"Detailed and absorbing...masterly and honest" (Mary Warnock, Times Higher Education Supplement)
"This important book is very readable" (Spectator)
"One of the most distinguished social scientists of our age" (Catholic Herald)
From the Publisher
From the Back Cover
'Zimbardo's anatomy of human psychology and contemporary culture is as scholary as it is scary' Brian Keenan, author of An Evil Cradling
How can good people become evil? How can honest people be induced to behave illegally, and moral people seduced to act immorally? The anwers to such questions lie at the heart of this fascinating exploration of the darker side of human nature by the award-winning psychologist Philip Zimbardo.
Examining the casues of evil, Zimbardo provides the first in-depth analysis of his classic Stanford Prison Experiment. He describes how a group of ordinary students was placed in a mock prison and how, in less than a week, the study had to be terminated when the 'guards' became increasingly sadistic and the 'prisoners' pathological. He considers the findings of the experiment and its relevance to society today (not least at the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons), raising fundamental questions about the nature of good and evil - and how and why most of us could be initiated into the ranks of evil doers.
'Detailed and absorbing...masterly and honest' Mary Warnock, Times Higher Education Supplement
'The Lucifer Effect will change forever the way you think about why we behave the way we do...This is a disturbing book, but one that has never been more necessary' Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink
'This important book is very readable' Spectator
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The Lucifer Effect is my attempt to understand the processes of transformation at work when good or ordinary people do bad or evil things. We will deal with the fundamental question "What makes people go wrong?" But instead of resorting to a traditional religious dualism of good versus
evil, of wholesome nature versus corrupting nurture, we will look at real people engaged in life's daily tasks, enmeshed in doing their jobs, surviving within an often turbulent crucible of human nature. We will seek to understand the nature of their character transformations when they are
faced with powerful situational forces.
Let's begin with a definition of evil. Mine is a simple, psychologically based one: Evil consists in intentionally behaving in ways that harm, abuse, demean, dehumanize, or destroy innocent others--or using one's authority and systemic power to encourage or permit others to do so on your behalf. In short, it is "knowing better but doing worse."
What makes human behavior work? What determines human thought and action? What makes some of us lead moral, righteous lives, while others seem to slip easily into immorality and crime? Is what we think about human nature
based on the assumption that inner determinants guide us up the good paths or down the bad ones? Do we give insufficient attention to the outer determinants of our thoughts, feelings, and actions? To what extent are we creatures of the situation, of the moment, of the mob? And is there
anything that anyone has ever done that you are absolutely certain you could never be compelled to do?
In the course of our voyage through good and evil, I will ask you to reflect upon three issues: How well do you really know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses? Does your self-knowledge come from reviewing your behavior in familiar situations or from being exposed to totally new settings where your old habits are challenged? In the same vein, how well do you really know the people with whom you interact daily: your family, friends, co-workers, and lover? One thesis of this book is that most of us know ourselves only from our limited experiences in familiar situations
that involve rules, laws, policies, and pressures that constrain us. We go to school, to work, on vacation, to parties; we pay the bills and the taxes, day in and year out. But what happens when we are exposed to totally
new and unfamiliar settings where our habits don't suffice? You start a new job, go on your first computer-matched date, join a fraternity, get arrested, enlist in the military, join a cult, or volunteer for an experiment. The old you might not ork as expected when the ground rules change.
Throughout our journey I would like you to continually ask the "Me also?" question as we encounter various forms of evil. We will examine genocide in Rwanda, the mass suicide and murder of Peoples Temple followers in the jungles of Guyana, the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, the horrors of Nazi
concentration camps, the torture by military and civilian police around the world, and the sexual abuse of parishioners by Catholic priests, and search for lines of continuity between the scandalous, fraudulent behavior of
executives at Enron and World-Com corporations. Finally, we will see how some common threads in all these evils run through the recently uncovered abuses of civilian prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq. One especially significant thread tying these atrocities together will come out of a body of research in experimental social psychology, particularly a study that has come to be known as the Stanford Prison Experiment.
I want to end by reversing the question with which we started. Instead of considering whether you are capable of evil, I want you to consider whether you are capable of becoming a hero. My final argument introduces the
concept of the "banality of heroism." I believe that any one of us is a potential hero, waiting for the right situational moment to make the decision to act to help others despite personal risk and sacrifice. But we have far to travel before we get to that happy conclusion.