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The Stanford Prison Experiment is one of the most controversial and enlightening research experiments ever performed in the field of psychology. It looks at how group roles and situational factors can influence human behavior. And even though the experiment was never completed (it was supposed to run for two weeks, but Zimbardo had to call off the experiment after only a few days), it serves as a great example of how supposedly good, rational people can perform terrible acts when put in the right situation.
Step 1: Learn about the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal.
Read the entire Stanford Prison Experiment Web Site, located at: http://www.prisonexp.org (Links to an external site.).
Read about the Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal in Chapter 11 of your textbook. For additional information regarding the Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_Prison_Scand (Links to an external site.)al
Step 2: Answer one or both of the following questions. Each answer should be approximately 250-300 words. Each answer is worth four points of extra credit on Exam #4.
1. Compare and contrast the Stanford Prison Experiment to the Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal. How are the two events similar? How are the two events different? Hint: Focus on significant psychological differences rather than obvious things like “One is an experiment and one is real life.” Talk about the similarities and differences using psychology terms we have learned this semester. Some examples would be: Norms, roles, the cross-cultural perspective, observational learning, scripts and schemas, ingroup/outgroups, acculturative stress etc.
2. Zimbardo admits that, even though he created a powerful situation that influenced students’ behavior, not all students responded similarly. For example, while some of the guards at Stanford became more aggressive towards the prisoners after they barricaded themselves into the room, others did not. Using theories from your textbook, discuss why there may have been individual differences in the ways the guards responded to power in the Stanford Prison Experiment. Give details! For example, if you use the trait theory of personality, describe which specific traits may have accounted for differences in behavior.
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