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Reflection on The Film Stanford Prison Experiment

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In the movie entitled “Stanford Prison Experiment” the experiment aimed to study the psychological effects of prison life, and students played the roles of guards and prisoners. Zimbardo structured the experiment to make everything seems as realistic as possible. The students cast as prisoners and guards were curated from 70 applicants that answered Zimbardo’s ad for test subjects. Those with psychological problems, disabilities, prior records and a history of drug use were excluded. Only 24 met his criteria to take part in the experiment. All were males in the same socio-economic middle class and each was paid $15 a day for their participation. A coin toss decided which volunteers would be jailed and which would be guards. Prisoner 416, the student that had been in solitary confinement, released this chilling short statement. “I don’t regard it as an experiment or a simulation because it was a prison run by psychologists instead of run by the state. I began to feel that identity, the person that I was that had decided to go to prison was distant from me. I was 416. I was really my number.”, in this line I can say that even though that there are some of the prisoners who are already adapt the role of being a prisoner there are still some people who still know their own self and identity.

Social Influence, Conforming in Groups can also be seen in the movie. Although the intent of the experiment was to examine captivity, its result has been used to demonstrate the impressionability and obedience of people when provided with a legitimizing ideology and social and institutional support. This experiment started off with the best of scientific intentions, to find out whether personality traits of prisoners and guards affected their lives in prison, but went wrong after the participants lost their identities and fell deep into the roles they were given. In many ways, the film is very interesting and it really caught my attention. Crudup plays Zimbardo as an overzealous researcher overstepping his bounds, trying to create a very specific outcome among the students he observes. The filmmakers even underscore the flimsiness of the experimental design, inserting characters who point out that Zimbardo is not a disinterested observer. This movie suggests that our behavior largely conforms to our preconceived expectations. All else being equal, we act as we think we’re expected to act especially if that expectation comes from the person above. It also can be seen that in the Stanford setup , it tells that we should behave in stereotypical tough-guard fashion, and we strive to fit that role. Tell us, that we shouldn’t give up hope of social mobility, and we act accordingly.

The film is impressive considering the scope, historical legacy, and ensemble for an indie. Unlike many historical films, many people have at least seen some of the authentic footage, which adds a certain standard to live up to. The film captures the look of that original hallway and cells, and a majority of the actors find a look that seems both realistic and period appropriate. And considering the restrictions of filming in so few locations and most taking place in narrow hallways, the visual variety they were able to create on camera is to be applauded. I was especially impressed by the sound effects that had been used , which builds the film’s tension by increasing clarity and volume, every banging door and clanging chain seems even heavier. The film’s color is especially muted, primarily because the guards and prisoners wear neutral, colorless clothing, and the film seems lit only fluorescent lights . The experiment has a lot to do with its apparently simple setup: prisoners, guards, a fake jail, and some ground rules. But, in reality, the Stanford County Prison was a heavily manipulated environment, and the guards and prisoners acted in ways that were largely predetermined by how their roles were presented.

In conclusion, this experiment is considered unethical, It shows that authority is powerful to a fault. People will do most anything to either please or undermine authority figures, and those in authority positions will go to great lengths to prove their power. It shows how the world is broken, and how dangerous, the system truly is, and what people are capable of within its structure of power and powerlessness. From the beginning, the study has been haunted by ambiguity. Even as it suggests that ordinary people harbor ugly potentialities, it also testifies to the way our circumstances shape our behavior.

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Reflection On The Film Stanford Prison Experiment. (2021, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from
“Reflection On The Film Stanford Prison Experiment.” GradesFixer, 14 May 2021,
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