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The Stanford Prison Experiment by Philip Zimbardo Essay (Article)

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Updated: Aug 21st, 2020

In my experience as a scholar, I would rate Zimbardo as a Genius. His work on the Stanford prison experiment is particularly outstanding. In fact, a number of authors have argued that extreme social contexts can make the human race behave inhumanely by citing Philip Zimbardo’s work. This clearly reveals that Zimbardo’s effort is discussed in the academic world. This work provides a brief introduction and summary of his work, analyses the data, discusses its relevance to criminal justice, and compares the study to the real-life Abu Gharib’s situation.

At this point, one would question on the scope that scores Philip Zimbardo’s work. He conducted an experiment by enrolling smart and socially healthy youths for a prison life study. These youths were compensated $15 a day for two weeks. Nonetheless, the experiment lasted for only six days. Five volunteers were released early because of exhibiting adverse levels of distress on the fifth day. Hired wardens tortured all the prisoners devoid of any physical punishment. This was achieved by denying the prisoners bedding, dressing them in nylon stockings, and even cases of sexual harassment were used. There were about fifty visitors but none of them raised an alarm on the inhumane conditions of the prisoners. Christina Maslach brought Zimbardo to his senses when she visited the basement on the fifth day of the experiment. Due to her reaction, the experiment was closed on the sixth day. The outcome of the experiment revealed that even the smart and upright people change when exposed to adverse social situations (Zimbardo, 2007, P. 2).

This article relates to criminal justice in two different ways. First, it reveals that good people can make evil decisions when they are in power or when they are subjected to authority. This has relevance in criminal justice since one has to prosecute the exact criminal. When an individual commits a crime, it is crucial to identify the intent of the criminal before making a verdict. In this case, one has to identify whether the suspect committed a given crime intentionally or whether he was responding to the authority. In the same article, Zimbardo reveals the relevance of his study to criminal justice. He asserts that it is crucial to reduce the criminal behaviour rather than punish thee criminals with an aim of getting revenge (Zimbardo, 2007, P. 5).

Another topic is the comparison of Philip Zimbardo’s work, to the real-life Abu Gharib situation. Both situations use sexual harassment to torture people. In the Abu Gharib real life situation, detainees were stripped naked and at times forced to engage in simulated fellatio. Similarly, prisoners in Zimbardo’s study were also sexually harassed. Secondly, both situations had unsupervised wardens looking after the detainees. The wardens in the Abu Gharib’s situation were poorly supervised just as the case in Zimbardo’s study. Nakedness was also used in both cases. Finally, in both cases it took the courage of only one person to stop the occurrences. Christina Maslach stopped the experiment in Zimbardo’s study while Joseph Darby stopped the case in the Abu Gharib’s situation. Nonetheless, the Abu Gharib’s situation used physical abuse, which was absent in Zimbardo’s experiment.

In total, the author argues that humans react and make decisions based on different situations. His work reveals that evil situations surpass sound human decisions. Furthermore, he argues that we have to be sensitive on our weakness to slight but strong situational demands. However, my opinion is that criminals cannot but justified because they were forced into committing a crime. Evidently, everyone has the capacity to make the right judgement regardless of external pressure. That said criminals should never be excused whether they were forced into committing a crime or not.

Reference

Zimbardo, G. P. (2007). Revisiting the Stanford Prison Experiment: a Lesson in the Power of Situation. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Stanford Prison Experiment by Philip Zimbardo." August 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-stanford-prison-experiment-by-philip-zimbardo/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Stanford Prison Experiment by Philip Zimbardo'. 21 August.

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