Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Film

The Stanford Prison Experiment

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Film

The Stanford Prison Experiment

Article excerpt

(2015)

Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez

Based on the actual events that took place at Stanford University in 1971, The Stanford Prison Experiment portrays the psychological experiment undertaken by Dr. Philip Zimbardo. Although many people may be aware of the experiment conducted by Zimbardo, this film highlights how "human behavior is affected by roles, rules, symbols and uniforms rather than personality and behavior traits." This experiment, considered infamous, examines structures of authority and how authority can be abused.

Zimbardo conducted an experiment to examine how people behaved in prison systems; he hired students to play the role of guard or prisoner, and the decision of who would be guard or prisoner was decided by the flip of a coin. This one, tiny arbitrary decision became pivotal in understanding how human beings behave when placed in positions of authority. It did not seem to matter what type of personality the students portrayed at the beginning of the experiment; by the end of the first day, the guards had become abusive and the prisoners eventually were broken.

Although the experiment was to have lasted two weeks, by the sixth day the guards had become so abusive and degrading that Zimbardo ended the experiment early. …

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