22 May 2024

Philip Zimbardo planned an experiment in 1979 to understand how people decide their social roles. For this experiment, he created an artificial prison with an area of ​​35 meters and selected 24 male guinea pigs. He told the participants that the experiment would last for 2 weeks and that he would pay 15 dollars per day. They told the subjects in the role of guards that they could put pressure on those in the role of prisoners, but that they could never resort to violence. Those in the role of guards instilled fear in the prisoners. They tried to explain that what they could do was to ensure that the prisoners had no private life and that the control was in the hands of the guards. The prisoners did not have names and only had codes consisting of numbers. All this preliminary information was explained to the subjects.
All processes of arresting, interrogating, and placing the prisoner subjects in prison for the crimes they committed were carried out exactly like the real procedures. The experiment started in this way and the subjects were placed in their places of duty.
On the second day of the experiment, the prisoners started a rebellion and stated that they would not listen to the guards' orders. The guards locked those who participated in the rebellion in a dark cell, which they called "hole". They also tried to punish them by taking their beds and clothes. They started giving food to those who could not participate in the rebellion as a reward. The guards banned the prisoners in order to pass judgment on them. Despite this, they started to use violence. They carried out many pressure practices such as imprisoning those who did not eat in dark cells, preventing them from going to the toilet and making them defecate in a container. All these developments resulted in the 36th hour of the experiment, when prisoner number 8612 started acting crazy and having uncontrolled tantrums, and they were removed from the experiment. Later, prisoner number 819 started to go crazy, and they reminded him that this was an experiment and removed him from the experiment. During this period, other prisoners were shouting that he was a bad prisoner.
When the experiment entered the second phase, prisoners were allowed to meet with their families. However, this meeting was arranged for only 10 minutes, without waiting for hours. The families were shocked by the situation they saw and stated that they would sue the experiment. The same 2 different scientists visited the experiment area and stated that Zimbardo had lost his neutrality in the role of the impartial prison warden in the experiment and that this experiment was unethical. As a result of all these processes, the experiment was terminated early on the 6th day. The results of the experiment were explained to the subjects.
Zimbardo described this entire experimental process in the book he wrote under the name "Lucifer effect" and expressed the demonization of people.
Test review;
The experiment does not comply with the ethical rules of modern science experiments. In modern science, psychological and physical violence can never be inflicted on subjects, making the experiment invalid. Improper temptation led to the invalidation of the experiment by extorting money from the subjects, disregarding the rule. When Zimbardo made the experiment minutes available, the violent and monstrous actions of the guards in the experiment actually occurred with Zimbardo's instructions and encouragement. This shows that the guards became monsters with the approval of Zimbardo, who conducted the experiment to test the limits of the role given to them. This situation is called demand characteristic. Subjects tend to behave in ways they think researchers expect them to behave. This result, Zimbardo's conclusion as a result of the experiment, that people must become monsters when given power, was actually a wrong conclusion because the subjects did what they thought was expected of them.
In addition, the selection process of the subjects revealed that they were people who were specifically selected. Those with high scores on the characteristics of aggression, authoritarianism, Machiavellianism and Narcissism were especially selected. As a result of the experiment, the inference that the guards mentioned became brutal was also wrong. Because only 30 percent of the guards exhibited monstrous behavior. Others did not exhibit monstrous behavior by defying the impulse of power.
In the repeat experiments conducted in response to this experiment, completely opposite results emerged. In the experiment broadcast live on BBC, the guards' egalitarian approach was predominant. Of course, this may change depending on the environment of the experiment.
As a result, it is very difficult and dangerous to make general judgments about human nature.

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