The following is a partial summary review of the book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil
by Dr. Phil Zimbardo
“The Lucifer Effect raises a fundamental question about the nature of human nature: How is it possible for ordinary, average, even good people to become perpetrators of evil? In trying to understand unusual, or aberrant behavior, we often err in focusing exclusively on the inner determinants of genes, personality, and character, as we also tend to ignore what may be the critical catalyst for behavior change in the external Situation or in the System that creates and maintains such situations. I challenge readers to reflect on how well they really know themselves, and how much confidence they have in what they would or would not ever do when put into new behavioral settings.
This book is unique in many ways. It provides for the first time a detailed chronology of the transformations in human character that took place during the experiment I created that randomly assigned healthy, normal intelligent college students to play the roles of prisoner or guard in a projected 2 week-long study. I was forced to terminate the study after only 6 days because it went out of control, pacifists were becoming sadistic guards, and normal kids were breaking down emotionally. By telling that story in a new way, as my personal, first-person observation in the present tense, it is presented almost as a screen play filled with ever more amazing twists and turns as the situational forces are pitted against individual will to resist and the collective will to rebel against oppressive authority. In a sense, this study and how I am reporting its narrative, is a forerunner of reality TV, as we see ordinary people up close and personal day in and night out, becoming transformed into something truly disturbing.”
A free PDF copy can be obtained by clicking on the image below.
Interested readers may watch the following video of the above-mentioned study – the Stanford Prison Experiment
– described and contextualized by some of the actual participants.
Caution. There are disturbing and explicit scenes of human depravity. This includes human nakedness and expletives. Viewer discretion is advised.