Research of imprisonment

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Psychology ・APA ・1 Sources

The study sought to discover how imprisonment changes a person's style of thinking. To accomplish this, the researchers used college advertisements and media to recruit 75 volunteers. The majority of the volunteers were university students, who may have been motivated by the $15 per day stipend (Zimbardo, Haney, Banks, & Jaffe, 1973). They were divided into two groups: convicts and guards. The process of incarceration began when police made a surprise mass arrest of students in Palo Alto, California. The students who had been arrested were subsequently brought to a ""jail"" (Stanford University psychology building). Following then, the guards' and prisoners' changing behavior was investigated.

I think by the researchers making the participants aware that they would participate in a prison study to some extent influenced how the guards and prisoners behaved and as such some of the results obtained cannot be verified. For instance, Guard wonders whether the prisoners and guards took the study with the same seriousness as the researchers intended. In fact, he goes on to refer to the study as a game (Zimbardo, 1973). This can tell you the lack of importance by which the volunteers treated the issue. Again, by not training the guards, this meant that the behavior of the guards was severely compromised. For instance guard A talks about his disliking of a particular prisoner and thus targets him. Lastly, by having students only as the inmates interfered with the diversity that is usually associated with prisons. Keeping in mind, the volunteers were people who had not broken the law; then their behaviors cannot be assumed to be similar to those of the real-life prisoners.

I tend to disagree with the author's conclusion that the mind is the ultimate prison. That your thoughts determine your behavior and actions in the prison setting. When placed in confinement your mind will trigger you to adapt to the changes by either being submissive in the case of the prisoners and authoritative in the case of guards (Zimbardo, 1973). However, this is not the case in real life prisons considering those were students and not actual prisoners. Some prisoners are not submissive naturally in real life.

It would not be easy repeating the research today and expect similar results. First, it would be hard to find volunteers who will accept any form of compensation to be subjected to prison life. With the advancement of technology, I reckon there will be few students who will agree to forego their normal life to be subjected to the prison life (Zimbardo, 1973). The study is essential since it studies behavioral changes in an individual when subjected to imprisonment, which is an element of social psychology.

In conclusion, through Pirandelian research, we can learn how different situations affect our behavior and our thoughts. For instance, we noted there was a transformation in the conduct of guards and prisoners (Zimbardo, 1973). Thus, we can rightfully conclude that the behavior of the guards and prisoners is related to the conditions they are subjected to.


Zimbardo, P. G., Haney, C., Banks, C., & Jaffe, D. (1973, April 8). A Pirandellian prison: The mind is a formidable jailer. New York Times Magazine,pp. 38-60.

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