Control : The Stanford Prison Experiment

In 1971, Dr. Philip Zimbardo created a mock prison in the basement of Jordan Hall, the psychology building at Stanford. Mentally healthy college students were randomly assigned the roles of prisoner and guard. Dr. Zimbardo was trying to test how situations control human behavior, but within days, the situation spun out of control.


In this special episode, Drs. Philip Zimbardo and Christina Maslach tell the story of what ended up being one of the most infamous psychology studies in history – where young, mentally healthy participants turned brutal and desperate in only a few days. You’ll learn surprising details of what inspired the Stanford Prison Experiment and how it ended, and hear how the experiment helped contribute to understanding the relationship between individuals and the situations they find themselves in.

Host: Bojan Srbinovski

Producers: Rachel Hamburg, Bojan Srbinovski, Mischa Shoni, Charlie Mintz, Natacha Ruck, Victoria Hurst

Featuring: Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Dr. Christina Maslach

Additional production help from: Justine Beed, Kate Nelson, Will Rogers

Original Music by Rob Voigt

Other music: Chris Zabriskie, Billy Gomberg, Gillicuddy, Tearpalm

Audio clips of the Stanford and Toyon Prison Experiments are from The Philip G. Zimbardo Papers at the Stanford University ArchivesThe Philip G. Zimbardo Papers at the Stanford University Archives.


Note: The original version of this episode mis-identified the location of the pilot study that inspired the Prison Experiment. The Stanford Storytelling Project regrets this error.


Photo credit: Chuck Painter