Press "Enter" to skip to content

One of the Most Famous Experiments in Psychology was Faulty

A new investigation has revealed that the Stanford Prison experiment was deeply flawed. The 1971 exercise involved the placing of college students in a mock prison. The students then changed to become aggressive guards and hysterical prisoners.

Reporter Ben Blum wrote in the Medium that the male college students in the experiment did not transform to abusive guards organically. Instead, the head of the research, Philip Zimbardo encouraged the guards to act tough according to audio retrieved from the Stanford archive.

Blum also found that trauma of being in prison did not cause the outburst from the prisoners. Interestingly, one student prisoner disclosed that he feigned a breakdown in a bid to leave the experiment and study for his graduate school exam.

Zimbardo had paid nine student participants to serve as prisoners and another nine to act likecorrectional officers. Blum reports that the experiment was meant to last for two weeks, but Zimbardo’s girlfriend persuaded him to end it after six days when she witnessed the adverse conditions in the mock jail.

The outcomes of the Stanford Prison Experiment have since then been used to depict that exceptional situations and social roles are significant in bringing out the worst in people. Additionally, numerous psychology textbooks describe this experiment. However, the recent discoveries could change the people’s perception of the experiment.

For instance, Jay Van Bavel who is an associate professor of psychology and neural science at New York University tweeted that Zimbardo was not only wrong but also managed to mislead millions of people who accepted his false narrative of the Stanford Prison Experiment.” However, other scientists argue that the general acceptance of the experiment may have been avoided in the 1970s if the scientific community had been skeptical about the experiment then.

Blum also reports that other scientists failed to replicate the findings of Zimbardo. Thus, the view that there is the influence of people’s behavior by their environment and social roles has always existed in the scientific and popular domains because the notion eliminates some of the blame for despicable acts committed by people.

Blum further indicates that the appeal of the Stanford Prison Experiment must have gone deeper than the scientific validity it holds probably because it tells people a story about themselves and they want to believe in the tale desperately.

Blum continues to say that even though Zimbardo’s fallen vision of human nature is troubling, it is also liberating. It means that the specific circumstances determine people’s actions and the fallibility is also situational.