Critique of Philip Zimbardo's Standfard Prison Experiment
A Critique of Philip Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment “The Experiment”, an American film in 2010, was directed by Paul Scheuring, and starred by Adrian Brody, 2003 Academy Award’s Best Actor, and Forest Whitaker, a remarkable American actor and director. In the movie, an astounding experiment is conducted by a group of psychological researchers who recruit a group of volunteers to join a prison experiment for cash reward. For two weeks, twenty male participants are hired to play “prisoners” and “guards.” The “prisoners” are locked up and have to follow seemingly mild rules, and the “guards” are told to retain order without using physical violence. Everybody is free to quit at any time, but will forfeit the reward. In the beginning, the
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No one can deny that most of soldiers of these mass-homicides were previous civil residents, either someone’s father or brothers from ordinary families. Are they naturally brutal and inhumane as to become bloodthirsty monsters? The answer may not be “yes.” Zimbardo’s prison experiment provides general public a rare opportunity to closely observe the mechanism of situationist theory with least collateral damage. Scientifically speaking, this study has significant strengths on situation simulation, random role selection, and detailed qualitative data, in spite of minor flaws regarding unavailability of replication, lacking control group, and small sample size.
A main strength of this study is the way it managed to maintain ecological validity. The situation was tightly controlled, inasmuch as Zimbardo achieved great extremes in making the environment as true to life as possible. Take prisoners for example, all the student prisoners were unexpectedly arrested at their homes, even in front of their neighbors, by the local policemen. Police officers charged them with spurious accusation, and blindfolded them to the mock jail. No personal belongings were allowed. The student prisoners were forced to be retained in a nest-like cell and constantly humiliated by the student guards. The prisoners were completely stripped off not only their outer dress, but their personal identity. Another strength makes this experiment creditable