Philip Zimbardo is known for his work on the Stanford Prison Experiment – SPE, which helped shape his career in psychology. However, Philip Zimbardo is not just a social psychologist but also an avid educator who spent 50 years teaching and performing experiments on different topics to study the mind and its behavior in various circumstances.
Although his experiment in Stanford Prison gained criticism, it proved a valuable point in the world of psychology. Here are the three key findings of this experiment, which are still being used by students and researchers today to understand the human mind and behavior.
The Stanford Prison Experiment conducted in 1971 demonstrates how people’s behavior changes according to social situations. During the experiment, the mock prisoners and guards gained total control of their social character, drastically impacting their minds and leading to most participants’ emotional and psychological breakdowns.
From this experience, it is clear that when a person is subjected to situational dynamics in an evil environment, his personality and emotional response change according to the environment. This understanding was essential to study the harsh behavior of the guards who tortured prisoners in America.
The Lucifer effect
Most of the experiment findings are directly addressed in the book ‘The Lucifer Effect’ published in 2007. The book’s central theme was based on SPE’s findings in 1971, which state that the difference in psychological and social factors influences the people in the situation and results in immoral acts. These findings were directly applied to the prisoner abuse at Abu Gharib in 2003. The book also acted as a defense for most prison officers and inmates.
From his findings, Philip Zimbardo states that good people can be initiated to behave in evil ways (mindless, antisocial, stupid, self-destructive) when they are subjected to specific situational influences, which bring changes in the character, personality, and morality of a person.
The heroic imagination project
By studying human behavior from the SPE and other such theories and experiments, Philip Zimbardo formed the Heroic Imagination Project, which taught people how to overcome the wait in moments of crisis. This means he urged people to take the necessary action based on situations around them instead of waiting for the situation to change by itself.
The banality of evil is essential, which many people have forgotten over time. Philip Zimbardo states that heroism can be performed by anyone with the right behavior and mindset. It is a choice that many of us have to make to move ahead in life.
Although Philip Zimbardo is a world-famous physiologist, educator, and author, his findings on the SPE changed how people understood psychology. The experiment later was also a point to craft different theories on human behavior in social conditions.