Stanford Prison Experiment

The Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) is a highly influential and controversial study run by Philip Zimbardo and his colleagues at Stanford University in 1971. The researchers originally set out to support the notion that situational forces are just as powerful and perhaps more powerful than dispositional forces in influencing prison behavior. In addition to providing support for their hypothesis, the study was heavily covered in the mainstream media and had far-reaching ethical implications. Regardless, and perhaps because of its controversial nature, the SPE remains one of the most well-known experiments in social psychology.


The SPE was conceived as a reaction to the popular belief that the violent and oppressive nature of U.S. prisons and subsequent reports of humanitarian violations were due to the unique personality ...

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