Psychologist Zimbardo masterminded the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, in which college students randomly assigned to be guards or inmates found themselves enacting sadistic abuse or abject submissiveness. In this penetrating investigation, he revisits—at great length and with much hand-wringing—the SPE study and applies it to historical examples of injustice and atrocity, especially the Abu Ghraib outrages by the U.S. military. His troubling finding is that almost anyone, given the right "situational" influences, can be made to abandon moral scruples and cooperate in violence and oppression. (He tacks on a feel-good chapter about "the banality of heroism," with tips on how to resist malign situational pressures.) The author, who was an expert defense witness at the court-martial of an Abu Ghraib guard, argues against focusing on the dispositions of perpetrators of abuse; he insists that we blame the situation and the "system" that constructed it, and mounts an extended indictment of the architects of the Abu Ghraib system, including President Bush. 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. 23 photos. (Apr. 3)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evilby Philip Zimbardo
Renowned social psychologist Philip Zimbardo has the answers, and in The Lucifer Effect he explains how—and the myriad reasons why—we are all susceptible to the lure of "the dark/i>
What makes good people do bad things? How can moral people be seduced to act immorally? Where is the line separating good from evil, and who is in danger of crossing it?
Renowned social psychologist Philip Zimbardo has the answers, and in The Lucifer Effect he 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.
Zimbardo is perhaps best known as the creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment. Here, for the first time and in detail, he tells the full story of this 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 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.
Zimbardo (psychology, emeritus, Stanford Univ.) is best known for a 1971 study, since called the Stanford Prison Experiment, in which student volunteers were randomly assigned to be guards or prisoners in a simulated jail. Although everyone involved knew that the so-called prisoners weren't guilty of anything, the violence and humiliation inflicted by the guards became so severe that the study had to be terminated prematurely. Here, Zimbardo explains that this happened not because the guards were bad people but because of the social situation into which they were thrust. Recently, he studied a real-life situation of his experiment when he served as a defense consultant in the trial of an Abu Ghraib guard. Zimbardo describes his own work and that of others, such as psychologist Stanley Milgram and sociologist Erving Goffman, in order to build a set of prescriptions for governments and organizations that would minimize the possibility of such human rights abuses occurring again. A well-written and important work; recommended for all libraries.
Mary Ann Hughes
- Random House Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.24(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.46(d)
What People are saying about this
Meet the Author
Kevin Foley has over thirty years' experience in radio and television broadcasting, commercial voice-overs, and audiobook narration. He has recorded over 150 audiobooks, and he won an Earphones Award from AudioFile magazine for his narration of Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >