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The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil Paperback – 6 Mar 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Rider (6 Mar. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846041031
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846041037
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 3.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"An important book...all politicians and social commentators should read it" (Sunday Times)

"Detailed and absorbing...masterly and honest" (Mary Warnock, Times Higher Education Supplement)

"Formidable" (Observer)

"This important book is very readable" (Spectator)

"One of the most distinguished social scientists of our age" (Catholic Herald)

Book Description

A fascinating exploration of how, under certain circumstances, the human character can be transformed from good to evil, now in paperback

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Michael Heron TOP 500 REVIEWER on 10 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback
The Lucifer Effect is a thoroughly fascinating and scholarly account of the situational forces that compel individuals to act without due thought and regard for the feelings of their fellow human beings. It contains one of the most detailed treatments of the author's Stanford Prison Experiments I've ever read, complete with details unavailable elsewhere. That treatment alone justifies reading the book. The arguments are compelling and convincing, and illustrated with copious examples of real world situations in which perfectly normal people have gone 'to the dark side'.

The sole criticism I have of the book is that the lengthy section on the Abu Ghraib scandals contains too much editorialising, especially in the sections where the author goes through the chain of command apportioning blame. While the author is not especially detached throughout the text, in this particular instance it veers off into bias in a way that jars.

That's a fairly minor objection though, and I thoroughly recommend the book to anyone who wants to understand a bit more about how human nature is only part of the moral equation.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Judyta Szacillo on 27 Jan. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It could be an incredibly interesting book had the author been far more concise. The same information, observations and conclusions are repeated over and over again. Nevertheless, the subject of the book is fascinating and worth the effort, because it helps a lot in understanding how human beings work - as individuals and as societies. It also forces you to think more critically about yourself and, at the same time, it makes you aspire to do better. It is a great pity that the narrative is so discouraging.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Georg Strøm on 1 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book provides detailed accounts of the Stanford prison experiments and the abuses committed by US military personnel against prisoners. It is a good book for a student wanting to do a project on one of these. One of the more surprising details is the use of "torture chicks" which shows how far some female military personnel were willing to go, to serve their country. However, the book is printed with small letters, making it difficult for a sustained period, and the analysis is not as good as the accounts. The author has in particular no discussion of personality differences and their impact on whether people behave evil or resist an outside pressure to do so. In other words, he wants mainly to explain what is happening based on situational factors. The author leaves out that people resisting often is the type that in normal situations are considered troublemakers, something that was found among American prisoners of war during the Korean war. He also leaves out the role of selection. The persons commiting evil may appear ordinary, but they may have volunteered or been selected according to criteria that makes them more vulnerable, something that appeared to be the case when personnel were selected to extermination camps in nazi Germany.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By S. Bradford on 11 Jun. 2007
Format: Hardcover
Well worth reading for everybody who knows somebody else!

The bad: as other reviews state there is quite a bit of repetition, and on occasion it feels like Zimbardo discards disposition through the use of psychological inventories alone.

The good: highlights the evil that systems and situations can encourage whilst not belittling the responsibility of the individual. Provides the reader with practical steps to avoid being drawn into evil behaviour.

The key message for me was that I am thoroughly average and therefore capable of great evil given the right circumstances.

The book has the power to be transformative, I have caught myself in the process of dehumanising others, considering others as "them", and been given an opportunity to change my thinking. As a side effect of this I have been reminded of the way that we are prepared to dehumanise others by the media.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By K. Clarke on 17 May 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a very interesting book on the nature and causes of evil behaviour.

Zimbardo's basic thesis is that situation plays a bigger part in determining evil or heroic behaviour than innate disposition. The starting poing is the Sanford prison experiment in which students were divided randomly into guards and prisoners for an jail simulation in the basement of the university's psychology department. They very quickly meld into their roles.

From there he ranges far and wide over african boy soldiers, nazi camp guards, the My Lai massacre, Abu Ghraib and experiments where participants are encouraged by authority figures to inflict pain.

Moral agency isn't denied but a different basis for how we act than personal disposition is suggested. Our personalities are seen as situational and conditional constructs.

My main criticism is that it really could do with some editing. Its long winded and repetitive in parts but the its well worth ploughing on.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jan on 2 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
I went to an adult education class to study psychology and this book was recommended and I found it very interesting. I was a bit shocked to realize that it is posible for honest and moral people to turn and become cruel and sadistic. Basicaly the book is in two parts the first half is about a psychological experiment, being the Stanford Prison Experiment and then the second half about the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq which is all very enlightening and disturbing at the same time. I very much recommend this book, it is very much needed in society for people to understand some of the causes of cruel and inhumane acts.
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