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Stanford Experiment

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SOCY 100: Introduction to Sociology
Writing Assignment #2: Obedience or Simulated Prison

In class, we have been exploring two major building blocks of sociology: research methodology/the science of sociology and the impact of groups and collectivities on our behavior. For this assignment you will bring these two topics together, analyzing a social scientific study that sheds light on the power of groups and authority figures. After having read about/watched a clip discussing a social scientific study, you will complete an assignment in which you discuss some components of the research.

1. Choose either of the following two options for this assignment:

Option 1: Stanley Milgram "Obedience" Study (A summary of the study on YouTube): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W147ybOdgpE

Option 2: Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Study (for an explanation with text and pictures, click on "the story" link at the bottom of the home page): http://www.prisonexp.org/

2. Become familiar with the experiment of your choice.
3. Write a hypothetical dialogue between Dr. Stanley Milgram/Dr. Zimbardo and you. Those two scientists designed and conducted the "Obedience" experiment and the "Simulated Prison" experiment" respectively.
4. In the dialogue, provide your critique of the experiment. Then, think how Dr. Milgram/Dr. Zimbardo would justify their experiment. Summarizing the experiment is not your task.

Tips to write:

1. Your questions for Dr. Milgram/Dr. Zimbardo should be related to Chapter 2 and/or Chapter 5.
2. Why did Dr. Milgram/Dr. Zimbardo come up with conducting their experiment?
3. Ask methodological questions.
4. Are there any research ethical issues? If so, how would Dr. Milgram/Dr. Zimbardo justify what they did?
5. What methodological flaws/problems do you find in the experiment? If you do a similar experiment today, do you think that the result would be any different?
6. Read Chapter 5 and ask questions that connect human behaviors and the experiment.
7. You must use at least two concepts/theories from Chapters 2 and 5, in total at least four concept/theories. Be sure that these concept are relevant to the study's findings and that you show you understand the concept/theory in your writing. You must bold and/or underline the concepts/theories that you use or else it will not be counted.
8. You do not need to cover every aspect of the experiment. It is all right to focus on a few aspects.

Format:

Your writing should look like an interview article in a magazine (see below).

Smith: Your question #1.

Milgram: Milgram's response to Question #1.

Smith: Your question #2.

Milgram: Milgram's response to Question #2.

To be continued.

Important:

1. About 2-3 double-spaced pages.
2. You do not need to write greetings such as "Hello, Dr. Milgram. It's my pleasure to interview you." Just jump into your question!
3. It is all right to get ideas from the internet. Since both are well known experiments, you will find plenty of information on the internet. However, you do need to cite the source. If you use other's idea(s) without citation, it is a form of plagiarism. According to the Montgomery College student code of conduct, the minimum sanction is an F on the assignment and the maximum sanction is an F for the course.

For help with citation procedures, please check out some of these websites:
http://libguides.montgomerycollege.edu/apa
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/.
http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pub/integrity/pages/cite/.

4. If you are not clear about the format or the content, just ask the instructor.

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1. Your questions for Dr. Milgram/Dr. Zimbardo should be related to Chapter 2 and/or Chapter 5.
2. Why did Dr. Milgram/Dr. Zimbardo come up with conducting their experiment?

The Stanford Experiment is noted as one of the most notorious studies ever conducted because of the lack of quality protocols to protect research subjects from abuse within the study. The experiment was conducted to ascertain whether normal individuals who are given total power and control over other human beings would exhibit unethical behavior as a result of this power. Therefore, the researchers took students from Stanford into a controlled setting wherein these normal students who previously had not wielded power over others were placed into separate groups of "prisoners" and guards. The mock situation occurred at a building that was converted into a replica of a prison with jail cells, guard uniforms, and other tools that guards would have over prisoners.

3. Ask methodological questions.

Why weren't the safety protocols put in place to prevent abuse by the students' who were guards in this mock trial study?

Why weren't researchers on the site throughout the entire study to ensure that the abhorrent abuse that occurred was not allowed?

Why were students who were given the role of prisoners not given the explicit authority to end the study whenever they felt they were being treated unethically or abused?

The responsibility of ensuring that research subjects are not harmed by the research study is the sole ethical duty of the lead researcher. How could a respected researcher allow their understudies to control major aspects of the research study while knowingly not being available to rectify any questions or problems within a study such as the Stanford Experiment?

4. Are there any research ethical issues? If so, how would Dr. Milgram/Dr. Zimbardo justify what they did?

There are many ethical issues associated with this research study, beginning with the fact ...

Solution Summary

Stanford experiments for the introduction to sociology are analyzed.

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