The Stanford Prison Experiment or how expectations create reality
Posted on February 10, 2009 by Tom
1971. In the University of Stanford professor Philip Zimbardo created and experiment where he basically wanted to prove that set in a specific environment, expectations of how people would react would come true. It would be known as the Stanford Prison Experiment.
In the experiment, a few test subjects were appointed to act as guards, others as prisoners. After only 6 days (!) the experiment was terminated because it ran out of hand. Prisoners turned abusive, prisoners suffered and accepted these treatments. It gained a lot of attention, being an unethical way to study the psychology of human behaviour, and everybody who’s seen the BBC documentary, the movie Das Experiment or read the book The Wave (being about a smaller, but similar experiment in a classroom in the sixties) knows how quickly it ran out of hand.
The most important result of the experiment? Personality comes second to situation. It wasn’t another nature-nurture experiment, because all the test subjects went back to normal lives and don’t experience any long lasting side-effects.
What seems important?
1. Expectations, even about your own, do not always fit the exact reality.
They may be distorted, even if it wouldn’t feel like that.
2. Expectations, combined with a certain universal model that goes with
the situation, is more powerfull than what an individual person
3. Expectations are largely stimulated by masses.
In marketing, combining the selfulling prophecy with experience marketing can create expectations that become lots of people theirs reality.
Distorted expectations can make or break a product or service. How frustrated you get, trying to solve the problem. The problem may not be the product, but what surrounds it. How did he receive it? Who has he been talking too? And most important of all, what does he expect the product to do? The whole of his expectations had to be created by situations other than just the product or service. But it’s hard to find things we can’t grasp, we can’t point out.
Whatever your product or service may be, it’s more than its physical reality. It’s the sum of all expectations created by yourself or by others.