Dr. Zimbardo conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) in 1971, but the data from that project is as useful in today’s society as it was then. The question now is what impact the study had on social psychology, the value of the study, the study’s relevance to contemporary world issues, the value of the study to humanity as a whole, problems and ethical concerns created by the study, and current safeguards in place to reduce any ethical concerns arising in research studies. The answer is not simple, but the SPE was and still is relevant in social psychology.
Impact and Value to Social Psychology The purpose of the SPE study was to gain comprehension of the evolvement of standards and the impact of personifications, epithets, and societal suppositions in a replicated penitentiary situation (Zimbardo, 1999-2013). The SPE is thought to be one of the utmost essential parts of research indicating social psychology’s primary principle: that situations are the utmost influential factors of behavior than the personality traits of the participants involved.
While the SPE receives criticism as an unethical and dehumanizing study; it provides essential awareness into human conduct, conceivably facilitating to elucidate the exploitations that ensued in circumstances like the Abu Ghraib Prison (Zimbardo, 1999-2013). The SPE linked social behavior and the overwhelming power of social situations and institutional settings.
The SPE shed light on reality transformation through role playing giving social psychology and the general public valuable insight into the drastic transformation of human nature in response to social or institutional situations (Zimbardo, Does psychology make asignificant difference in our lives? , 2004). Social psychology gained many theories from the SPE and a transformed understanding of how human behavior responds in institutional situations. Relevance to Contemporary World Issues and Value to Humanity The SPE illustrated the capability of humanity to inhabit both ends of the behavioral spectrum of good and bad.
The participants selected for the SPE took a battery of tests to ensure their mental stability and overall health, but within 36 hours they transformed into their roles and some broke down (Drury, Hutchens, Shuttleworth, & White, 2012). What makes a person who is usually docile and a pacifist become aggressive, abusive, and even evil? Social contexts, the SPE proved how drastically a person’s personality will morph based on the surrounding environment. Alteration, transformation, influence, and modeling of human behavior are in reaction to social contexts (Haney & Zimbardo, 1998).
With an understanding of this; humans can apply the knowledge to contemporary world issues: human factors, criminal justice, education, and health. Problems and Ethical Concerns of the study and Safeguards in place The SPE was unethical in that the researcher took an active role in the study as well as in the treatment of the participants. The abuse from the guards and high levels of stress inflicted on the participants 24 hours a day for five days are only two of the ethical issues surrounding the study, but they are the utmost harmful issues.
A researcher should never become a participant within a study as this clouds the researcher’s judgment. The APA has safeguards for ensuring studies are ethical and the SPE contributed to some of these. Policy implications of the SPE indicate prisons need restructuring to instill a more humane environment to reduce possible psychologically damage. The most relevant and pressing notions derived from the SPE are that psychology assist in stimulating badly needed social and legal change and that scholars and practitioners can improve these policies with sound data and creative ideas (Haney & Zimbardo, 1998).
Conclusion In conclusion, there are many points of view on the Stanford Prison Experiment, but ultimately it gave value insight on the dramatic transformation of human nature, to not only social psychologists but to the general public also. This experiment led to many other research endeavors within social psychology and informed individuals about the power of situation and our conception of human nature.