Philip Zimbardo: The Lucifer Effect


Published on

Why Good People Become Evil

Published in: Technology, Education

Philip Zimbardo: The Lucifer Effect

  1. 1. Philip Zimbardo <ul><li>The Lucifer Effect </li></ul><ul><li>How Good People Become Evil </li></ul>
  2. 3. M.C. Escher Angels and Demons <ul><li>Uses this art work as a symbol for how good and evil are aspects of human nature. </li></ul><ul><li>Which one operates is a question of perspective. </li></ul><ul><li>The Lucifer Effect is about the transformation of human psychology. How is it that ‘good people’ do ‘evil’? </li></ul>
  3. 4. Key Ideas <ul><li>‘ Good’ people are corrupted by powerful situational forces. </li></ul><ul><li>We must recognize what these forces are and this is the best way to deal with ‘evil’. </li></ul><ul><li>Evil: He offers a definition </li></ul><ul><li>1: knowing better but doing worse. </li></ul><ul><li>2: an intentional abuse of power resulting in the demeaning of human dignity </li></ul>
  4. 5. <ul><li>Evil is an idea that is relative to culture (its content is determined by the time, nation and culture in which it lives) </li></ul><ul><li>One person’s terrorist is another person’s hero. </li></ul><ul><li>We are fascinated with evil because it is so difficult to imagine and because it’s about power. The other person has the power to control, dominate and extinguish life. </li></ul>
  5. 6. <ul><li>Lucifer effect: is about the transformation of the person towards ‘evil’ </li></ul><ul><li>The best way to deal with evil is to understand the context that encourages its growth </li></ul><ul><li>He begins with a case study he calls “ digitally documented depravity” , or the pictures taken from the Abu Graib prison by army reservists (weekend soldiers) </li></ul><ul><li>(These prisoners were ‘detainees’ who were waiting to be interrogated in the wake of 911) </li></ul>
  6. 9. Dispositional –Situational Analysis <ul><li>Dispositional: looks at the tendencies in the person and want to designate them as ‘good’ or bad. </li></ul><ul><li>Situational: looks at the situation and tries to understand how the context makes the person engage in ‘evil’ acts. </li></ul><ul><li>These two approaches are what social psychologists use to analyze. </li></ul>
  7. 10. A Third Possibility: Systemic <ul><li>He suggests that we should also look at the system that creates conditions where ‘good’ people can turn ‘bad’. </li></ul><ul><li>He is not concerned with ‘evil’ people but with institutions/organizations that allow evil in people to exist, grow, manifest. </li></ul><ul><li>He compares this to the ‘barrel’ being rotten and not just a few bad apples. </li></ul><ul><li>He looks at political, economic and legal influences for creating the system and the ‘bad barrel makers’. (Uses Guantanamo as an example.) </li></ul>
  8. 11. Stanley Milgram’s 1963 Study in Blind Obedience to Authority <ul><li>An experimenter was played by a stern, impassive biology teacher dressed in a technician's coat, and the victim (learner) was played by an trained actor. The participant and the “learner” (actor) were told by the experimenter that they would be participating in an experiment helping his study of memory and learning in different situations. </li></ul>
  9. 12. <ul><li>Two slips of paper were then presented to the participant and to the actor. The participant was led to believe that one of the slips said &quot;learner&quot; and the other said &quot;teacher,&quot; and that he and the actor had been given the slips randomly. In fact, both slips said &quot;teacher,&quot; but the actor claimed to have the slip that read &quot;learner,&quot; thus guaranteeing that the participant would always be the &quot;teacher.&quot; At this point, the &quot;teacher&quot; and &quot;learner&quot; were separated into different rooms where they could communicate but not see each other. In one version of the experiment, the confederate was sure to mention to the participant that he had a heart condition . </li></ul>
  10. 13. <ul><li>The &quot;teacher&quot; was given a 45- volt electric shock from the electro-shock generator as a sample of the shock that the &quot;learner&quot; would supposedly receive during the experiment. The &quot;teacher&quot; was then given a list of word pairs which he was to teach the learner. The teacher began by reading the list of word pairs to the learner. The teacher would then read the first word of each pair and read four possible answers. The learner would press a button to indicate his response. If the answer was incorrect, the teacher would administer a shock to the learner, with the voltage increasing for each wrong answer. If correct, the teacher would read the next word pair. </li></ul>
  11. 14. <ul><li>The subjects believed that for each wrong answer, the learner was receiving actual shocks. In reality, there were no shocks. After the confederate was separated from the subject, the confederate set up a tape recorder integrated with the electro-shock generator, which played pre-recorded sounds for each shock level. After a number of voltage level increases, the actor started to bang on the wall that separated him from the subject. After several times banging on the wall and complaining about his heart condition, all responses by the learner would cease. </li></ul>
  12. 15. <ul><li>At this point, many people indicated their desire to stop the experiment and check on the learner. Some test subjects paused at 135 volts and began to question the purpose of the experiment. Most continued after being assured that they would not be held responsible. A few subjects began to laugh nervously or exhibit other signs of extreme stress once they heard the screams of pain coming from the learner. </li></ul><ul><li>If at any time the subject indicated his desire to halt the experiment, he was given a succession of verbal prods by the experimenter, in this order: </li></ul><ul><li>Please continue. </li></ul><ul><li>The experiment requires that you continue. </li></ul><ul><li>It is absolutely essential that you continue. </li></ul><ul><li>You have no other choice, you must go on. </li></ul>
  13. 16. <ul><li>If the subject still wished to stop after all four successive verbal prods, the experiment was halted. Otherwise, it was halted after the subject had given the maximum 450-volt shock three times in succession. This experiment could be seen to raise some ethical issues as the experimenter did not truthfully tell the people involved what the real test was for (a standard practice in psychological tests today). </li></ul>
  14. 17. Results <ul><li>1000 ordinary people in 16 different studies, not only Yale students. </li></ul><ul><li>2/3 (65%) go all the way to 450! (at 375, the learner screams in terror and becomes silent) </li></ul><ul><li>Psychiatrists predicted that only 1% would go all the way. They were wrong and this is an example of dispositional analysis error (psychiatrists are trained to think that it’s all in your head) and the fundamental attribution error (when you ignore the situation in favour of the person) </li></ul>
  15. 18. <ul><li>Stanley Milgram experience: a study in blind obedience to authority and not knowing how to exit a bad situation. </li></ul><ul><li>Under the most extreme circumstances, only about 10% resist. </li></ul><ul><li>Many criticized and said that the results came because people didn’t believe the subject was not really being shocked. They also criticized the study saying that women would not have acted this way. And so…. </li></ul>
  16. 19. <ul><li>Some psychologists repeated a study with a puppy, (who obviously can’t be a confederate) </li></ul><ul><li>twenty men and twenty women. The goal was to condition the puppy to stand in a certain part of a cage and when it didn’t obey, it was administered a low level shock. How many do you think actually shocked the puppy and went all the way to the maximum voltage? </li></ul>
  17. 20. <ul><li>50% of the men and 100% of the women. Does that mean women are more evil than men? 1971: women were more concerned about grades and being obedient than today. This study was never published because too many people reacted adversely. </li></ul>
  18. 21. So what does this prove? <ul><li>Conclusion: situational power affects all of us. </li></ul><ul><li>All research is artificial. What is the external validity of this study? </li></ul><ul><li>He reminds of the jungle of Guyana and Rev. Jim Jones where over 921 people committed mass suicide with kool aid laced with cyanide. </li></ul><ul><li>This is a recipe for how anyone can control a group. </li></ul><ul><li>This process begin with ideology. All evil begins with a big lie. Hitler: “I am doing the Lord’s work.” Begins with a small first step that seems insignificant and then ask for increasingly larger actions. </li></ul>
  19. 22. <ul><li>We teach our kids to respect authority but we don’t teach them enough for how to question it. </li></ul><ul><li>Verbal dissent (But I’m not a bad person) </li></ul><ul><li>Makes exiting difficult (compares it to date rape) </li></ul><ul><li>Recalls Golding’s Lord of the Flies…power of anonymity that disinhibits inhibitions. </li></ul><ul><li>Make the situation the controlling factor and now we’re set up for evil! </li></ul>
  20. 23. <ul><li>America’s first terrorists: the KKK! (Used anonymity to promote fear and terror not only among blacks but Catholics and Jews through out the south.) </li></ul><ul><li>Go into the real world: Warriors who change their appearance before they go to war…this makes a difference in how they treat their victims. </li></ul><ul><li>He examined different cultures. 15 where they changed their appearance (paint faces, disguises and masks) and 8 where they didn’t. In the cultures where they changed their appearance, the soldiers were able to kill, torture and mutilate. If they don’t change their appearance they do nothing. (Culture has wisdom.) Military uniforms are designed to make us act in a uniform way…against the law to wear your uniform after war…killing must be specific to a situation that the armygovernment can control. </li></ul>
  21. 24. Power of prejudice and stereotypes <ul><li>He did another study with college students: “they students from the other school are here…they seem nice, they seem like animals” </li></ul><ul><li>10 ten trials to give shocks…those who heard the dehumanizing remarks shocked more, longer and harder </li></ul><ul><li>Stereotyping and prejudice allows us to suspend our morality and coast along with the actions of the group or the system. </li></ul>
  22. 25. Stanford Prison Experiment <ul><li>Milgram’s study was about one person responding to another. This study examines how we respond to institutions more than the psychology of prisoners. (Good apples going into a bad barrel.) Personal identities were erased, nice kids became brutal guards and the illusion became the reality. Many subjects developed extreme stress reactions and had to be released but no one actually quit the experiment. Many criticize the study for having violated ethical guidelines. It was meant to last two weeks but was ended after six days. He did not allow physical violence but allowed psychological violence. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  23. 26. <ul><li>He is convinced that good and evil are not intrinsic to human nature. We can all be Mother Theresa and Sadaam Hussein. The best way to combat evil is to be aware of the system that creates it. </li></ul><ul><li>You can visit his web site at for more information about the book and his ideas, especially about resisting influence and heroism. </li></ul>