Jeffery David Whippo Discusses the Stanford Prison Study Conducted By Philip Zimbardo In 1973

Jeffery David Whippo, an expert in the field of Educational Psychology explains that the Stanford prison study was conducted by Philip Zimbardo in 1973 for investigating how readily people would conform to the roles of both guard and prisoner during a role-playing exercise that simulated life in prison. From a psychological standpoint, Whippo believes that Zimbardo wanted to study disposition vs. situation as he thought that both the prisoners and the guards may have the sort of personalities which made conflict inevitable.

Jeffery David Whippo further explains that the rigid power structure of the social environment of the prisons may have also been a major contributor to the behaviors of both guards and prisoners. He suggests that the dispositional hypothesis would be confirmed if the prisoners and guards in the experiment behaved in a non-aggressive manner, conversely if the behavior of the guards and prisoners during the role-playing experiment was the same as in a real prison, the situational hypothesis would be confirmed.

During the experiment, the prison guards socialized into the role of prison guards similarly to guards in real prisons where their behavior had brutal and sadistic tendencies. The prisoners also socialized into the real prisoners as they felt helpless and submitted to the guard’s behaviors. Both the guards and prisoners quickly lost their true sense of personal identity because of the uniforms they wore and the situations they were placed in manifested what was the social norm.

Jeff Whippo enthusiastically talks about Zimbardo’s interviews with all the participants at the end of the experiment. Given below is an excerpt:

Most of the participants said they had felt involved and committed. The research had felt “real” to them. One guard said, “I was surprised at myself. I made them call each other names and clean the toilets out with their bare hands. I practically considered the prisoners cattle and I kept thinking I had to watch out for them in case they tried something.” Another guard said “Acting authoritatively can be fun. Power can be a great pleasure.” And another: “… during the inspection I went to Cell Two to mess up a bed which a prisoner had just made and he grabbed me, screaming that he had just made it and that he was not going to let me mess it up. He grabbed me by the throat and although he was laughing I was pretty scared. I lashed out with my stick and hit him on the chin although not very hard, and when I freed myself I became angry.”