The BBC Prison Study was a social psychology experiment that aimed to examine the effects of power, social hierarchy, and social identity on human behavior. Conducted in 2002 by researchers at the University of Oxford and funded by the British broadcaster, the BBC, the experiment involved a simulated prison environment in which a group of volunteer participants were randomly assigned roles as either prisoners or guards.
The experiment was designed to simulate a typical prison environment, with the participants living in a mock prison facility and following a set of rules and procedures that were designed to replicate those found in a real prison. The participants were given training in their roles and were closely monitored by the researchers throughout the experiment.
One of the key findings of the BBC Prison Study was the extent to which the roles of prisoner and guard had a powerful influence on the behavior of the participants. The guards, who were given a certain amount of authority and power over the prisoners, quickly began to behave in a more authoritarian and aggressive manner, while the prisoners became more submissive and compliant.
Another notable finding of the study was the way in which the prisoners and guards began to identify with their roles and the groups to which they belonged. The prisoners began to see themselves as a cohesive group and formed close bonds with one another, while the guards became more isolated and distant from the prisoners.
Overall, the BBC Prison Study was an important and influential experiment that shed light on the ways in which power, social hierarchy, and social identity can shape human behavior. It has been widely cited and discussed in the field of social psychology and has had a significant impact on our understanding of group dynamics and the psychological effects of power and authority.
Reicher And Haslam
These findings challenged Zimbardo's role-based account of tyranny and instead supported more nuanced theoretical explanations of these issues centring on the role of group dynamics — and group members' identification with social groups — in determining when and why people engage not only in tyranny and oppression but also resistance. On day three, one prisoner was promoted to guard. As we saw when the Prisoners first confronted the Guards and later when the Commune was established, the success of groups in bringing about By contrast, where members work hard but cannot achieve their group goals — either because they lack group identity and group power as in the case of the Guards or because they are unwilling to exert group power as in the case of the Communards — then they become burnt out, despondent and stressed. Over the two years ending in July 2013, it recorded more than 350,000 sessions, with an increasing proportion outside the UK and USA. This suggests that shared social identities are a good basis for organisation and holding group power. PLoS Biology, 10 11 , e1001426.
Underpinning research The BBC Prison Study is one of the largest field studies in social psychology in the last 30 years. In April 2013 the study was the focus of an extended treatment on the BBC Radio 4 programme Digital World. Produced by Steve Reicher and Alex Haslam, it presents the findings of what has subsequently become known as the BBC Prison Study. Second planned intervention Once the promotion happened and the prisoners were told there are no differences between prisoners and guards, the prisoners began to identify as a group. Group organisation and power Shared identities can create consensual norms within groups.
Social Psychology Quarterly, 70, 125—147. The researchers took care to ensure that both groups were psychologically similar so that any differences in group behaviour could be attributed to their group itself and not their personalities. Since its launch in later 2008, this website has been used with increasing frequency see Figure below : it has received over 600,000 unique visitors. Each of these sections allows for more in-depth study of the issues raised by the Prison Study. To bring these questions to life, the researchers aimed to observe oppressive behaviour in a simulated They aimed to look at not only tyranny but also resistance.
When they were told the roles would not change and were not based on real differences, they began to question their roles and the system. What Haslam and Reicher attempted to challenge was the effects of Confounding initial criticism, findings of the BBC study were reported in scientific papers that were published in leading peer-reviewed journals. Haslam and Reicher were awarded the British Psychology Society's Annual Award for Excellence in Teaching in September 2009. The clips explore such situations as "Food Inequalities" to "Prisoners Mobilize Against Guards" to "The Emergence of a New Guard Regime". The citation for the award stated: " It is hard to make good television programmes; it is hard to do good science; it is hard to develop high-quality teaching materials.
In 2008 Haslam and Reicher created an official BBC Prison Study website 10 which outlines the study's key findings and presents a comprehensive analysis of relevant theoretical issues. There was no resistance to the system. The idea was to make the participants believe the roles were permeable. The official website for the BBC Prison Study, that accompanies the groundbreaking 2002 BBC Prison Study broadcast, went online in September 2008. The prison consisted of a central common area for the prisoners with a separate room for guards to observe prisoners from. Tyranny, freedom and social structure: Escaping our theoretical prisons. Participants were randomly assigned to roles of guards and prisoners, and a series of planned interventions was designed to impact on intra- and inter-group dynamics in ways predicted by social identity theory.
Reflecting its contribution to ongoing debate in this area, in 2007 the BBC Prison study was included in the Haslam and Reicher were also able to produce several questions to apply for future studies. This created an impermeability of the roles as there would be no more systemic changes. Where group members identify together, work together, and have increased Collective self-realization has great psychological benefits for individual group members. The BBC Prison Study BBC-PS took around one year to design. The study ended early on the eighth day due to ethical reasons; since the design of the study had collapsed, researchers did not feel as if they were able to establish a new study design and hierarchy without the risk of distress, or even violence. Findings of the BBC prison study Here are the findings of the BBC Interventions Findings More Findings First planned intervention Once told that there could be a promotion from prisoner to guard, the prisoners did not work as a group.
Welcome to the official site for the BBC Prison Study. Home
BBC's Newsnight and Hardtalk. Before the prisoners even arrive, the guards have gained a sense of ownership towards the prison. Or whether they can work together as a group to form a collective resistance to beat the guards altogether. What they found "changed our basic understanding of how groups and power work"; the study showed when and why people accept or challenge unequal power in groups. Questioning the banality of evil.
We answer Whether you are a student, a teacher or an interested member of the public, we hope that you find the material here both interesting and useful. Stephen Smith Co-founder Holocaust Memorial and Education Centre , Steve Taylor Council member Howard League for Penal Reform , Andrea Wills, Chief advisor and BBC Editorial Policy Unit. Impact on Educational Practices This work has laid the foundations for a the reform of educational curricula, b the production of educational resources, and c engagement with students, teachers, and academic staff. When do people act as a group to challenge oppression? Prisoners are unhappy with their mistreatment but acknowledge that there is nothing they can do to change their situation. We also welcome Alex Haslam Steve Reicher.