These articles detail Philip Zimbardo’s infamous psychology experiment entitled The Standford Prison Experiment. This experiment was designed to see if people would take on a certain persona when put into different situations. To test this, 24 males were taken and split into two different groups. Half would serve as prisoners in this experiment and the other half would serve as the guards in the prison. With consent and the knowledge that the participants could leave the study at any point, the prisoners were “arrested” and the experiment began. This psychology experiment soon turned very dark, with abuse of the prisoners by the guards occurring very rapidly. It was clear that both sets of individuals had fully taken on the different personas that Zimbardo had arbitrarily put them in. And though the experiment was going to last for two full weeks, it was cut short and ended after 6 days, because of the intensity of the abuse that was occurring within the study.
This study highlights many themes that are quite common in a living laboratory, while also being quite unique in the fact that it was a psychology experiment with an artificial setting, as these men were not actually living in a prison. And what also made this study quite interesting was how abuse was not only happening within the experiment, but what the horrific results of the experiment demonstrates about treatment in prisons in general.
This experiment tied back into the theme of experimenting on people with limited power. The entirety of the experiment rested on the backs of the prisoners, who were brutally tortured and many of whom were emotional damaged for a long time after the experiment ended. This type of abuse on a certain group of people for the knowledge, benefit and amusement of others is reminiscent to many of the living laboratories discussed in class. And the horrific results of the experiment, of how guards will treat their prisoners, can be extrapolated to a different laboratory, the current prison system in the United States. This experiment shows that within the prison system, there are common themes of abuse of the powerless by the powerful and that the people within them are marginalized. And this abuse in the prison system does nothing to rehabilitate the people within the system, and rather feeds into the vicious cycle of incarceration that occurs in this country.