards in not necessary. It’s punishing enough being in jail to begin with. The guards should be ordered to treat the prisoners like humans, if not they shall be punished or fired. It seems guards always get carried away with the authority they believe they have. There is such an emphasis on the higher level of the guards compared to the prisoners. Both groups are human beings and deserve to be treated with some type of respect. There needs to be boundaries. They need to respect the prisoners as humans, even if they did do something wrong. Guards should be monitored when interacting with prisoners and prisoners mental health should be monitored. It’s important that the prisoners that are mentally ill get assistance, especially before going back to society. I also think there should be a reward system for good behavior. This could encourage everyone to engage in proper behavior in unity. The reward level would drop when negative behavior is preformed. Making prisoners feel like terrible people wont urge them to change their ways. It should be taught that there’s good inside of everybody and people can change if they really want to. It’d also be cool if prisoners could be given small jobs and opportunities when in jail. Its very hard to get employed after you’ve been arrested. The goal should be to help them correct themselves and prepare to become better in the real world when they’re released.