Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison Experiment
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Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison Experiment

1992, Society  -   27 Comments
Ratings: 6.48/10 from 42 users.

Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison ExperimentIt's important not to think of this as prisoner and guard in a real prison. The important issue is the metaphor prisoner and guard. What does it mean to be a prisoner? What does it mean to be a guard? And the guard is somebody who limits the freedom of someone else, uses the power in their role to control and dominate someone else, and that's what this study is about.

In the summer of 1971, Philip Zimbardo, Craig Haney, and Curtis Banks carried out a psychological experiment to test a simple question. What happens when you put good people in an evil place-does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph?

To explore this question, college student volunteers were pretested and randomly assigned to play the role of prisoner or guard in a simulated prison at Stanford University. Although the students were mentally healthy and knew they were taking part in an experiment, some guards soon because sadistic and the prisoners showed signs of acute stress and depression.

After only six days, the planned two-week study spun out of control and had to be ended to prevent further abuse of the prisoners. This dramatic demonstration of the power of social situations is relevant to many institutional settings, such as the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq.

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27 Comments / User Reviews

  1. R. MacDonald

    There's little insight in this. The university had only to look at WW2 to see how ordinary people will just do as they're told under pressure and hate. The prisoners were intelligent, non-violent men - not toughened by the streets or crime. How can anything be gained from treating humans like garbage. If this experiment was conducted in an everyday prison there would be a riot. The 'guard' who 'got off' on demeaning the 'prisoners' has shown a side to him that would make people guarded (pun) if knowing him in real life and when he started forcing the 'prisoners' to do homosexual acts for his amusement I would never trust him around children. If a couple of gang members such as The Bloods were in that experiment - different outcome. I can understand prison riots now and understand why inmates go on starvation protests. Universities should be banned from experimenting on people- This experiment and that psychologist displayed criminal tendencies.

  2. clay dawson

    The Stanford Exp was funded by Naval and Marine forces with the explicit purpose of understanding the dynamics between guards and prisoners. If you read about this particular experiment, you'll see it stated that the man conducting the experiment while serving as prison superintendent encouraged brutality of guards toward prisoners, so it wasn't quite organic. In the military world, it is not uncommon for American "guards" to brutalize "prisoners" i.e. Guantanamo.

    The insight was sought with military purpose and because there was a manipulated disposition for brutality and role adoption by guards, one should be reluctant to hope for any reasonably sound inference as to whether RANDOM guards of the common human public would act in such heinous ways.

    1. Lary

      You are very wrong assuming that only because of the superintendant and because of the funding that normal humans wouldn't act that way. Did you just see the story of the two girls in WI who stabbed a girl 17 or more times, leading her into the woods, to prove that Slenderman game is real? Have you ever been in a position of authority, such as police, correctional officer, or a soldier? If you have, you would know that in all these scenarios certain people act out, and take advantage of their authority. I speak from personal experience, when I was in Iraq, some of my fellow soldiers abused Iraqis out on the street, or after we arrested them following a raid. I truly believe everyone has some evil in them whether they want to believe it or not. I'm not saying everyone will act that way, but some people, when put in the right role, will act out, and will be overly harsh and abusive. If you watch this whole video the main guard that was abusing the prisoners said he was doing it just to test how for he could take it. He said he wondered why no one stopped him. In abu ghraib, the soldiers were bored, and their abuse probably started small and then led up to leading naked bodies around with dog collars. Do not be so naive to think that this experiment was "rigged" so it was more abusive than real world. If you have any real world experience you should know that every human being sins, and would definetly take advantage of an authoratative role. Until YOU have actually been in a position of authority, and been around other in that position and are able to see what really goes on, you really have no room to be talking. That's like me saying, hey, doctors always wash their hands before surgery, and they always do the right thing, I have no experience in that area so I have no right to talk about what they do in their profession.

  3. adilrye

    One thing I found interesting was how the other guards felt for the prisoners, but didn't do anything to stop the abusive guard. It shows why people who surround a dictator or a crime boss for example, can watch them abuse their power and harm people, yet not say a word. I mean, I might personally dislike their actions, but maybe I'm too scared that I'll be harshly punished for speaking out.

    Funny thing is, this is probably how most people think. I bet a majority of the people surrounding the dictator don't like him, but assume everybody else does and if they try and overthrow him with the help of the people they work with, they'll snitch and he'll be punished. Of course, the material and security benefits of just agreeing with him play a role, but the psychology behind the "follower" intrigues me.

    It shows how people, who I will always believe are mostly good, are sadly EASILY manipulated by the bad.

    1. Ann Rhodes

      The military has actually incorporated a lot of what was learned from this experiment to teach personnel how to recognize and stop the beginnings of this dynamic while still maintaining esprit de corps.

    2. Patrick Smythe

      And you so fixated on your mission you second your own post? Brainwashed much soldier?

  4. RPTLN

    I love this site

  5. UW-L Professor

    You can find this study on YouTube as well, but it is broken into six parts. If that does not bother you, then you will like the quality of the YouTube video more.

  6. Edward

    long story short, flawed study.
    -They dehumanized the guards more so than guards are(sunglasses?)
    -They selected people who are naturally more inclined to aggression than true correctional officers(they got college students, while the majority of correctional officers are not).
    -They neglected to give sunlight to the prisoners which would make for a vitamin D deficiency and on top of that, also no information provided on the food given to them.

    there is a hell of a lot more but i wont waste your time, this is just a anti-incarceration film, its a humanitarian.

    Not trying to stir the pot, but anyone who has taken even a high school level psychology class, which would be nothing but definitions, would see right through this garbage.

    (I have a bachelor degree in animal behavioral psychology)
    Feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt.

  7. hans werner

    I am astonished about the human behaviour in this movie and also helped me to understand the cause of the German Nazi regime. Normal citizen turned out to be Monsters in the 3rd Reich. Let's be honest here, everyone has the potential to be an evil. It our personality, which is preventing or suporting us to be one or not. I believe, the HR in each company should detect the lack of personality before promoting someone to a manager. A bad Boss can make your life really hard.

    1. adilrye

      Yeah, it makes you realize how easy a dictatorship can work. You just make the authority legitimate enough.

  8. bob

    I would have to agree with Samatha... her intelligent side of course!

  9. samantha

    you should work on graduating high school before you take your amateur intellect and cherry red opinions to a public stage. i disagree with everything you said. its an experiement, they didn't know what would happen, or the degree to which the results would occur. If everything had been calm, peaceful and smooth, that experiment would not have set the precedent that it did. There may have been further research in a similar fashion, but instead people suffered at the hands of a researcher. He's not a mad scientist he is a curious intellectual aiming to better people's understanding of themselves and the human mind.
    Sam your other points are too incoherent, and without evidence, so I can't even address them.

  10. ali


    "There lies something within the human mind that desires to rule over others and to rule over others most times brings out the cruelty of the human spirit."

    well said.

  11. Samantha

    PS at the end of the day the PEOPLE WHO SET UP THIS EXPERIMENT are just WANNA BE's ...SICK ones I MEAN if your that smart come up with something useful and I think both versions of the film were made just to let us see for our selfs what its really all about. Have there been any experiments since to prove the first ones wrong?? Wonder why.

  12. Samantha

    what da f*** and watched both versions of the film .....WELL THIS JUST shows how SICK HUMAN beings really are...... that includes PHIL ZAMBARDO.. i mean did the people really need to conduct this experiment to know a human being could or would react like this?? The way you talk on your site is like it was all ok nothing to worry about and it was normal. Rubbish, this is entertainment....in a film yeah but based on a true story..well..... fascinating. I may not be shocked anymore by the way the human race behaves but I surely am still fascinated and disgusted. Ok I should get over it but Im entitled to voice my opinion and this is it I BELIEVE ITS WRONG, NO ONE SHOULD BE PUT TO THE TEST .......ESPECIALLY WHEN WE KNOW WHAT THE ANSWER IS!!! I MEAN WHY RISK IT???? WHAT WOULD YOU DO ...AND THERE IS YOUR ANSWER!!! Im 24 years of age and I dont know much and I have one hell of alot to learn one thing I have learned is that politicians and professors (MAJORITY of them) should be lined up and SHOT and not a day goes by where they prove me wrong...but hey Im just another guinea pig getting PI**e* of over stuff thats going on in this world BUT NONE OF US CAN REALLY DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT...

    1. Forensicrockstar

      Wow. You're more dangerous than anyone in this film. Ignorance kills.

  13. Dodgy

    I see this all as compensating for ratio. The same way schools control their masses. There are not a proportional amount of guards to inmates so guards get weaponry, malicious speech, and the ability to push you to conform or be punished.

    Similar thing in schools. One teacher to 30 students. Bells say when classes start and end. Teachers are the ones with the passes to be outside the classroom between those times. Teachers give grades which will either keep you in school longer or move you along. Given at their discretion and choice, if you disagree you walk out and later are punished by either being put into a detention, given more homework, being told on to your parents etc. We are taught roles from childhood. Is it surprising that the majority of prisoners never even finished high school and got that 10 years of sit down and shut up training?

    The thing about prison in particular is that these humans have been removed from society and in many cases for something deplorable. Guards always know the prisoners' crimes and can judge them as they choose internally then decide their proper punishment if they wish to do it behind closed doors, after all - justice said this person was a piece of turd that deserves to be separated from society, who would care if they get a little beating.

    You can be locked up for years under 18 for imagine this, refusing to go to school. For this group it does seem like power corrupted some of them and others were downtrodden much like real life - they didn't even seem to be outnumbered to decide that being in charge meant being a douche. Question is... who taught them that. I have my inkling and it is their former authority figures.

  14. k7leetha

    My cousin was one of the head guards (I don't remember what his title was) in a Los Angeles prison. I remember him telling me once, "The prisoners let the guards run the prison."

    True, and scary to think about.

  15. Gnome

    I studied both the Milgram experiment and the Stanford Prison experiment while working on my Master's Degree (MBA). I believe this website is the best site for documentary information on both projects. Excellent graphics for an experiment that was run in 1971.

    Nobody was evil or sadistic. Some were misguided, but we know two things now:
    1. When the experiment is risky, we should not experiment with people.

    2. We know how people act with power over those who do not have power. This shows up in business, government, the miliatary and prison.

  16. Lulzmaker

    I disagree with ez2b12, they where not evil, they just simply played the part. go to any prison and see if those guards act nicer. this proved that humans can and will turn against each other if they are given power.

  17. ez2b12

    What is shocking to me is how this instructor and the evil guard still do not see their role in this. Lets face it they where both sadistic and pathetic. This guy should have lost his job at the least. I would not have asked to leave, I would have left after punching Mr. professor's lights out. They can say that they got caught up in their role all they want, their just plain bad people who got the chance to show just how sick they really are.

  18. Michael

    The Boards of Canada soundtrack to this documentary is absolutely perfect.

  19. Rami

    Hey, in 2001, another experiment of this type was made by BBC.
    It was called "The Experiment" It aired four one-hour episodes as a mini-reality show in 2002 on BBC2. In 2006 two doctors analyzed those results and came up with "BBC's The Prison Study" which has its own website and offers teaching tools to psychology teachers. I've been looking for the reality show with the four episodes entitled; Conflict, Order, Rebellion and Tyranny respectively. I tried torrent sites which usually have everything, I tried here but no luck! Any help would be greatly appreciated, btw I've seen one of the episodes back in 2002 on BBC, it's really interesting to say the least.

  20. Skye

    I searched for this film on google because I wanted to see it. What a waste of time, I should have known to come here first- BEST website ever.

  21. Reb

    Something so simple and silly as the 'Blue Eyed' vs Brown Eyed' experiment proved how dangerous pitting one group against another can be. It is funny how the mind can be so trapped into playing a part we never thought we could play. Children were just as affected as the adults. There lies something within the human mind that desires to rule over others and to rule over others most times brings out the cruelty of the human spirit.

    I will not watch the video, I hope.

  22. Tigerass

    Noooooo! It's not working......