|Method: a method is a procedure agreed on by participants of a discussion or research project. In the case of violations of a method, the comparability of the results is in particular questioned, since these no longer come from a set with uniformly defined properties of the elements._____________Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments. |
Philip Zimbardo on Method - Dictionary of Arguments
Haslam I 133
Method/Zimbardo: 1) The participants had normal personalities and no prior history of psychopathology. The study started by placing an advert in a newspaper inviting college students to take part in a ‘psychological study of prison life’. (Zimbardo, 2004(1): 38-9)
2) In contrast to a real prison, the participants had not exercised any form of choice prior to finding themselves in a particular group (indeed, when asked, most had said they wanted to be prisoners). Instead, the experimenters had assigned them to groups by tossing a coin so that, for each participant, there was an equal probability that he would be a guard or a prisoner.
3) Zimbardo attempted to create ‘an experimental setting that came as close to a functional simulation of the psychology of imprisonment as possible’ (Zimbardo, 2004(1): 39). In the first instance he sought to ensure this by placing himself in the role of Prison Superintendent, and another student assistant, David Jaffe, in the administrative role of Prison Warden.
Haslam I 134
4) The roles to which the participants were assigned were novel. „Participants had no prior training in how to play the randomly assigned roles. Each subject’s prior societal learning of the meaning of prisons and the behavioral scripts associated with the oppositional roles of prisoner and guard [were] the sole source of guidance.“ (Zimbardo, 2004(1): 39)
Rules: the day before the study started, the guards and prison warden worked together to devise a set of 17 rules by which the prison would be run. Although, ominously, Rule 17 stated that ‘failure to obey any of the above rules may result in punishment’, the guards were not instructed to run the system in a way that involved abusing the prisoners. Instead, this was something that they would work out for themselves.
Haslam I 135
Zimbardo’s role in instigating or condoning these actions is unclear. Nevertheless it is apparent that he was far from a detached observer. For example, in his role as superintendent, he recruited one rebel (Prisoner #8612) to act as a ‘snitch’ – offering him preferential treatment for informing on his fellow prisoners.
Haslam I 136
The experimenters also got ‘caught up’ in [the] dynamics. Thus, when on Day 3 of the study a rumour spread that the prisoners were planning an escape, Zimbardo introduced a new prisoner as an informer to find out about, and help foil, the plot. When this strategy appeared to be failing, he formulated a second plan in which the guards were instructed ‘to chain the prisoners’ legs together, put bags over their heads’ and move them to another room in the building (Zimbardo, 2007(2): 97).
Zimbardo: „I began to talk, walk, and act like a rigid institutional authority figure more concerned about the security of ‘my prison’ than the needs of the young men entrusted to my care as a psychological researcher. In a sense, I consider the extent to which I was transformed to be the most profound measure of the power of the situation. (Zimbardo 2004(1): 40).
1. Zimbardo, P.G. (2004) ‘A situationist perspective on the psychology of evil: Understanding how good people are transformed into perpetrators’, in A. Miller (ed.), The Social Psychology of Good and Evil. New York: Guilford
2. Zimbardo, P. (2007) The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil. London: Random House.
S. Alexander Haslam and Stephen Reicher, „Tyranny. Revisiting Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment“, in: Joanne R. Smith and S. Alexander Haslam (eds.) 2017. Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic studies. London: Sage Publications_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017