• The Stanford Prison Experiment

4 to 5 days into the experiment, the experiment is… well.. close to a mayhem. There’s victims, there’s rebels and there’s bullies. I tried to imagine myself being put behind bars and take on an act of a prisoner, or perhaps acting as a guard. Strange how it didn’t take long for each person to fall into their roles. The resistance, or the acceptance… Then it suddenly hit me- I could understand, though on a different level, but I understood that it is possible to create resistance in a matter of 1 or 2 days. Personal experience: high school. There was.. still is, I think… this culture of “kingdom.. or queendom” where one of the students gets elected as the King or Queen to represent the student body. There are a few that are (s)elected as the court (you know, your advisors, jesters, etc) and the rest of the students were the… subordinates, for the lack of a better word this very moment. I was one of the subs. New to the school we were submitted to show respect to the Queen (at that time) by bowing to her every time we saw her, over the period of a couple of weeks, until we were “christened”. Now, I know it’s a lovely tradition and all, and I know that some people really lived into the whole “coolness” of it, but every time I saw the “Queen” I got pissed off. First- I didn’t even know the girl, second every time someone or myself didn’t bow to her there was threats of “points” being written down. The more points or “minuses” your record held at the end of two weeks the bigger hassle was promised to be delivered at the main event of “christening of the freshers”. Totally unfair, I saw it. I mean, I’m in school and I didn’t take it lightly having to bow down to a person that hasn’t really earned my respect. You know? I hated it! Honest to godS hated it! Why create this kind of division among students?

SPE (Stanford Prison Experiment) is possibly the most interesting psychological experiment I have heard of. Due to the fact that it really doesn’t take a lot to influence a person’s attitude and actions. The guards were to wear batons and silver mirrored sunglasses to give them the authoritative look and feel. The “prisoners” were to be addressed by specific numbers rather than their given name, they were naked under semi-long robes and had to wear stockings over their hair. Ah. If you think of it, one doesn’t really need much more to feel low and forget that they really aren’t in a real prison. They could have quit at any time, and most of them admitted, during mock parole hearings, that they’d rather not get paid for the experiment if they were able to quit then and there. Shockingly- they were so far from realizing the reality that not a single “prisoner” actually asked for an out. Lack of sleep and bad sanitation conditions- it only took a day and a crappy night which included 3 prisoner counts to break some people into miserable submission.

I hope the book will shed some light on what happened to these who took part in the experiment after they were finished… I wonder what happened to the young man who was released because he had a mental breakdown after only 3 days? Were they able to overcome the effects? Did they change as humans?