Zimbardos study investigated how people would conform to new roles. Twelve male volunteers were selected and paid fifteen dollars a day to take part in this two week study. Three males were made guards and nine males were made prisoners. This study is important because it shows exactly how the prisons environment created the guards wicked behaviour towards the prisoners. This suggests that the roles people play shape their attitude and behaviour. This study has received many ethical criticisms- The prisoners were arrested without warning and therefore did not fully give consent for this to happen.
They faced humiliation by the guards and had their identity taken away from them, and were given a number to be known by instead. This study has been criticised for causing the participants distress due to the guards attitudes towards them. This was not a realistic study for a number of reasons- The prisoners did not commit any crime, they were able to ask for freedom and three of them were released because of this. It took place in a university and all participants shared similar backgrounds. The reality in this study was that the prisoners emotions of distress and depression, being locked up and dehumanisation.
Therefore it can be concluded that Zimbardo proved his point and showed that a person given a certain role in a particular environment can change a person’s attitude and behaviour towards life. Another procedure used in social influence research is Milgrams study, which aimed to find out if a person would inflict pain on others by obeying an order. Forty males were used, and each of them were paid four dollars fifty. This procedure involved a ‘learner’ who is the confederate and had to memorise pairs of words, and the ‘teacher’ who is the participant who would test the learner and shock them if they got the answer wrong.
This study showed that most people will obey orders that they think is wrong under certain circumstances. The teacher would shock the learner even when he didn’t want to, but still obeyed the command given. A good example of this is pressures given during war times. Soldiers would be under a powerful authority to obey orders to kill, even when the soldiers may think it’s wrong, they block all emotions and carry on with this wicked act. Sigmund freuds psychodynamic theory can support this as the soldier or any other person would be repressing their thoughts and emotions to get on with their duty.
However, coming back to the study, critics have claimed that the participants knew what was going on and just acted to please the experimenter. This study has also been criticised for lacking in ecological validity because it was set in an artificial setting. Studies like these may not be valid today because people change and times change. Therefore it can be concluded that people are nowadays more confident and independent and may stand up more for their rights, depending on their circumstances and the situations they are in.