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The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

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Ian David Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-21-07 09:41 AM
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The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil
* Event Date: March 25, 2007 at 2:00 pm

* Location: Ramo Auditorium (below Baxter Lecture Hall)
* Speaker: Dr. Philip Zimbardo
* tickets: $8 members, $12 non-members. Purchase tickets in advance from the Caltech events office: 626-395-4652 or

How is it possible for ordinary, average, even good people to become perpetrators of evil? Dr. Zimbardo, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, ran the famous Stanford Prison Experiment in the late 1960s that randomly assigned healthy, normal intelligent college students to play the roles of prisoner or guard in a projected 2 week-long study that he was forced to terminate after only 6 days because it went out of control, with pacifists becoming sadistic guards, and normal kids breaking down emotionally. Dr. Zimbardo applies his theories to understanding torture in the Inquisition, the massacre in Rwanda, the rape of Nanking, and the abuse and torture in Iraqs infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

Dr. Zimbardo reviews the research findings from conformity, obedience to authority, role-playing, dehumanization, deindividuation and moral disengagement, that validate the assertion that situational power is stronger than we appreciate, and may come to dominate individual dispositions. He introduces the evil of inaction as a new form of evil that supports those who are the perpetrators of evil, by knowing but not acting to challenge them. Finally, after considering The banality of evil as everyman and every womans potential for engaging in evil deeds despite their generally moral upbringing and pro-social life style, Dr. Zimbardo introduces the new concept of The Banality of Heroism by those who defied the Lucifer Effect.

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CrazyOrangeCat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-21-07 09:54 AM
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1. thanks for posting.
fascinating . . . and scary as hell.
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kiahzero Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-21-07 11:22 AM
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2. There's a really interest article written about Zimbardo on this topic.

Circumstances can force almost anyone to be a bystander to evil, but they can also bring out our own inner hero. Zeno Franco and Philip Zimbardo show how were all capable of everyday heroism.

Thirty-five years ago, one of us (Philip Zimbardo) launched what is known as the Stanford Prison Experiment.
Twenty-four young men, who had responded to a newspaper ad calling for participants in a study, were randomly assigned roles as prisoners or guards in a simulated jail in Stanford Universitys psychology department. The prisoners were arrested at their homes by real police officers, booked, and brought to the jail. Everything from the deliberately humiliating prison uniforms to the cell numbers on the laboratory doors to the mandatory strip searches and delousing were designed to replicate the depersonalizing experience of being in a real prison. The men who were assigned to be guards were given khaki uniforms, mirrored glasses, and billy clubs.

The idea was to study the psychology of imprisonmentto see what happens when you put good people in a dehumanizing place. But within a matter of hours, what had been intended as a controlled experiment in human behavior took on a disturbing life of its own. After a prisoner rebellion on the second day of the experiment, the guards began using increasingly degrading forms of punishment, and the prisoners became more and more passive. Each group rapidly took on the behaviors associated with their role, not because of any particular internal predisposition or instructions from the experimenters, but rather because the situation itself so powerfully called for the two groups to assume their new identities. Interestingly, even the experimenters were so caught up in the drama that they lost objectivity, only terminating the out-of-control study when an objective outsider stepped in, reminding them of their duty to treat the participants humanely and ethically. The experiment, scheduled to last two weeks, ended abruptly after six days.

As we have come to understand the psychology of evil, we have realized that such transformations of human character are not as rare as we would like to believe. Historical inquiry and behavioral science have demonstrated the banality of evil that is, under certain conditions and social pressures, ordinary people can commit acts that would otherwise be unthinkable. In addition to the Stanford Prison Experiment, studies conducted in the 1960s by Stanley Milgram at Yale University also revealed the banality of evil. The Milgram experiments asked participants to play the role of a teacher, who was responsible for administering electric shocks to a learner when the learner failed to answer test questions correctly. The participants were not aware that the learner was working with the experimenters and did not actually receive any shocks. As the learners failed more and more, the teachers were instruct- ed to increase the voltage intensity of the shockseven when the learners started screaming, pleading to have the shocks stop, and eventually stopped responding altogether. Pressed by the experimentersserious looking men in lab coats, who said theyd assume responsibility for the consequencesmost participants did not stop administering shocks until they reached 300 volts or abovealready in the lethal range. The majority of teachers delivered the maximum shock of 450 volts. We all like to think that the line between good and evil is impermeablethat people who do terrible things, such as commit murder, treason, or kidnapping, are on the evil side of this line, and the rest of us could never cross it. But the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram studies revealed the permeability of that line. Some people are on the good side only because situations have never coerced or seduced them to cross over.

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Geezus Donating Member (93 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-29-07 01:36 AM
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3. This guy's gonna be on the Daily Show tomorrow. nt
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zonmoy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-07-07 01:34 PM
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4. the best way to turn a good person evil
is to sick fundies on them to convert them to an evil religion.
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