It’s arguably one of the most controversial experiments.
It all started in the basement of the psychology building at Stanford University on August 17, 1971 after psychologist Phil Zimbardo and colleagues took an ad out in the paper stating: “Male college students needed for psychological study of prison life. $15 per day for 1-2 weeks.”
Over 70 people volunteered for the Stanford Prison Experiment. Twenty-four healthy, smart college-aged men were picked and randomly assigned either to be a guard or a prisoner. The aim of the study was to explore the psychology of prison life and how specific situations affect people’s behavior.
But the experiment didn’t last very long — six days to be exact. Zimbardo was forced to pull the plug because of the disturbing behavior of the guards and the downright despair and other negative reactions of the prisoners.