An Ethical Stanford Prison Experiement

An article written by: Lee Sonogan

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Speaking about the Stanford Prison Experiment before, watching a recent Mind Field episode from VSauce, there is new information. And has got me thinking about ethical studies about this psychological study. The Stanford Prison experiment was a study to understand the development of the effects of roles, labels, social expectations in a simulated prison environment. Since the study was conducted in 1971, it has been a controversial topic. It is brought up in many text books and has even reached popular culture by the movie The Experiment and many other examples.

Dr. Phillip Zimbardo’s study brings up a question. Is evil caused by the environment or the personalities in it? In recent times there have been more examples of this experiment happening in real life. In the YouTube Original episode, after the opening credits, it has an example of a journalists cousin joining the Rangers when he was 19. And his leading commander organised a bank robbery. This 19-year-old thought it a training exercise. With it taking place with AK-47s, they were all caught. Dr. Phillip Zimbardo himself defend this 19-year-old in court for being brainwashed and not exercising his free will.

My first idea is a study that will involve video games. In video games, mainly online games, you are left with two choices. Team up with people or play solo. With teaming up being the better choice in being more successful, you are forced in an environment with many different personalities. You may be a good person, but because of the situation, you can become evil. With modern video games today, there is so much in-game features you can use that encourages to be evil. Making groups become toxic. If you play online video games like me, then you have heard hundreds of in-game conversations of conflict that lead to in-game violence. It is a part of the game, but it manages to happen in games that focus on teamwork within the own team’s way to much.

I believe there is a study in video games to be conducted somehow. In my next idea, it will be hypothetic people in person. Staging a fake protest would be an interesting psychological experiment. Where the study conductors are the guards and the volunteers are the prisons. Would the volunteer prisoners believe in the created environment, or would they assert independence and change the environment based on unrelated opinions? This potential study would be good depending on the topic of the protest and power that could be given to them to speak their minds.

You can use the Stanford Prison experiment to determine People’s personalities. But you need to set up experiments that are people of moral standards for it to be an ethical experiment. A limited amount of force is needed to get people to react and get the results you are looking for. The more unethical experiment like the Stanford experiment, the more prone it is to get out of control and violent. Regardless of being moral or not, it creates data that is very relevant in modern times. And has been used in court to legally defend them selfs from related situations.

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