Yesterday I conducted an interesting experiment with my 8th grade class as part of mini-unit on psychology. We’ve been studying about classical conditioning and reviewing several famous experiments from the world of psychology. The experiment we talked about yesterday was the Stanford Prison Experiment conducted by Phillip Zombardo in 1971. It shows, in alarming fashion, how people can become so absorbed into a group mentality that they lose their grip on reality and accountability.
During this lesson I did my own little experiment on the students. When they came into the room, I had them fill out a short survey rating how their extended weekend was (we’d had the previous two days off of school) and how they were feeling at the moment. I also asked them to rate how they would react to a stressful situation.
Next, I divided the class into two groups. One group went with me to another room and the other group stayed with my student teachers. Both groups read and discussed the same reading on the Stanford Prison Experiment. The only difference was that I was especially mean to the group that went with me and the student teachers were especially nice to their group. Beyond general rudeness, I planted a confederate in my room. Before class, I asked the student to refuse to read when I called on him. During the experiment, I kicked him out of the room when he refused to read. The rest of the time I talked in a frustrated tone and snapped at students regularly.
When we finished the reading the two groups rejoined each other and took a post test to rate how they thought the class went and how they were feeling at the moment. I also asked them to discuss how they would react to a frustrating situation.
The results were pretty clear cut. Those in the “mean” room had significantly lower mood scores than the “happy” room. They also had more aggressive responses to the frustrating situation in the post-test. Here is a graph of the results below.