The Stanford Prison Experiment | Teen Ink

The Stanford Prison Experiment

April 28, 2018
By kkatherinekatt PLATINUM, Daytona Beach, Florida
kkatherinekatt PLATINUM, Daytona Beach, Florida
21 articles 0 photos 10 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always."

"It's easy for you to say, 'Oh, I wouldn't have acted that way, but you don't know. That's - that's the truth. You don't know. And now, I know what I'm capable of, and it hurts."


As an AP Psychology student, cramming for the exam is my top priority during these last two weeks of studying. My teacher has told us about the Stanford Prison Experiment, explaining the insane phenomenon that was a real life case study in 1971. I decided to watch the movie based on the study to get a taste of the psychological effects of authority on college students. In no way was I dissapointed. 

The Stanford Prison Experiment, mirroring the case study itself, is a though-provoking thriller on the effects of conformity, power, and the struggle between the prisoner versus the guard. In the beginning, Philip Zimbardo (played by Billy Crudup), found undergraduate volunteers to roleplay as guards and prisoners in a prison simulation. The experiment was planned for fourteen days. 

During the first day, a revolution and physical harm begins, contrary to the guidelines of the experiment that Zimbardo stated to the participants before. The prisoners, sick of withstanding the opression that the guards enforce, plan a revolution. Everyone is paid fifteen dollars a day for the experiment, but the prisoners are mad since they are forced to do the bulk of the work while the guards enforce it. Zimbardo, however, continues on the experiment. The prisoners begin to try to escape and overthrow the cruel guards who take on their roles quite seriously. The experiment reveals a dark side to all of the participants who get lost in their roles and ignore their morality. It is something that shows how power corrupts people in a real, true enviornment. 

Ezra Miller, playing prisoner 8612, does an excellent job portraying the role of a prisoner teetering on the edge of insanity the more the experiment continues. His screams are haunting, and they are true to the real case study. When he begs to leave the study, breaking down in tears, he is resisted by Zimbardo who designed the experiment itself. 

The experiment ends after six days compared to the fourteen it was planned for. In the end, it shows themes of the damage of ethical guidelines in psychology and the behavioral effects that power has on people. This film is a great comparison to the real case study. It also is something that can be applied to history and our nation as today. Authority has a major impact on people. It can ultimately be what erases a personality and morality. 

Everyone should view The Stanford Prison Experiment at least once. It has had a major impact on how I see the world as of today.

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