The Stanford Prison Experiment UP045

The Stanford prison experiment (SPE) was a social psychology experiment that attempted to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power, focusing on the struggle between prisoners and prison officers. It was conducted at Stanford University on the days of August 14–20, 1971, by a research group led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo using college students. In the study, volunteers were assigned to be either "guards" or "prisoners" by the flip of a coin, in a mock prison, with Zimbardo himself serving as the superintendent.

The Stanford prison experiment was originally slated to last a full two weeks. It ended after just 6 days. The participants became so enmeshed in their assumed roles that the guards became almost sadistically abusive and the prisoners became anxious, depressed, and emotionally disturbed. While the experiment was designed to look at prison behavior, it has since become an emblem of how powerfully people are influenced by situations.