Discussion questions

  • Can the potential benefits of conducting a study that might challenge the original conclusions of Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Study ever outweigh the potential risks?
  • To what extent is it possible to provide properly informed consent in a study like ours?
  • What are the consequences of conducting experiments that (a) do not involve interaction, and (b) are too short to examine the development of behaviour over time? In particular, how do these factors affect the type of theories that psychologists develop?
  • What is the logic for including only decent and well-adjusted people in studies like ours?
  • How do the resources available to the Guards in our study compare to the resources available to other groups who are expected to wield power in society (e.g., teachers, managers, parents, or United Nations peace keepers)?
  • To what extent do ethical demands limit experimental psychologists’ ability to investigate people’s responses to challenging situations? How does this affect psychological science as a whole?
  • Were we right to end the study when we did? What would have happened if we had let things continue a little longer? Could a decision to continue have been justified on ethical or scientific grounds?
How would you plan a study like this?

How would you plan a study like this?