The Stanford prison experiment was a psychological study of human responses to captivity and its behavioral effects on both authorities and inmates in prison. The experiment was conducted in 1971 by a team of researchers led by psychologist Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University. The second expert is Admiral James B. Stockdale, who was prisoner of war in Hoa Lo for much of the duration of the Vietnam War. He too has things to say about responsible leadership or authority within the prison, in particular the inmate population, and effective building or architectonic of institutions that will mediate moral survivability in situations of powerlessness and duress.
Undergraduate volunteers played the roles of both guards and prisoners living in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building.
Prisoners and guards rapidly adapted to their roles, stepping beyond the boundaries of what had been predicted and leading to dangerous and psychologically damaging situations. One-third of the guards were judged to have exhibited “genuine” sadistic tendencies, while many prisoners were emotionally traumatized and two had to be removed from the experiment early. Finally, Zimbardo, alarmed at the increasingly abusive anti-social behavior from his subjects, terminated the entire experiment early.