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Stanford Prison Experiment

Stanford Prison Experiment

The Stanford Prison Experiment was an experiment done to assess the psychological issues that may arise in prisoners and prison guards. The researchers recruited individuals through an advert that indicated that prisoners and prison guards were needed for a pay of 15$ per day. The study was to take 7 to 14 days (McLeod, 2020). Seventy people applied, but only twenty-four psychologically stable middle-class individuals were selected. The group was divided into two, half guards and the other half prisoners. However, the group that was to act as prisoners was not informed about getting arrested by police. The group was detained by police, some at home and others in public places. They were accused of armed robbery, and their arrest was in the media. While in prison, the guards were aggressive and brutal to the prisoners.

The first day went softly; however, the prisoners were strip-searched, and their identification documents were taken. They were asked to remove their clothes and were given uniforms, unfitting smocks without stocking caps and underwear. The prisoners were to be called by the identity numbers that were assigned to them in the prison. On day two, the prisoners became rebellious against the wake-up call by the guards. As a response, the guards began spraying the prisoners with fire extinguishers (McLeod, 2020). The backup guards were called to restore calmness. The guards unanimously removed the prisoners’ bedding and clothes. On day three, the guards separated the obedient and the disobedient prisoners. The guards humiliated the prisoners by making them do pushups (McLeod, 2020). The first prisoner opted out of the study due to a mental breakdown. On day four, another prisoner also opted out due to the manifestation of mental distress. On day 5, the parents raised concerns regarding the safety and comfort of their children. The study later came to an end on the 6th day.

Robbers Cave Experiment

On the other hand, the Robert Cave experiment was meant to assess interconflicts between individuals. The study participants were around 22 boys 11 years of age (Ankersen & Nielsen, 2020). The boys were taken to a summer camp. Initially, the boys were happy with each other and did most things together. The next day, the boys came up with names for their respective groups. The groups were named the rattlers and the eagles. The groups were exposed to some form of competition. Unrest was observed among the groups. The boys were then asked to write about each other’s group to reduce the prejudice between the two groups (Ankersen & Nielsen, 2020). The groups were then instructed to work together and recorded a positive outcome. This particular experiment confirmed interpersonal conflicts arise as a result of competition.

Comparison Between the Two

To begin with, both experiments used human objects. The Stanford experiment used adult participants, whereas the Robbers Cave experiment used underage children. It is unclear whether consent was taken in the Robber’s Cave experiment. However, the experiment did not actively cause harm to the participants. On the other hand, the Standford prison experiment included activities considered harmful to humans, supposing the prisoners’ handling. The Stanford prison experiment, therefore, exposed the participants to direct trauma that is regarded as inhumane. Secondly, the Stanford prison experiment became unbearable, and the participants opted out of the study before its completion. However, in the Robbers’ cave experiment, the study’s objectives were achieved and demonstrated in the experiment. Lastly, the Stanford prison experiment was not explained to the clients before selection, and therefore, the participants applied without complete information at hand. The participants, thus, found the experiment unbearable and started opting out one by one with claims of psychological distress.

ACA and APA Codes of Ethics That Were Not Followed in the Experiments

Essentially, the Stanford experiment caused a breach of various ethics. These ethical issues that arose from the experiment were failure to observe the codes of client welfare and informed consent. According to Francis (2020), the ACA code of ethics emphasizes that the client’s welfare should be the priority during counseling. The psychopsychologist’s responsibility to the clients’ dignity is respected. This was, however, breached in the Stanford experiment, especially for the participants who acted as prisoners. Secondly, the codes of ethics also maintain that counselors should embrace consent-taking before any intervention (Sheffield, 2018). From the Stanford experiment, it was apparent that no consent was taken from the participants. This was observed during the surprise arrest of the participants and the humiliation they underwent while in prison. Lastly, it is also emphasized that counselors and psychologists should avoid imposing harm and values on clients. However, in the Stanford experiment, the participants who acted as prisoners were tortured and humiliated during the experiment, which led to the ending of the study prematurely.

On the other hand, unlike the Stanford experiment, which caused a breach of various codes of ethics, the Robbers cave experiment observed a majority of the code of ethics. However, the Robbers Cave experiment used underage children at the age of 11 years. The rule of consent-taking was therefore breached in this aspect. In such an experiment that may have adverse consequences, it is unethical to use minors as they are considered not fit to make decisions regarding their participation in the study. However, the experiment would be considered harmless compared to the Stanford prison experiment.


Ankersen, P. V., & Nielsen, P. B. (2020). GROUP CONFLICT: Experiment in Group Conflict by Sherif.

Francis, P. C. (2020). Legal and ethical issues in college counseling.

McLeod, S. (2020). Stanford prison experiment. Simply Psychology.

Sheffield, R. (2018). Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct Response Protocol 1.


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Assessment Description
Locate two different historical research experiments from the field of psychology or behavioral health that were considered unethical.

Stanford Prison Experiment

Stanford Prison Experiment

Here are some examples of unethical experiments conducted in the past. You may choose from this list or find others on your own:

Stanford Prison Experiment
Landis’s Facial Expression Experiment
Little Albert Experiment by John Watson
Milgram Study of 1974
Robbers Cave Experiment

Write a 750-1,000-word paper summarizing the two unethical experiments you read about. Compare the two experiments, and provide the specific ACA or APA Code of Ethics statements that were not followed for each experiment.

Include at least three scholarly references in addition to the textbook to support your paper.

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