Chapter 10 of our textbook discusses one of the most famous psychological experiments of all time, conducted by Dr. Philip Zimbardo and his colleagues at Stanford University. To read more of the details of this experiment, visit http://www.prisonexp.org. After reading about the experiment and exploring the website, answer the following:
1. Was it ethical to do the prison study in the way that Zimbardo conducted it? Why or why not? Explain your position substantively.
In responding to the above, keep in mind that morals and ethics aren’t the same thing. Morals are right vs. wrong behavior internal compasses that guide personal life decisions and are grounded in family beliefs, faith traditions, etc. Ethics are standards of behavior established by a professional organization, such as the American Psychological Association. You may have very strong feelings about whether the Zimbardo study was moral, but here we are discussing ethics.
2. How do the social psychology concepts of conformity and the power of the social situation that we are studying this week relate to what happened during the brief period of time that the prison study ran. Where in the description of how the study unfolded did we see evidence of these concepts?
Ground your answer to the questions in #2 in our assigned readings for this week and think social psychology. For example, the guards were given power over the prisoners and having power may affect others’ obedience to one’s rules, but one can affect obedience one-on-one as we see in the Milgram study. What we mean when we say “the power of the social situation” is the impact that being with others in a group setting, whether public or private, has on people’s behavior, such as the degree to which they conform to perceived norms).
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