The effects of role-reversal in a simulated prison experiment

Criminology Research Council grant ; (21/76)

This research was a sequel to an earlier experiment which resulted in the production of a filmĀ Four More Days. This film, which was made with financial assistance from the Council, demonstrated that simulated prison regimes which were more democratic and less authoritarian were more effective in terms of inmate control and work output. The current research was designed to test the hypothesis that these results could not be explained by reference to the stereotypes associated with the assigned roles of prison officer or guard. The subjects were randomly assigned to either of these roles for the first two days of the four day experiment, at which time their roles were reversed. The results were interpreted as supporting the view that the subject's behaviour strongly reflects the objective social relations within the prison, and this was seen as providing further support for the proposition that officer/prisoner relations can be improved by the use of different styles of supervision.