Sociology Index

Philip Zimbardo

Philip Zimbardo was born to Sicilian parents, George Zimbardo and Margaret Bisicchia. Philip Zimbardo tried to prove that anyone could become a swaggering guard or a cowering inmate. Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted in 1971 by a team of researchers led by Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University. Volunteers played the roles of guards and prisoners and lived in a mock prison. The Stanford prison experiment quickly got out of hand and was ended early. David Spiegel, professor of psychiatry at the Stanford University School of Medicine, called Zimbardo "a legendary teacher", saying that "he has changed the way we think about social influences." Philip Zimbardo did some experiments testing the broken-window theory.

He arranged to have an automobile without license plates parked with its hood up on a street in the Bronx and a comparable automobile on a street in Palo Alto. The car in the Bronx was attacked by vandals within ten minutes of its abandonment. Philip Zimbardo set up a very important social psychology experiment at Stanford in which he took 24 bright, mature, emotionally stable men and by flipping a coin, designated some as 'prisoners' and some as 'guards.'

The Stanford prison experiment was a landmark psychological study of the human response to captivity, in particular, to the real world circumstances of prison life, and the effects of imposed social roles on behavior. The 'prisoners' were picked up at their homes by a police officer, searched, handcuffed, fingerprinted, blindfolded and taken to 'prison.' The 'guards' were told they could make their own rules.

Philip Zimbardo experiment lasted two weeks. Some prisoners became depressed, confused, hysterical and had to be released after a few days; the guards, otherwise nice guys, became cruel and heartless. Philip Zimbardo had to end the experiment early because the sociology of it all became too real.