The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

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by Philip Zimbardo
     
 

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The definitive firsthand account of the groundbreaking research of Philip Zimbardo—the basis for the award-winning film The Stanford Prison Experiment

Renowned social psychologist and creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment Philip Zimbardo explores the mechanisms that make good people do bad things, how moral people can be seduced into

Overview

The definitive firsthand account of the groundbreaking research of Philip Zimbardo—the basis for the award-winning film The Stanford Prison Experiment

Renowned social psychologist and creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment Philip Zimbardo explores the mechanisms that make good people do bad things, how moral people can be seduced into acting immorally, and what this says about the line separating good from evil.

The Lucifer Effect explains how—and the myriad reasons why—we are all susceptible to the lure of “the dark side.” Drawing on examples from history as well as his own trailblazing research, Zimbardo details how situational forces and group dynamics can work in concert to make monsters out of decent men and women. 

Here, for the first time and in detail, Zimbardo tells the full story of the Stanford Prison Experiment, the landmark study in which a group of college-student volunteers was randomly divided into “guards” and “inmates” and then placed in a mock prison environment. Within a week the study was abandoned, as ordinary college students were transformed into either brutal, sadistic guards or emotionally broken prisoners.

By illuminating the psychological causes behind such disturbing metamorphoses, Zimbardo enables us to better understand a variety of harrowing phenomena, from corporate malfeasance to organized genocide to how once upstanding American soldiers came to abuse and torture Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib. He replaces the long-held notion of the “bad apple” with that of the “bad barrel”—the idea that the social setting and the system contaminate the individual, rather than the other way around.

This is a book that dares to hold a mirror up to mankind, showing us that we might not be who we think we are. While forcing us to reexamine what we are capable of doing when caught up in the crucible of behavioral dynamics, though, Zimbardo also offers hope. We are capable of resisting evil, he argues, and can even teach ourselves to act heroically. Like Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem and Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate, The Lucifer Effect is a shocking, engrossing study that will change the way we view human behavior.

Praise for The Lucifer Effect

The Lucifer Effect will change forever the way you think about why we behave the way we do—and, in particular, about the human potential for evil. This is a disturbing book, but one that has never been more necessary.”—Malcolm Gladwell

“An important book . . . All politicians and social commentators . . . should read this.”The Times (London)

“Powerful . . . an extraordinarily valuable addition to the literature of the psychology of violence or ‘evil.’”The American Prospect

“Penetrating . . . Combining a dense but readable and often engrossing exposition of social psychology research with an impassioned moral seriousness, Zimbardo challenges readers to look beyond glib denunciations of evil-doers and ponder our collective responsibility for the world’s ills.”Publishers Weekly

“A sprawling discussion . . . Zimbardo couples a thorough narrative of the Stanford Prison Experiment with an analysis of the social dynamics of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.”Booklist

“Zimbardo bottled evil in a laboratory. The lessons he learned show us our dark nature but also fill us with hope if we heed their counsel. The Lucifer Effect reads like a novel.”—Anthony Pratkanis, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology, University of California

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The Lucifer Effect will change forever the way you think about why we behave the way we do—and, in particular, about the human potential for evil. This is a disturbing book, but one that has never been more necessary.”—Malcolm Gladwell
 
“An important book . . . All politicians and social commentators . . . should read this.”The Times (London)

“Powerful . . . an extraordinarily valuable addition to the literature of the psychology of violence or ‘evil.’”The American Prospect
 
“Penetrating . . . Combining a dense but readable and often engrossing exposition of social psychology research with an impassioned moral seriousness, Zimbardo challenges readers to look beyond glib denunciations of evil-doers and ponder our collective responsibility for the world’s ills.”Publishers Weekly
 
“A sprawling discussion . . . With this book, Zimbardo couples a thorough narrative of the Stanford Prison Experiment with an analysis of the social dynamics of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, arguing that the ‘experimental dehumanization’ of the former is instructive in understanding the abusive conduct of guards at the latter.”Booklist
 
“In the Stanford Prison Experiment, Philip Zimbardo bottled evil in a laboratory. The lessons he learned show us our dark nature but also fill us with hope if we heed their counsel. The Lucifer Effect reads like a novel.”—Anthony Pratkanis, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology, University of California

In the early '70s, psychologist Philip Zimbardo devised the now-famous Stanford Prison Experiment, in which college students serving as "guards" or "inmates" quickly fell prey to sadistic acts or desperately submissive behavior. The results were so extreme that the study had to be prematurely terminated. Not surprisingly, the experiment received renewed attention after the even more harrowing abuses at Abu Ghraib were revealed in 2004. In The Lucifer Effect, Zimbardo revisits questions about how ordinarily decent people can be turned into physically or psychologically abusive monsters.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812974447
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/22/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
576
Sales rank:
40,612
Product dimensions:
5.48(w) x 8.21(h) x 1.18(d)

Meet the Author

Philip Zimbardo is professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford University and has also taught at Yale University, New York University, and Columbia University. He is the co-author of Psychology and Life and author of Shyness, which together have sold more than 2.5 million copies. Zimbardo has been president of the American Psychological Association and is now director of the Stanford Center on Interdisciplinary Policy, Education, and Research on Terrorism. He also narrated the award-winning PBS series Discovering Psychology, which he helped create. In 2004, he acted as an expert witness in the court-martial hearings of one of the American army reservists accused of criminal behavior in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. His informative website, www.prisonexperiment.org is visited by millions every year. Visit the author’s personal website at www.zimbardo.com.

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Lucifer Effect 3.9 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 35 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great read for those who are wondering how a person could become one of the violent people in the newspaper. The thorough review of the Stanford Prison Study and its relation to everyday situations is very informative. The review of the events occurring in prisons today helps one consider whether prisons are useful. It will not provide the answer, but it will lead one to decisions on its own. It is not a read for the casual reader, but more professional or with a background in psychology.
LUNCHLE More than 1 year ago
The LUCIFER EFFECT is a very informative book well understandable and a good read for anyone who wants to know how good people turn evil.I enjoyed the part about the experiment when Philip Zimbardo put together the jail and made ordinary young men into prisoners and guards,some parts I found to be humorous and serious and at the same time educational in the way how some of the guys fell into thier roles especially the guards.I found this book to be some of what I thought about how people change and more.What i also found fascinating is the change in people is not really a change per say it's actually allready thier the change is the the outside environment that you may find yourself into an in an environment that you've never experienced and this brings out what you never thought you would be capable of doing or not doing.
Unit38 More than 1 year ago
Zimbardo describes his Stanford prison experiment and then compares it with real life situations. The theories and methods used are discussed as well as similar experiments. The book was very helpful for my research paper.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A page-turner, ¿can¿t put it down¿ book -- ¿The Lucifer Effect¿ HAS IT ALL! Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Psychology Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, identifies what can lead otherwise normal individuals to act in a cruel, evil manner. He gives you ¿behind the scenes,¿ running commentary and analysis of his famous Stanford Prison Experiment, along with what occurred at Abu Ghraib prison ¿ and the parallels are both frightening and captivating. Zimbardo satisfies any type of reader ¿ one who wants an in-depth analysis, as well as one who is curious how humanity can sink to such a low ¿ and he demonstrates how the situations in which we find ourselves can often impact our behavior and attitudes. All in an extremely and enjoyable style ¿ it¿s as if he¿s at your side, offering his ¿take¿ on these horrendous events and life itself. Fascinating stuff. And, miraculously, while these are real events, the book has all the SUSPENSE that one would desire from a novel, leading the reader to think -- a great read indeed. Adding to this, Dr. Zimbardo offers us hope in his assessment of how heroes can emerge by breaking free and resisting situational forces. A treat after visiting the dark side of humankind. A highly enjoyable and thought-provoking book, a journey with the advantage of Zimbardo¿s brilliant mind at its helm. Strongly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think that “The Lucifer Effect” by Philip Zimbardo is a must read for anyone who wants and insight into how people can change from a respectable person to someone who is evil or bordering evil. This may be a question you have asked yourself or not, but this book asks you to ask yourself if you are “capable of evil” [3 Zimbardo]. This can be a scary question but one worth asking. This question is one that we may not have asked ourselves if not for this book. I don’t think whoever wrote “ Zimbardo's 'Lucifer' is a Winner” could have said it better when he/she mentioned “ He gives you ¿behind the scenes,¿ running commentary and analysis of his famous Stanford Prison Experiment, along with what occurred at Abu Ghraib prison ¿ and the parallels are both frightening and captivating.”  [Anonymous] because this book gives you this amazing unique insight to what the real prisoners might have been feeling and what was actually documented in a “similar” environment.  This book is also great because of the amount of information Dr. Zimbardo gives in the preface and also in the footnotes that have corresponding info about journal entries and ect. While the commentary that goes along with the experiment really gives the reader a sense of perspective change that can change your thinking and how you interpret the book and experiment. For example I found myself sympathizing with the prisoners but being able to also hear about the guards really made not sympathize any less but it the guards more human. They became people and not just guards which you need to realize if you want to keep an open mind throughout the experiment especially during counts. One of the best parts of this book is how it makes you see yourself and your everyday actions in a new light.   I find that in this whole book one quote the Dr. Zimbardo didn’t even write himself stood out to me the most and I hope that it will have a lasting effect on my life because it changes the way you think of each of your daily actions.  “Evil is knowing better but doing worse.”  [Irving Sarnoff]
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book when i was sixteen, it opened my eyes that the world isn't a totally innocent thing like i thought, it delves deeply into the psyche of being "evil". The study with the students is what caught my eye, i would definately tell someone interested to read this book. Although there is plenty graphic descriptions of death and other things that might make your stomach twist.
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erinrcline More than 1 year ago
While the concept and the experiment itself are extremely interesting, Zimbardo's manifesto of the course of the experiment is dense, repetitive and clearly not meant to be marketed to readers outside the academic reading field. If you can stick through the chapter long explanations of what the next four chapters will be about, the content is worth struggling through. As someone who often reads academic papers and almost exclusively reads dense nonfiction, even I found it difficult to make the trek all the way until the end. Though, in the end, I was happy I read it I wish it hadn't been such a trial to make it there.
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Charles Hottinger More than 1 year ago
an intellectual and intriguing look at the causes of evil deeds and the circumstances that provoke them. I love this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That word would be shocking. I sat through the first 200 pages amazed at the way that what should be normal decent people can degenerate into people that even they wouldn't recognize. This marks the second book that I have read that has amazed me by reflecting the possibility of the human character. The other book is "When God Stopped Keeping Score." Take a moment to check it out for yourself.
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