Monday, October 27, 2008

The Stanford Prison Experiment

Originally uploaded by l_mazzola
In Advanced English 2 we watched a video called "Quiet Rage" which was about the Stanford Prison Experiment. In the early seventies. a psychology professor at Stanford decided to conduct an experiment to see what happens to people when they are either given power or stripped of all their power/control. He asked for 14 male volunteers to play either the role of a prisoner or a guard. All 14 volunteers underwent a psychological evaluation to determine they were "fit" to participate in the experiment. The men who were assigned the role as guards were told they could use whatever means necessary (other than physical abuse) to keep the prisoners in line. The experiment was set to last 14 days, but was called off after only six. For more information on the Stanford Prison Experiment, go to

There are so many connections between this psychological experiment and themes in Lord of the Flies. Some major connections were between the quiet rage discussed in the video and what Simon refers to as "mankind's essential illness." Also, the psychologist who conducted the experiment discusses the "power of the situation" and how the situation has control over the individual. We looked at the scene in the novel where the boys are acting out the pig hunt and discussed how even Ralph gets swept up in "the power of the situation."

What I think is most fascinating about this experiment is how quickly these young men believed themselves to either be prisoners or guards. Within a few days they had succumbed to their position and acted accordingly. Those who were guards didn't think twice about exercising absolute control over their prisoners. The quiet rage, which Golding argues we all possess, surfaced quickly and took over these young men's minds. The comparisons between the SPE and LOTF are undeniable.


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  2. This video was pretty cool. The guards took their job so seriously and were such power freaks. It made sense to connect it with the book.