Sociology Index

Philip Zimbardo

Philip Zimbardo was born to Sicilian parents, George Zimbardo and Margaret Bisicchia, and went to Monroe High School with Stanley Milgram, an American social psychologist most notable for his controversial study known as the Milgram Experiment. Philip Zimbardo tried to prove that anyone could become a swaggering guard or a cowering inmate, and 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. However, the Stanford prison experiment quickly got out of hand and was ended early.

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.

Philip Zimbardo on 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. The first to arrive were a family, father, mother, and young son, who removed the radiator and battery. Within twenty-four hours, virtually everything of value had been removed. Then random destruction began, windows were smashed, parts torn off, upholstery ripped. Children began to use the car as a playground. The car in Palo Alto sat untouched for more than a week. Then Zimbardo smashed part of it with a sledgehammer. Soon, passersby were joining in. Within a few hours, the car had been turned upside down and utterly destroyed. Again, the vandals appeared to be primarily respectable whites.