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Stanford Prison Experiment

The Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) has become a classic in the social sciences for its dramatic demonstration of the power of situational processes over individual dispositions of its participants. It pitted a powerful set of situational variables, which together comprised what is worse in the psychological experience of imprisonment, against the will to resist by a group of normal, healthy young men playing roles of prisoners or guards.

The SPE was conducted in 1971 by a group of Stanford research psychologists, led by Professor Phillip Zimbardo, and two of Zimbardo's graduate students, Curtis Banks and Craig Haney. The experiment was designed to control for the individual personality variables that were often used at that time to explain behavior in prison and other institutional settings. That is, ...

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