The experiment had to come to an end after five days even though it was meant to last two weeks. Some of the participants had mental breakdowns due to the circumstances. This was the eventual end of the Stanford Prison Experiment.
Dr. Phillip Zimbardo paid volunteers to take part in the experiment. They were randomly assigned to be guards and inmates. Dr. Zimbardo made sure to keep the experiment as real as possible from getting real cops to go and arrest the inmates to making the cells realistic.
The study was conducted to see whether guards had sadistic personalities or the situational circumstances brought out the worst in them. He took mentally stable individuals for his experiment to see how the prison environment would affect them. It did prove the point it was trying to make, but at some cost to the participants.
The participants ended up taking their roles very seriously.
The prison guards started becoming cruel to the inmates. They woke up the prisoners for count at random times of the night to make the inmates familiar with their numbers. They insulted the prisoners and gave them physical punishment, such as push-ups.
The prisoners soon started revolts, which the guards brought under control by giving them solitary-confinement. Some inmates were given special privileges if they sided with the guards to break the solidarity between prisoners.
Even with all this happening and some inmates starting to have emotional breakdowns, the study was not bought to an end. Until Christina Maslach came and saw what was being done to the volunteers and consulted Dr. Zimbardo about it.
This study showed that people will conform to their social roles, especially when those roles are strongly stereotyped.
So, was this information worth getting at the expense of the inmates? This information can help with creating a better prison environment. If we could lower the stereotypes, it might increase the rate of rehabilitation. It helped us to better understand what happened at Abu Ghraib.
I don't think this should be allowed in the scientific community.
Psychologists should make sure that no psychological harm is being conducted to the inmates or anything that they are not sure the participant can recover from.
These rules have been put into place for the protection of the participants from experiments such as these. There are always other experiments that can be conducted to understand our psychology better without causing harm to the participants.
What are your thoughts on the ethics of this experiment?