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The Day-By-Day Breakdown Of What Happened During The Stanford Prison Experiment

Updated 16 Aug 2019 148.1k views7 items

In 1971, professor Philip Zimbardo put together one of the most intriguing and famous psychology experiments ever: the Stanford Prison Experiment, designed to study the effects of incarceration on prisoners and guards. Using an advertisement to recruit college-aged men in the area for a one-of-a-kind study, Zimbardo and his team hoped to remove volunteers predisposed to mental illness and those with existing records from their experiment. Nonetheless, the Stanford Prison Experiment brought out those qualities in its participants.

Originally meant to be a two-week examination of the imbalance of power and the Lucifer Effect - the ability of ordinary people to engage in evil acts - the entire experiment began unraveling from day one: August 14, 1971. While the faux prisoners were housed in a converted basement of Stanford University's psychology department, they experienced the same degradation, erasure, and humiliation felt by real inmates. Alternatively, the make-believe guards embraced their power as if it was real by forcing their prisoners to humiliate themselves and creating rules to boost their own egos.

While nothing on par with true prison stories from penitentiaries around the world happened, the Stanford Prison Experiment quickly spiraled out of control and ended on August 20, 1971. It proved how easily men could be swayed to commit evil acts when provided the power to do so and to what lengths an individual would go in order to reclaim their identity and autonomy.

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