Philip Zimbardo: biography of this social psychologist

Philip Zimbardo (1933-) is one of the most popular social psychologists today. He is recognized for his theories related to situational attribution of behaviors, prosocial behaviors, the relationship between obedience and authority, among others. He is particularly recognized for the classic and controversial Stanford Prison experiment, conducted in the 1970s around Stanford University.

Below we will see a biography of Philip Zimbardo, As well as a brief description of the experience that led him to be internationally recognized as one of the most representative social psychologists of the twentieth century.

    Philip Zimbardo: biography of this social psychologist

    Philip Zimbardo was born on March 23, 1933 in New York City, New York City, to a Bronx family living in the Bronx. In 1954, Zimbardo Honors in a triple degree in Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology from Brooklyn College.

    He then completed graduate studies in social psychology and eventually obtained his doctorate in the same field from Yale University. In the latter, he taught and did the same at New York University and Columbia University. He was also president of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2002 and received numerous awards recognizing his research as one of the most significant contributions to psychology.

    He is currently Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, Where he worked as a teacher for 50 years, and also works as a teacher at the University of Palo Alto in California.

    The Stanford Prison Experience

    In 1971, Philip Zimbardo, along with other researchers, carried out an experiment which led him to be recognized as one of the most representative social psychologists of the time.

    This is a Stanford Prison experiment, which aimed to study the influence of the social environment on a person’s character and actions. Through this experience I wanted to demonstrate how social situations have the power to significantly influence individual behavior.

    Generally speaking, the experiment consisted of simulating a prison at the facilities of Stanford University, establishing different roles for each of the 24 men who participated.

    They were randomly divided into two groups: some were guards, while others were prisoners. They were all students and had already been assessed to determine their good physical and psychological health.

      Results and Implications

      In return for their participation, they were offered financial compensation and initially were asked to wear specific uniforms depending on the role they play. The prisoners were taken to the prison also simulating an arrest. Being there, they were given a number and a space. For its part, the guards were not allowed to engage in physical violenceAt the time, they were asked to run the prison as they saw fit.

      Although the experiment was designed to last for several weeks, it had to be suspended before the end of the first one, as each of the participants had assumed their role in such a way that serious dynamics of violence were generated.

      With this experience, it was concluded, among other things, that it is the situation that generates behavior that is both violent and subject to authority. In addition, for the results that emerged after the end, Zimbardo was called to testify as an expert witness in the harassment trials in the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib.

      some criticism

      Due to the conditions under which this experiment was designed and carried out, Zimbardo and his collaborators received a lot of criticism. The most widespread is the ethical questioning of the tendency of a large part of scientific research to generate severe stressful situations in the participants, in order to test a hypothesis.

      On the other hand, the possibility of generalizing their results was questioned, due to the homogeneity of the sample they used. Likewise, he was asked about the presence of gender bias (for example, only men participated, including the researchers themselves), and began to consider theories about prosocial behaviors that tend to be measured on the basis of male behavioral models.

      Further work: psychology of heroism

      Currently, Philip Zimbardo continues to develop studies on prosocial behaviors, Specifically in critical circumstances, and in connection with what he called “heroism”. He is the founder and president of the Heroic Imagination project, where he has worked extensively on “the psychology of heroism” and the formation of “heroic behaviors”.

      remarkable works

      Among Philip Zimbardo’s most notable works is The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Become Bad, Where analyzes parallels between the Stanford prison experience and the mistreatment in Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib. Other important works include psychology and life, and the paradox of time.

      Bibliographical references:

      • American Psychological Association (2018). Philip G. Zimbardo. Accessed August 30, 2018.Available at
      • García Dauder, S. and Pérez Sedeño, I. (2018). Scientific “lies” about women. Cataract: Madrid.
      • Stanford Prison Experience (2018). The Stanford Prison Experiment: A Simulation Study on the Psychology of Imprisonment. Accessed August 30, 2018. Available at
      • Heroic Imagination Project (2017). Our mission. Accessed August 30, 2018. Available at
      • Networks on the Slippery Slope of Evil (2010). Networks for science. Accessed August 30, 2018.Available at
      • Biographical sketch (2000) Philip G. Zimbardo. Accessed August 30, 2018.Available at
      • Eagly, A. and Crowley, M (1986). Gender and supportive behavior: a meta-analysis of the social psychology literature. Psychological Bulletin, 100 (3): 283-308.

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