Research Paper: Business

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[. . .] Filled with outrage, she said, 'It's terrible what you are doing to these boys!' Out of 50 or more outsiders who had seen our prison, she was the only one who ever questioned its morality." When she said that she had seen a side of Zimbardo that was not very appealing and now wondered whether she wanted to have any relationship with him at all, he decided that the time had come to end the experiment. He had become so adjusted to his role as 'administrator' and to the routine degradation and brutality of the 'prison' that he no longer noticed it. Maslach and Zimbardo were married a year after the Stanford experiment.

Ethical concerns:

1) Using the ASCA and/or APA Code of Ethics, discuss some of the ethical codes that applied to the study you reviewed.

As Zimbardo described it, this experiment was never simply a study of a few "bad apples" committing terrible acts, but what happens when people are placed in a "bad barrel," and even they best of them become corrupted and degraded by the institution itself. Certainly the Nazi camps were examples of such "bad barrels," as was Abu Gharib in Iraq, and to a lesser extent, most jails and prisons in the U.S. And other Western countries.

According to the APA Code of Ethics, subjects in experiments must be volunteers and give informed consent prior to participation. The Code makes clear that beneficence, respect for individual autonomy, and justice must guide all researchers in such studies. Their work must produce more good than harm and respect the human rights of the individual, which obviously did not happen in this case. There seemed to be very little restraint on the actions of the 'guards', and no firm guidelines about what actions would or would not be permitted to maintain order in the 'prison'. Nor was anyone on the research staff willing or able to enforce such guidelines if they had been in effect, since they began to act as 'administrators' rather than neutral, objective observers. There was no ethics supervisor or inspector on the spot to overrule the 'guards' and 'administrators' when they degraded and humiliated the 'prisoners', strip searched them, made them clean toilets with their bare hands, placed bags over their heads, or locked them in solitary confinement. Although Zimbardo claims that in his follow ups, no permanent physical or psychological harm was done to the 'prisoners', it very easily could have been in a situation like this.

2) Do you believe the researchers acted ethically? Support your answer with documentation from the ASCA or APA Code of Ethics.

Within the guidelines of the American Psychological Association that existed at the time, the experimenters acted ethically. Philip Zimbardo asked the APA to review the entire experiment, which determined in 1973 that it had been conducted within ethical guidelines. All the participants were volunteers and had given their informed consent to take part in the experiment, although Zimbardo later stated that he should have ended it even sooner when he saw that the 'prisoners' were truly being traumatized, and that the 'guards' were not just acting any more. He got caught up in his own role as being in charge of the 'prison' without even being aware of it. This was a potential violation of the Conflict of Interest rules in the APA Guidelines, since the chief experimenter also became a participant, although Zimbardo had no idea that the roles assigned in the experiment would become so quickly and thoroughly internalized.

There is a real question about whether the volunteers were fully informed at the outset of the experiment of exactly what kind of degrading treatment they might expect, and if they still would have consented had they known. Although they were free to leave the experiment, they very quickly became so traumatized and dehumanized that they seemed to lose all capacity of free will or free choice, and became child-like and dependent on the will of their captors -- as if they had indeed regressed to childhood with a loss of individual autonomy. Zimbardo and his colleagues only allowed them to leave the experiment when they began to demonstrate hysterical, paranoid or other obviously pathological symptoms, with some of the prisoners suffering from shock or obviously on the edge of an emotional breakdown. All of the participants claimed that they were merely acting out the roles expected of them, although none had any real experience of prison beyond portrayals in movies, television and popular culture, nor did the 'guards' have nearly the same degree of training and supervision as their counterparts in real prisons. There was a real potential here for violation of the avoidance of harm principle in the APA Guidelines. None of this affected Zimbardo's later career, however, and he even became the head of the APA.

3) How did the outcome of this experiment impact the future of research?

As Zimbardo put it, the toughest, must brutal guard in the 'prison' received the nickname "John Wayne" from the prisoners. About one-third of the 'guards' seemed to particularly enjoy their authoritarian role, and acted with great harshness and sadism, yet the researchers had not picked up any such traits during their interviews and psychological tests." Zimbardo asked: "Where had our 'John Wayne' learned to become such a guard? How could he and others move so readily into that role? How could intelligent, mentally healthy, 'ordinary' men become perpetrators of evil so quickly? These were questions we were forced to ask." About one-third of the 'guards' were 'good guys' who even did small favors for the 'prisoners' and treated them fairly humanely, while another third were the sort of 'tough but fair' types who followed orders and upheld the norms and regulations of the 'prison', but without arbitrary cruelty or sadism. All of these types are familiar ones in any such situation in real life, whether prisons or even concentration camps. Of course, the more lenient or humane guards also risked being criticized by their stricter colleagues for being to easygoing with the prisoners.

At the other extreme, one of the prisoners was nicknamed "Sarge" who stood out "because he was so military-like in executing all commands." Certainly this was the type of prisoner the 'guards' and 'staff' preferred, and by the end of six days they had broken all of the remaining prisoners completely, so they simply obeyed the orders of the 'prison authorities' without question. This raises the question of how someone like "Sarge" could adapt to the role of broken, helpless, complaint prisoner so quickly and completely.

At the end of the study, "all the prisoners were happy the experiment was over, but most of the guards were upset that the study was terminated prematurely." This raises the question of just what psychological rewards the 'guards' had obtained by this grant of arbitrary power over other human beings, including the ability to physically, sexually and emotionally abuse them, and control every aspect of their lives, including eating, sleeping and use of the bathroom and shower facilities. Was this authoritarian (or totalitarian) personality innate, or learned through popular culture, family life and 'normal' socialization?

A month after the Stanford experiment concluded, the inmates at Attica penitentiary in New York rebelled and took over the prison. This revolt was crushed when Governor Nelson Rockefeller sent in the National Guard, resulting in the deaths of many guards and prisoners. Zimbardo stated that: "one of the major demands of the prisoners at Attica was that they be treated like human beings. After observing our simulated prison for only six days, we could understand how prisons dehumanize people, turning them into objects and instilling in them feelings of hopelessness. And as for guards, we realized how ordinary people could be readily transformed from the good Dr. Jekyll to the evil Mr. Hyde."

Over the past thirty years, however, the American criminal justice system has become far harsher and more degrading than it was in 1971, and also has far more inmates under its control -- more than any other country in the Western world. As Zimbardo put it "The question now is how to change our institutions so that they promote human values rather than destroy them. Sadly, in the decades since this experiment took place, prison conditions and correctional policies in the United States have become even more punitive and destructive. The worsening of conditions has been a result of the politicization of corrections, with politicians vying for who is toughest on crime, along with the racialization of arrests and sentencing, with African-Americans and Hispanics overrepresented. The media has also contributed to the problem by generating heightened fear of violent crimes even as statistics show that violent crimes have decreased. There are more Americans in prisons than ever before. According to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Business.  (2011, January 16).  Retrieved May 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/business-general-please-list-sections/3346009

MLA Format

"Business."  16 January 2011.  Web.  21 May 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/business-general-please-list-sections/3346009>.

Chicago Format

"Business."  Essaytown.com.  January 16, 2011.  Accessed May 21, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/business-general-please-list-sections/3346009.