WEBQUEST: The Stanford Prison Experiment
The following experiment is one of the classic experiments in psychology. Go to
http://www.prisonexp.org/ and walk yourself through the slide show. As you do this, answer the
questions below. The idea here is to familiarize yourself with the most effective method of
measuring human behavior, the EXPERIMENT.
1. What is this experiment attempting to measure?
2. How does it attempt to measure this?
3. Who conducted the experiment?
4. Who were the participants? Why did they participate?
5. What characteristics did the participants carry going into the experiment?
6. Where did the experiment take place?
7. DISCUSSION QUESTION (Slide #6): What do you think are the effects of living in an
environment with no clocks, no view of the outside world, and minimal sensory
8. How were the prisoners humiliated?
9. DISCUSSION QUESTION (Slide #9): Consider the psychological consequences of
stripping, delousing, and shaving the heads of prisoners or members of the military. What
transformations do you think take place when people go through an experience like this?
10. What were the chains used for?
11. Why did the prisoners get ID #’s?
12. What did the guards wear? Why?
13. DISCUSSION QUESTION (Slide #15): At first push-ups were not a very aversive form
of punishment, but they became more so as the study wore on. Why the change?
14. How did the guards handle the rebellion?
15. DISCUSSION QUESTION (Slide #19): How do you think you would have behaved if
you were a prisoner in this situation? Would you have rejected these privileges in order
to maintain prisoner solidarity?
16. What happens to the guards as the experiment progresses?
17. What happened to prisoner #8612?
18. How did the experimenter handle family and friends of the participants?
19. DISCUSSION QUESTION (Slide #27): In an exploratory study such as this, one
problem is defining what the "data" are -- the information we should collect. Also, what
should have been done to minimize the effects of experimenter bias on the outcome of
the study? What were the dangers of the principal investigator assuming the role of
20. What did the priest find?
21. What happened to prisoner #819?
22. Why did the experiment end?
23. DISCUSSION QUESTION (Slide #39): In the encounter sessions, all the prisoners were
happy the experiment was over, but most of the guards were upset that the study was
terminated prematurely. Why do you think the guards reacted this way?
24. What conclusions were made from this experiment?
25. How do you think the findings in this experiment can be applied in today’s world?