“The Experiment” Sociological Documentary

The primary discipline presented in the film is sociology. The documentary sought to establish the point at which people accept or fight inequality. During the study, 15 males were selected to participate as guards and prisoners in a simulated prison. On the first day, the participants acted individually and normally (The Experiment BBC Prison Study Part 1, 2016). The guards did not want to appear aggressive as they would be seen as dictators.

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On the other side, the prisoners wanted to be promoted, and thus they conformed to the expected standards. However, on the third day, when some prisoners were promoted, the remaining participants formed a tighter group. By day six, the prisoners revolved, broke out of their cells and occupied the guards’ positions. Afterward, all the participants decided to form an egalitarian social system. However, the prisoners who led the revolt wanted to establish an authoritarian system and control the rest. The study was discontinued after eight days (Reicher & Haslam, 2006). It emerged that when leaders fail to show strong leadership skills, people may revolt.

In this case, the guards failed to offer leadership; hence the prisoners rebelled and rose to power. Additionally, when people are denied freedom, they riot, as shown by the prisoners. The film also revealed that when people fail to form strong social systems, they are likely to be subjugated and exposed to extreme leadership styles like totalitarianism. This was evident on day eight when the weakened social bond formed through an egalitarian system started to weaken. At that point, some participants wanted to exercise tyranny and rule over the rest.

The secondary disciplines in the film included psychology and leadership. In psychology, law-abiding citizens underwent mental torture by being exposed to a prison environment. Some participants showed cognitive dissonance by dissociating themselves from the rest. On the other hand, the experiment was a good example of failed leadership. The guards were expected to assume their roles, lead, and govern the prison. However, they failed in this task which explains why the prisoners revolted and seized power.

I discovered that the methodology used in this sociological discipline was an experimental case study. It qualified as an experiment because different interventions, which acted as independent variables, were introduced at different stages of the study. Similarly, it was a case study for it involved the study of defined individuals to act as representatives of a larger group.

The film had several assumptions. First, it was assumed that 15 participants would be representatives of a larger population. However, a sample size of 15 individuals is small, and the results cannot be extrapolated to other set-ups.

In addition, only male participants were used with the assumption that their female counterparts would behave the same if exposed to the same conditions. It was also assumed that the guard’s and prisoners’ behavior would be similar to that of such individuals in real prisons. However, the participants were aware that this was just an experiment that would be aired on reality television. Therefore, the guards held back because they did not want to appear as authoritarian. On the other hand, the prisoners were aggressive as they knew they would not face any consequences for their actions.

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The film lends itself well to an interdisciplinary approach because the issues addressed cut across different academic disciplines. For instance, the subject of leadership is taught in psychology, sociology, business studies, and other fields like political science.


Reicher, S., & Haslam, A. (2006). Rethinking the psychology of tyranny: the BBC prison study. The British Journal of Social Psychology, 45(1), 47-53.

The Experiment BBC Prison Study Part 1. (2016). Web.

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""The Experiment" Sociological Documentary." StudyCorgi, 19 May 2021, studycorgi.com/the-experiment-sociological-documentary/.

1. StudyCorgi. ""The Experiment" Sociological Documentary." May 19, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-experiment-sociological-documentary/.


StudyCorgi. ""The Experiment" Sociological Documentary." May 19, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-experiment-sociological-documentary/.


StudyCorgi. 2021. ""The Experiment" Sociological Documentary." May 19, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-experiment-sociological-documentary/.


StudyCorgi. (2021) '"The Experiment" Sociological Documentary'. 19 May.

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