What is Situational Attribution?

When we take a look at the Stanford Prison Experiment, Phillip Zimbardo came to the conclusion that the behaviors exhibited during the experiment from the participants was a case of situational attribution. Situational attribution is the way that some people may behave based on the situation that they are in. Most prisoners are perceived as submissive and passive, yet the guards are most likely perceived as dominant, aggressive, and always must exercise their power. All of the participants, both guards and prisoners, exhibited these traits that are perceived as the norm for these roles. According to the APA (American Psychological Association), “The Stanford Prison Experiment has become one of psychology’s most dramatic illustrations of how good people can be transformed into perpetrators of evil, and healthy people can begin to experience pathological reactions – traceable to situational forces,”  (“Demonstrating the Power of Social Situations via a Simulated Prison Experiment”, 2017).  Looking at the situation that these 24 college students were put in, their strength to uphold their position in the prison was put to the test. All of these boys were tested and seemed mentally capable of being a part of this experiment, however, almost all of them had different reactions. The participants that had been given the role of the guard, based on the situation, they ended up being very sadistic, aggressive, and constantly felt the need to exercise their power. After the end of the experiment, all of the guards were very remorseful for their behavior. Extreme situations have a great impact on the way that humans behave.


Source: Demonstrating the Power of Social Situations via a Simulated Prison Experiment. (2017). http://www.apa.org. Retrieved 9 December 2017, from http://www.apa.org/research/action/prison.aspx


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