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Stanford Prison Experiment,
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Many famous experiments studying human behavior have impacted our fundamental understanding of psychology. Though some could not be repeated today due to breaches in ethical boundaries, that does not diminish the significance of their findings. Some of these important findings include a greater awareness of depression and its symptoms, how people learn behaviors through the process of association and how individuals conform to a group.

Below, we take a look at seven famous psychological experiments that greatly influenced the field of psychology and our understanding of human behavior. John B. Watson, and a graduate student wanted to test a learning process called classical conditioning. Classical conditioning involves learning involuntary or automatic behaviors by association, and Dr. Watson thought it formed the bedrock of human psychology.

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Albert played with white furry objects, and at first, the toddler displayed joy and affection. Over time, as he played with the objects, Dr. After numerous trials, Albert was conditioned to be afraid when he saw white furry objects. The study proved that humans could be conditioned to enjoy or fear something, which many psychologists believe could explain why people have irrational fears and how they may have developed early in life.

Stanford professor Philip Zimbardo wanted to learn how individuals conformed to societal roles. He wondered, for example, whether the tense relationship between prison guards and inmates in jails had more to do with the personalities of each or the environment.

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They went through a standard booking process designed to take away their individuality and make them feel anonymous. Guards were given eight-hour shifts and tasked to treat the prisoners just like they would in real life. Zimbardo found rather quickly that both the guards and prisoners fully adapted to their roles; in fact, he had to shut down the experiment after six days because it became too dangerous.


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Zimbardo even admitted he began thinking of himself as a police superintendent rather than a psychologist. Jekyll to the evil Mr. However, the individuals at the center of the experiment did not know that the other people taking the test were actors following scripts, and at times selected the wrong answer on purpose.

Asch found that, on average over 12 trials, nearly one-third of the naive participants conformed with the incorrect majority, and only 25 percent never conformed to the incorrect majority. In the control group that featured only the participants and no actors, less than one percent of participants ever chose the wrong answer.

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This explains why some people change behaviors or beliefs when in a new group or social setting, even when it goes against past behaviors or beliefs. Stanford University professor Albert Bandura wanted to put the social learning theory into action. Bandura and two colleagues selected 36 boys and 36 girls between the ages of 3 and 6 from the Stanford University nursery and split them into three groups of One group watched adults behaving aggressively toward the Bobo doll.

In some cases, the adult subjects hit the doll with a hammer or threw it in the air. Another group was shown an adult playing with the Bobo doll in a non-aggressive manner, and the last group was not shown a model at all, just the Bobo doll. After each session, children were taken to a room with toys and studied to see how their play patterns changed. In a room with aggressive toys a mallet, dart guns, and a Bobo doll and non-aggressive toys a tea set, crayons, and plastic farm animals , Bandura and his colleagues observed that children who watched the aggressive adults were more likely to imitate the aggressive responses.

Unexpectedly, Bandura found that female children acted more physically aggressive after watching a male subject and more verbally aggressive after watching a female subject.

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The results of the study highlight how children learn behaviors from observing others. From atoms to astronomy, computers to cars and robots to robust materials, our goal is to transform our understanding of the world to make life easier, healthier and more sustainable. Across the breadth of life and environmental sciences, we discover, apply and translate science to forge major advances in human and environmental health.

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