Stanford Prison Experiment

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The Stanford Prison Experiment teaches us the power of situations in a person’s life. During the experiment, the guards began to behave in ways they would not usually act in their everyday lives. This is because they were placed in positions of power. The prisoner, placed in a situation where they had no control, became passive and depressed. Get plagiarism-free essays and research papers at or email us at The following essay was written by one of our expert writers. Use it as a guide to write your own essay or to order an original essay.

Essay on Stanford Prison Experiment

The lessons from the Stanford Prison Experiment apply to understand the dynamics of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. The Stanford Prison Experiment shows that a situation has a powerful role in the behavior of a person. For example, in the experiment, the guards became sadistic because they were in a position of power. On the other hand, the prisoners became passive and depressed. The guards at Abu Ghraib did a number of atrocities such as rape, sodomy, and torturing the prisoners to death. The behavior of the guards at Abu Ghraib is consistent with the social role theory, which states that an individual subscribes to the behavior that his or her position disposes. For example, a teacher behaves as a patron to students, and a mother assumes the role of a parent. At Abu Ghraib, the prisoners became passive and submissive because of the social roles that were assigned to them as prisoners. Conversely, the guards became abusive because they were in positions of power.

The Stanford Prison Experiment shows that a positioned ascribed to a person has a significant effect on the person. People behave according to the social roles and in accordance with the demands of the situation. A good person becomes evil because of the situation at hand. For example, the guards at Abu Ghraib who tortured the prisoners were qualified military people who served in various divisions in the U.S military. Despite going through the military qualification exercises, they became sadistic because of the situation. They were placed in a position of power, and started behaving in a way that shows their power. According to Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist who conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment, only a few people can maintain high ethical and moral standards when placed in a prison environment. Therefore, the Stanford Experiment effectively explains the dynamics of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib through the function of social roles.


Stanford Prison Experiment. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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