soc 101

1. The experiment happened the way it did perhaps because the psychologists’ idea was correct that positions of power in such places as prisons can indeed corrupt people, and that prisoners subjected to such treatment lose their identity and sense of self. Since the guards were given relative freedom in handling the prisoners, they soon learned to abuse their power to demean and humiliate the prisoners. The prisoners in turn were quickly taught to submit to the authority of the guards and thus forgot their identities. The fact that the researcher himself was involved so deeply in his role as superintendent also contributed to the severity of the experiment’s procedures as well as his lack of focus on research elements, such as variables to be measured. The experiment would probably not have gone the same way if it were conducted today. Researchers would likely not be so careless in their research due to rising concerns of ethics in research in fields such as sociology, such as the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (1) which was developed to control and regulate psychological research. This document was created relatively recently and features recent amendments as well. With the existence of such documents today, research like that conducted in the prison experiment would likely be highly moderated and regulated to prevent unethical means of research such as the increasingly brutal and cruel punishment of prisoners in the experiment. The subjects would hopefully be more protected from harm and abuse both mental and physical. Researcher bias and intervention would also hopefully be better curbed to reduce the impact on the study and to prevent further abuse of research subjects. With these limitations in place, a similar research experiment conducted today would likely be safer for the subjects as well as yield more fruitful results from the research.

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