Stanford Prison

12 December 2016

What happens when good equal people are put in evil situations? In the article “The Stanford Prison Experiment” by Philip Zimbardo, participants in the experiment demonstrate characteristics that signify the Lucifer theory. The Lucifer theory is based from biblical prophecies Isaiah 14:12, that describes the most beautiful angel known as Lucifer. Lucifer was described as Gods favorite angel which whom he greatly loved. The bible then goes into detail on how Lucifer defies and rebels against God and is sent to hell, the “fallen angel”.

This theory is observed best when an ordinary, normal person first crosses the boundary between good and evil to engage in an evil action. The Lucifer theory can be accompanied by many different distractions such as authority and systematic power, peer pressure, and the physical environment. In “The Stanford Prison Experiment”, authority and systematic powers play a key role in this mock prison experiment. When Zimbardo splits the group of college students into guards and inmates, indications of the Lucifer theory become more perceptible.

Stanford Prison Essay Example

The students who play the guards, without any prior preexisting pathology, start to take the roll as if they had previous training. Zimbardo even states that, “the media had already provided them with ample models of prison guards to emulate,” making the job easier to fulfill (Zimbardo 735). The authority given to the students to play as the guards starts to transform their attitudes rapidly. They become more aggressive and begin to abuse their powers by dehumanizing the inmates, calling them names, stripping them naked, and occasionally abusing them.

After a while, despite the atrocities already received by the inmates, the guards began forcing “them to engage in tedious, useless work” (Zimbardo 737). The guards started using fire extinguishers to end the inmate’s revolt, they dragged the inmate’s blankets through thorn bushes, they did not permit the inmates to use the restroom after lights out, and worst of all the guards made the inmates clean out there waste buckets with their bare hands. Philip Zimbardo, even admits that himself playing the role as the superintendent was “startled by the ease,” of shift in his attitude toward the inmates (Zimbardo 740).

The catalyst, who helped Zimabrdo realize that he and the guards are taking this experiment too far, was psychologist Christina Maslach. She put a stop to the experiment only after six days. As one can see authority and systematic power can change a virtuous person into a sadistic abuser. Authority and systematic powers are not the only distractions that partake in the Lucifer theory, but peer pressure can cause a change in one’s attitude and values. Peer pressure in the influence exerted by a peer group or a single individual to alter ones values, attitude, or beliefs.

In “The Stanford Prison Experiment”, a prime example of the Lucifer theory is peer pressure, in-between the boundaries of right and wrong. Zimbardo helped greatly with altering the student’s attitudes, which played the guards. He “deindividualized” the guards by giving them “identical khaki uniforms with silver reflector sunglasses, billy clubs, whistles, handcuffs, and keys to all the cells” (Zimbardo 735). This tactic was used to deceive the students in helping them play the role as if they were real prison guards.

Guard A, prior to the experiment states that he is “pacifist and nonaggressive individual,” and cannot see a point in time where he would dehumanize another humanbeing (Zimbardo 741). Guard A specifically states that he is not aggressive and cannot see himself causing pain to another individual, but as the days move on there is a dramatic shift in his attitude. “Fifth day:.. I am very angry at this prisoner for causing discomfort and trouble for others. I decided to force-feed him, but he wouldn’t eat.

I let the food slide down his face. I didn’t believe it was me doing it. I hated myself for making him eat but I hated him more for not eating” (Zimbardo 741) The reason that triggered his sadistic transformation is the mere fact that the guards are influencing each other’s ethical decisions, known as peer pressure. All of these students, before this experiment, were considered ordinary equal people; However, because of the situation the guards and prisoners are set it, they start to lose reality of the real world.

The stress levels attained and the many different influences lead to the peer pressure that these students had soon encountered, the situation they were set in altered there rational decision making skills. Not only does peer pressure alter ones decision making but the physical environment also played a key role in proving the Lucifer theory. The physical environment in “The Stanford Prison Experiment”, helped in fluctuating the inmates and guards attitudes.

When the students are split up between guards and inmates the physical environemtn really starts to take a toll mentally on the two separate groups. Zimbardo altered the physical environment by assigning different uniforms to the two groups. The inmates were given “smocks and nylon stocking caps,” to diminish each inmates sense of uniqueness (Zimbardo 734). The guards received “identical khaki uniforms with silver reflector sunglasses, billy clubs, whistles, handcuffs, and keys to all the cells” (Zimbardo 735).

These clothes and objects helped add realism to the mock prison. Right away observers noticed a change in attitudes by the guards and inmates. The students began playing the role of the guards more serious by humiliating and treating the students who were the inmates as if they were real inmates. Without even being asked by Zimbardo, the guards started plotting their own ways to punish and dehumanize the inmates, even if there logic was pointless.

The guards would use an empty closet where the inmates were secluded in solitary confinement, “A small, dark storage closet, labeled the hole” (Zimbardo 734). The cells and the “hole” helped by shifting the physical environment. The realism of the mock prison started to alter the reality of the guards and inmates, the guards were becoming more aggressive and the inmates were starting to act more like real inmates. Because of the physical environment that surrounds the guards, they lost reality of the real world and that in fact they were humiliating innocent people.

The physical environment proves that it can alter ones rational decision making, putting them on the border line of what’s right and wrong leading to the Lucifer theory. Authority and systematic power, peer pressure, and the physical environment are all factors that fall under the category of the Lucifer theory. Authority and systematic powers play a key role in this experiment, by illustrating how to much power can alter ones attitude, such as the guards in “The Stanford Prison Experiment. The guards start to become more aggressive and humiliate the inmates. They begin to use fire extinguishers against inmate’s, they started dragging the inmate’s blankets through thorn bushes, they would not permit the inmates to use the restroom after lights out, and worst of all the guards would make in inmates clean out their waste buckets with their bare hands. Another factor that defines the Lucifer theory is peer pressure.

Peer pressure is shown throughout this whole experiment; For example guard A claims he is passive and couldn’t imagine hurting another human being, but as the days go by he writes how he physically punished inmates. This transformation in attitude is due to the fact that every other guard is influencing each other’s decision making, leading to peer pressure. The last factor that helped define the Lucifer theory was the physical environment. Zimbardo assisted with the physical environment by adding realism to the mock prison.

He gave out uniforms that differentiated between the guards and inmates, added ccell block for the inmates, and he added a solitary confinement space known as the “hole. ” These three factors are primary examples of the Lucifer theory in “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. ”

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