How good people turn evil

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A presentation I gave for university course aptly named "Presentation Skills" – It's mostly based on Phil Zimbardo's insightful book "The Lucifer Effect".
More info on the website: LuciferEffect.org and link to http://www.LuciferEffect.org/
Look for him presenting on TED.com.

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  • Thanks for sharing this, Jonathan. Powerful. And, thanks for recommending the 90 year old veteran video. Shows how senseless war is and how human soldiers are. Jeanne
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  • My definition of evil, is a bit different, but better for knowing when you are becoming evil (before acting on this evil).

    'Evil is when you stop seeing another living being as a living being.'

    Everyone is capable of evil, is in our internal wiring, because its useful as it allows us to not think of the suffering of the cow when we are eating a hamburger, (or the destruction of a vegetable for the vegans).

    However the same brain wiring allows us to don't care of the harm we are doing to someone else, as we don't see the other person or living being as a living being or a person. Thus even the sanest person is quite capable of doing evil and not thinking they are.

    Murder, robbery, rape, etc. All begin when you stop seeing another living being as a living being and start seeing them as an object or a number. And of course you will not think you are doing evil, but instead you will try and rationalize it as, 'we are doing our job', 'its their fault', etc.
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  • After reading this presentation please watch this:

    We need to remember we are all human beings.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJynOWktP7U
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  • Thanks for this presentation
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  • very interesting to read posted at http://thecuriousbrain.com/
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How good people turn evil

  1. How Good People Turn Evil Jonathan Nausner 612.719 Presentation Skills
  2. Violence
  3. From the very beginning... Cain and Abel (Titian, ca 1570-1576)
  4. Through all ages Achilles dragging Hector
  5. barbaric Invasion of the Barbarians in Rome (Ulpiano Checa Sanz, 1887)
  6. or enlightened, The Execution of Marie Antoinette
  7. in all cultures Aztec ritual human sacrifice (Codex Magliabechiano)
  8. for all religions The Stoning of St. Stephan (Vittore Carpaccio, 1520)
  9. for all ideologies The Executions of the Third of May (Goya)
  10. we have found ways to hurt, Torture tools on convict ship Success
  11. mutilate, Medieval execution
  12. torture, Torture methods used by the inquisition (18th Century)
  13. kill each other. KZ Buchenwald : Verbrennungsöfen im Krematorium
  14. Our history is written in blood. But why?
  15. Every society views killing people as evil.
  16. A Psychological Definition of Evil Philip Zimbardo professor emeritus at Stanford University „The Lucifer Effect“, Random House 2007
  17. "The Exercise of Power to intentionally harm (psychologically) hurt (physically) and/or destroy (mortally) and commit crimes against humanity."
  18. Who is Evil?
  19. Good Evil „us“ „evil-doers“
  20. We see Evil as an outside force interrupting our lives. Charles Manson
  21. We consider Evil an entity, a quality that is inherent in some people. Adolf Hitler
  22. That turns people into monsters. Josef Fritzl
  23. Unspeakable cruelties must have been committed by disturbed minds. Ted Bundy
  24. But not us. We would never do anything like this. It‘s not in us normal people.
  25. In the last 100 years 50 million people were systematically killed. By government decrees and people who executed them.
  26. Our century of genocides could not be perpetrated by psychopaths, sadists, sociopaths alone.
  27. Now what if a monster were not a monster at all? Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) Political Theorist and Philosopher
  28. Adolf Eichmann was in charge of the mass deportation and killing of Jews. He was responsible for millions killed. In 1960 Israel captured Eichmann and brought him to trial. Psychologists concluded he was mentally healthy. Adolf Eichmann
  29. "He did his duty...; he not only obeyed orders, he also obeyed the law." Adolf Eichmann at his trial
  30. The Banality of Evil
  31. "The great evils in history generally, and the Holocaust in particular, were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths but rather by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal."
  32. ...did his duty... Former Austrian President Kurt Waldheim (middle) was SA intellligence officer and must have Adolf Hitler private had knowledge about deportations of 40.000 people.
  33. Lynching postcards
  34. Not Who is Evil? but What makes us Evil?
  35. From Good to Evil Understanding transformation of people ✦ Dispositional (Inside of Individual) ✦ Situational (External) ✦ Systemic (Broad influences: political, economic, legal power, cultural background)
  36. Milgram Experiment (1961) Stanley Milgram (1933-1984) Social Psychologist
  37. Could the Holocaust happen again in America?
  38. Learner (actor) is attached to shock apparatus.
  39. Teacher shocks Learner for every wrong answer with authority pressure.
  40. Starts with 15 volt Learner starts screaming Asks to be released Claims heart condition Falls silent Ends with 450 Volt Warning: Deadly shock
  41. So how many people would kill the learner? Colleagues estimated (based on the percentage of people with violent psychological predispositions) the number would be around 2 %.
  42. Two thirds would torture and eventually kill. 450 Volt Ended Experiment 35 % 65 % No difference between men and women.
  43. Milgram proved how easy normal, decent people can be coerced into sadistic, deadly behavior. The experiment was repeated this year in the UK for a BBC TV documentary. The results were the same.
  44. Stanford Prison Experiment (1971) Philip Zimbardo (born 1933) Social Psychologist
  45. Zimbardo picked 24 male students, made sure they were healthy and mentally stable. 12 were assigned prison guards, the other 12 prisoners.
  46. On day one the prisoners were taken in custody by real police.
  47. Guards were equipped with uniforms and symbols of power
  48. Prisoners were reduced to numbers and subjected to degradation rituals
  49. ✦ Experiment took up life of its own ✦ Situation worsened daily ✦ Nervous breakdowns of prisoners within 36 hours ✦ Sexual abuse (simulated sex) after 5 days ✦ After 6 days the experiment had to be terminated.
  50. Within hours good college students had turned into sadistic perpetrators of evil.
  51. If the Stanford Prison Experiment was the verification by experiment, then Abu Ghraib was the observation in real life.
  52. The Lucifer Effect Identifying the 7 factors on the slippery slope towards evil.
  53. 1.Mindlessly taking the first step „Evil always starts at 15 Volt“
  54. 2.Dehumanization
  55. 3.De-Individuation of self Anonymity
  56. Deindividuation NO CHANGE CHANGED Kill LOW 7 3 10 Torture HIGH 1 12 - 90% 13 Mutilate J.Watson 1971 8 15
  57. 4.Blind Obedience to Authority 5.Diffusion of Personal Responsibility
  58. 6.Uncritical Conformity to Group Norms
  59. 7.Passive Tolerance of Evil Through Inaction or Indifference
  60. The Road to Evil ✦ Mindlessly taking the first step ✦ Dehumanization ✦ De-Individuation ✦ Diffusion of Personal Responsibility ✦ Blind Obedience to Authority ✦ Uncritical Conformity to Group Norms ✦ Passive Tolerance of Evil Through Inaction or Indifference
  61. Another aspect of the Lucifer Effect: The factors not only lead to evil. Evil Good We can change the direction. Inaction
  62. Promoting Heroism
  63. We don‘t need to aspire being like the traditional heroes who devoted all their life to a cause.
  64. We don‘t need our fantasy heroes and their unrealistic abilities as rolemodels.
  65. Banality of Heroism as counterpoint to the Banality of Evil. Ordinary people do heroic deeds.
  66. Christine Maslach walked into the Stanford Prison Experiment and told Philip Zambardo, „You have to stop what you are doing to these boys.“ She was the only visitor to say this.
  67. Milgram revisited: The potential of one hero.
  68. Milgram also ran a study in which the participants witnessed a teacher dissenting and ending the experiment. The result?
  69. 450 Volt Ended Experiment 10 % 90 % Deadly shocks down to 10%.
  70. Heroic action means taking a risk. But Inaction is not an option.
  71. Joe Darby is the Army Reservist who leaked the photos of Abu Ghraib. He was forced to live in hiding for 3 years.
  72. Heroic Imagination Think it, then do it. Internalize this:
  73. That when I become aware of the need to act on behalf of others needing help or being the victim of evil forces,
  74. I will be ready and able to take the necessary action.
  75. I am a hero-in-waiting.
  76. Creating a culture of heroism www.EverydayHeroism.org
  77. Thank for your attention.
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