In one of my recent Psychology lectures at college, I learned about the infamous ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’ of 1971 conducted by Philip Zimbardo.
The experiment selected various members of the public to play various roles in Stanford Prison within a mock setting to observe how the prison would function and to what lengths people would conform to their given roles.
The people selected for the study were from all different backgrounds and age brackets. However, they were all male, a limiting factor, in my opinion, to evaluate the results as ‘society’ is composed of more than just males.
Within the first few days of the study, the prisoners and prison guards both reacted differently to their new roles. The participants of the study slowly accepted their roles and a divide soon began between the prisoners and guards. By the second day of the study, prisoners barricaded themselves into their cells as the guards verbally abused them and put their ringleader in solitary confinement.
As days grew tensions mounted to unimaginable heights and the question of ethics soon came into play. The study had to be concluded just days after it begun due to the severity of actions within the prison and one inmate was given a forced evacuation after 36 hours due to a mental breakdown.
My conclusion from the study is people, even in the most bizarre circumstances will conform to the social roles they are placed in. This made me wonder about the world in a broader sense and am I as a student of UL just conforming to my social role, and if so, what is it and how do I not let my role define me?
This study immensely fascinated me and I have since watched countless documentaries about the study on YouTube.