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The Stanford Prison Experiment: Part Two

Written by Sabrina Aezaz and Mahee Mishra

Edited by Jocelyn Wang and Sharon Park


Welcome back to Part 2 of our Stanford Prison Experiment article. This part of the article goes further into the atrocities that took place during the Stanford Prison Experiment, and how the experiment further progressed. If you haven't read Part One of the Stanford Prison Experiment, click here.

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As the experiment continued on, the guards increasingly became aggressive, while the prisoners had a very distressed demeanor and begged to be allowed to quit. The guards started to gain unusual and increasingly brutal methods of controlling the prisoners and making them feel subordinate to the prison guards. Two prisoners, #8612 and #819, were even released early due to the severe toll on their mental state. The study had to be cut short, as it began to receive public backlash. However, the results would remain a significant, shocking demonstration of human behavior, and continue to be cited in psychology classes and court rooms. Zimbardo’s conclusions would even be used in high-up government agencies such as congress to explain instances like the tortures at Abu Gharib, a scandal in which US soldiers were exposed for abusing Iraqi prisoners.

But what exactly did Zimbardo determine?



He asserted that people conform to the social roles they’re given. These roles, which are purely dependent on the right situation, could cause anyone to act sadistically.

A piece of artwork on the Tortures of Abu Gharib, Abu Gharib, a terrible scandal in which US soldiers were exposed for abusing Iraqi prisoners.

Zimbardo’s study has experienced its fair share of controversy and criticism. Many have argued that the entire experiment was unethical, and that Zimbardo demonstrated sadistic behavior himself. Some claimed that the mock-prison was incredibly different from real prison, therefore, it wasn’t an accurate comparison. They even criticized the sample, as it wasn’t diverse, nor representative of environments outside of the US. Others argued that Zimbardo’s conclusion was entirely incorrect; People who act in a sadistic manner are well aware that they’re acting in an unjust way, and Zimbardo has just given them an excuse for their behavior, to make them appear more innocent.



As you can see, the Stanford Prison Experiment has been a study of notoriety, harnessing debates on the ethicality of the entire study.


This makes people wonder:

Was it even worth the cost?

Was it just a mistake?


However, Zimbardo’s experiment has also been very impactful, still discussed today and used widely to decipher the evils of human nature. Now, it’s up to you reader. What do you think about the Stanford Prison Experiment? Was it worth it? Was it even needed in the first place? Let us know in the comments below.

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Thanks for reading our article on the Stanford Prison Experiment. We hope you learned about the ethical issues of the Stanford Prison Experiment, and why it should never be repeated again.

If you liked reading this article, check out the second article in our Social Psychology series, on Unit 731, by Ellison Morgan. This article covers experiments being done on prisoners of war during WW2 in China and talks about the atrocities that took place.


Until next time,

Sabrina and Mahee :)


References :

Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Stanford Prison Experiment. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/event/Stanford-Prison-Experiment

Hersh, Seymour M. “Torture at Abu Ghraib.” The New Yorker, 30 Apr. 2004, Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/05/10/torture-at-abu-ghraib.

The Stanford Prison Experiment: 40 years later. Stanford Libraries. (n.d.). Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://library.stanford.edu/spc/current-exhibits/past-exhibits/stanford-prison-experiment-40-years-later

“The Stanford Prison Experiment.” Youtube, uploaded by Vsauce, 19 Dec. 2018, Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KND_bBDE8RQ


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