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Within our everyday lives, we are, if not, required to engage in a role within this established society. These roles can include the following: A husband, father, brother, friend, and coworker. In a sense, each role has their implied duties in which many are not formally aware about. Many individuals endeavor diligently in containing a balance within all of our responsibilities, however, if a balance is not implemented, a dysfunction in a person’s life can become present. In order to establish a robust life, an individual must examine any given role that he or she engages in. Over the years, there have been numerous controversial psychological experiments dedicated in exploring this issue. Many of these well-known experiments include the Asch Conformity Experiment, which was conducted by Dr. Solomon Asch, and the Milgram Experiment, conducted by Stanley Milgram; however, one of the most well-known and controversial psychological experiment performed was the Stanford Prison Experiment which was conducted by Dr. Philip Zimbardo. As a social psychology professor at Stanford University, Phillip Zimbardo, who was one of the pioneers in exploring social roles, behaviors, and how they are affected by certain events, implemented a radical research experiment in which astonished numerous participants as well as many other individuals as to what we must and will do in order to fulfill the roles we engage in our everyday lives. According to Zimbardo (2007), “an experiment on prison life will justify how quickly a person can execute their own identity in order to satisfy the societal role that is expected of them” (pg.1). As for the outcome and aftermath of this undertaking, this experiment is still an important factor in the examination of a specific behavior within the discipline of psychology. In accordance to Zimbardo and the stated researcher’s undertakings, my hypothesis is the following: An individual’s behavior as well as their attitude is highly dependent on the amount of influence a certain societal role can inflict.
The purpose of this study originated from the desire to concisely explain the effects of how a societal role can, indeed, influence an individual’s behavior and attitude. In this present study, the research design was a non-experimental and correlational as it studied the relationship between five distant academic journals in their undertaking of an individual’s interpretation on societal roles. The stated academic journals within this study were recruited from EBSCOhost, a research database offered by Navarro College. The following query was implemented, into the database’s basic search box, in order to retrieve the selections that will be utilized within this paper: “The Stanford Prison Experiment.” The selected publication date for the journals was limited to the year 2005 and included selections until present year 2018. Furthermore, in order to increase the percentage of legitimate (trusted) articles within this study, source types were limited to academic journals. The selections, which were the first two present sources followed by the fourth, fifth, and sixth sources, were evaluated on the basis of reliability, validity, and legitimacy. With this presented material, concise parallels between the Stanford Prison Experiment and present-day research can and will be studied and ultimately addressed.
Within the Stanford Prison Experiment, Zimbardo selected twenty-four participants on the basis of reflection of the common or average individual in today’s current society. In accordance to Zimbardo, “most were common white college students…who were physically and mentally healthy, with no history of crime or violence, so as to be sure that initially they were all ‘good apples'” (Bornus, 2016; Zimbardo, 2007). After the initiation of the given (random) assignments, the prison participants were ultimately, under the false impression, “arrested, booked and then taken to the site where the experiment was to be conducted” (Bartels, 2015). As the first day of the experiment made its presence, Zimbardo, in attempt to make the prison simulation legitimate as possible, spent a great deal of time on details which included the overall appearance of the prison as well as the cells in which the participants endeavored. Also, the uniforms of the guards, and the entry process for the prisoners were taken into consideration. All of these elements were implemented in an effort to emasculate as well as demoralize the very nature of the prisoners, which, in a sense, were well-mannered individuals. This act effectively displaced their God-given identity; as a result, new authoritative roles were established (). By day two, many given roles were firmly in place, this was true in both the prisoners as well as the guards. After a number of brief rebellions by the prisoners, the guards became satisfied in their acts of aggression towards them; they believed that their acts were justified (Maher, 2015). Furthermore, it was seen that the guards exerted their control, in such a sadistic and grossly manner, to the extent of not allowing the prisoners to use an appropriated place to relieve themselves, instead, they were forced to use a bucket in which could not leave their assigned cell. As time passed, the prisoners were seen as to showing drastic signs of stress, which, in a sense, changed their overall mood, and behaviors. With this being said, the utmost obedience by the prisoners was given to the guards (Zimbardo, 2007). The experiment, so far, was in accordance to Zimbardo’s assumptions; however, the environment within the prison became so utterly life-threatening that the experiment was ended before the expected period of completion. Sadly, this experiment, however, was not necessarily a valid replication of a prison operation.
When taking this experiment into consideration, a number of reasons in which this undertaking was ethically unsuccessful is revealed; however, it does enforce several theories in which explain how we perceive certain behaviors and societal roles. In my perspective, there a number of reasons in why a participant chose to delve so deeply into their given role. “One contributing factor that may have assisted in changing certain participants’ behaviors and attitudes was the fact that there was a hierarchy of power and dominance within the site” (Weeber, 2006). Although this hierarchy was only part of the experiment and was advised to not be taken into consideration, both the guards and the prisoners briskly adapted; as a result, this imbalance was quickly grasped and integrated into their identity. The multitude of behaviors and attitudes of the participants abruptly influenced by various factors in the days that the experiment was conducted. According to Zimbardo (2007), “the participants started off psychologically and physically healthy but; nonetheless, they soon became either “sadistic and hostile guards or anxious and protesting prisoners” (pg.1). Surprisingly, there were a few individuals, who were not directly involved in the experiment that also performed certain roles. These individuals were a priest and a lawyer, who were contracted near the completion of the experiment, who both undertook the false impression of being prisoners, acted as if they were incarcerated in a legitimate state prison. Furthermore, almost every individual who came into contact with this undertaking changed their perspective in order to grantee success of the experiment, all becoming, in a sense, actors in a false, simulated event. In the end, the experiment’s unprecedented ending was needed in order to remind the twenty-four participants of their true identities. This experiment, while only intending to study a small portion of the underlying concept of human behavior, uncovered many truths that may explain our behaviors in a larger sense.
In accordance to numerous researchers, The Stanford Prison Experiment had a number of far reaching innuendos. Although Zimbardo’s study focused solely on the state of a prison environment, the change in behaviors and attitudes due to the influence of our societal roles can be seen in an individual’s everyday life. In order to truly understand how our everyday roles affect our behavior, one must first take into consideration what compromises a role. A role, by its very definition, is a “function assumed or part played by a person or thing in a particular situation.” According to role theory, societal attitudes can affect our behavior as well as in how we define ourselves within our current society. An excellent perspective that should be taken into consideration on how to view the interactions of our given roles, is to organize them into a system of classification. What begins as a broad classification, such as our ethnic and gender, can then be utilized into smaller classifications. All of these roles, in a sense, interact with each other and influence our daily lives. As stated before, we have a multitude of roles in which an individual must endure throughout their lives. Each set of roles arrives with its own unique set of social innuendos and prescribed behavior; it becomes subtly penetrated into our overall identity. It is then integrated into the identity we allow the world to see. Zimbardo states: “In some ways, everyone will be a prisoner or a guard at some point in their life, because a guard is simply someone who limits the freedom of another person. Parents, spouses, and bosses do this all the time. And the recipients of this behavior? Well, they are the prisoners” (Zimbardo, 2007).
Although the statement, stated above, may seem somewhat fatalistic, a gain of truth is in relation to the commitment to our roles and the consequences we may endeavor is present. Our daily lives are dominated by rules and restrictions; however, it may be perceived as not a bad occurrence. To many individuals, it is important to closely examine the restrictions that are posed by the roles that are present in one’s life.
Phillip G. Zimbardo challenged the norms of society and asked the following question: “Where does one’s identity end and one’s role begin?” (Maher, 2015) To many, the two stated questions seem to be intertwined with each other, each having a drastic affect upon the other. The expectations of our roles seem to form the foundation of our identity. Are we, as people in this current society, greater than our given roles? Or are we solely defined by our roles, and our roles alone? Does the role of a prisoner and guard, or a parent and spouse truly define one as a person? After examining Zimbardo’s undertaking of the Stanford Prison Experiment, it can be inferred that an individual’s behavior as well as their attitude is, indeed, highly dependent on the amount of influence a certain societal role can inflict. The Stanford Prison Experiment, “a notorious investigation of obedience and power,” gave us amazing insight into how extreme we will go in our actions and behaviors in order fulfill our roles in our current day society (Maher, 2015).

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