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Renowned social psychologist and creator of the "Stanford Prison Experiment," Philip Zimbardo explores the mechanisms that make good people do bad things, how moral people can be seduced into acting immorally, and what this says about the line separating good from evil. The Lucifer Effect explains how—and the myriad reasons why—we are all susceptible to the lure of “the dar Renowned social psychologist and creator of the "Stanford Prison Experiment," Philip Zimbardo explores the mechanisms that make good people do bad things, how moral people can be seduced into acting immorally, and what this says about the line separating good from evil. The Lucifer Effect explains how—and the myriad reasons why—we are all susceptible to the lure of “the dark side.” Drawing on examples from history as well as his own trailblazing research, Zimbardo details how situational forces and group dynamics can work in concert to make monsters out of decent men and women. Here, for the first time and in detail, Zimbardo tells the full story of the Stanford Prison Experiment, the landmark study in which a group of college-student volunteers was randomly divided into “guards” and “inmates” and then placed in a mock prison environment. Within a week, the study was abandoned, as ordinary college students were transformed into either brutal, sadistic guards or emotionally broken prisoners. By illuminating the psychological causes behind such disturbing metamorphoses, Zimbardo enables us to better understand a variety of harrowing phenomena, from corporate malfeasance to organized genocide to how once upstanding American soldiers came to abuse and torture Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib. He replaces the long-held notion of the “bad apple” with that of the “bad barrel”—the idea that the social setting and the system contaminate the individual, rather than the other way around.


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Renowned social psychologist and creator of the "Stanford Prison Experiment," Philip Zimbardo explores the mechanisms that make good people do bad things, how moral people can be seduced into acting immorally, and what this says about the line separating good from evil. The Lucifer Effect explains how—and the myriad reasons why—we are all susceptible to the lure of “the dar Renowned social psychologist and creator of the "Stanford Prison Experiment," Philip Zimbardo explores the mechanisms that make good people do bad things, how moral people can be seduced into acting immorally, and what this says about the line separating good from evil. The Lucifer Effect explains how—and the myriad reasons why—we are all susceptible to the lure of “the dark side.” Drawing on examples from history as well as his own trailblazing research, Zimbardo details how situational forces and group dynamics can work in concert to make monsters out of decent men and women. Here, for the first time and in detail, Zimbardo tells the full story of the Stanford Prison Experiment, the landmark study in which a group of college-student volunteers was randomly divided into “guards” and “inmates” and then placed in a mock prison environment. Within a week, the study was abandoned, as ordinary college students were transformed into either brutal, sadistic guards or emotionally broken prisoners. By illuminating the psychological causes behind such disturbing metamorphoses, Zimbardo enables us to better understand a variety of harrowing phenomena, from corporate malfeasance to organized genocide to how once upstanding American soldiers came to abuse and torture Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib. He replaces the long-held notion of the “bad apple” with that of the “bad barrel”—the idea that the social setting and the system contaminate the individual, rather than the other way around.

30 review for The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Philip Zimbardo’s The Lucifer Effect is a difficult read, not because its premise is particularly startling, but because its examination of the psychology of evil shows it to be disturbingly simple. By placing each act of breathtaking cruelty beside a description of its perpetrator--invariably an ordinary, psychologically normal person--Zimbardo makes clear that we are just animals socialized into one behavior, and easily socialized into another. And though he never outright asks it, every page Philip Zimbardo’s The Lucifer Effect is a difficult read, not because its premise is particularly startling, but because its examination of the psychology of evil shows it to be disturbingly simple. By placing each act of breathtaking cruelty beside a description of its perpetrator--invariably an ordinary, psychologically normal person--Zimbardo makes clear that we are just animals socialized into one behavior, and easily socialized into another. And though he never outright asks it, every page of his book prompts the impossible question: What kind of monster are you? Zimbardo spends nearly 500 pages supporting an argument that’s convincing by page two: Situations entice people to commit heroic acts and unspeakable atrocities alike. With little provocation, formerly good people will discard their values entirely. Some of the examples were new to me, such as Pauline, a women’s empowerment lecturer in Rwanda who ordered the genocidaires under her charge, “Before you kill the women, you need to rape them.” Other examples are well known--millions of World War II-era Europeans turned on their Jewish neighbors, the horrifying Rape of Nanjing, and many more. And while the author tries time and again to complicate his argument, to mitigate the bleakness of his premise, those attempts feel insufficient. He assures readers that--although social systems seize control of our ethics, elicit our worst selves, and punish those who refuse to comply--people can still be dissuaded from committing atrocities. We can learn to resist grotesque situational pressures by simply applying Zimbardo's handy maxims: “I respect just authority but rebel against unjust authority,” “I want group acceptance, but value my independence,” “I will assert my unique identity,” etc. But, in fact, Zimbardo’s sociological studies and historical survey offer ample evidence that people who defy the demands of the societal machine are rare, and that they are mostly punished for their moral courage. American serviceman Hugh Thompson stopped the My Lai massacre by aiming machine guns at his superiors and ordered medical evacuations of wounded Vietnamese civilians--and as “punishment was required to fly the most dangerous helicopter missions again and again. He was shot down five times, breaking his backbone and suffering lasting psychological scars from his nightmare experience. It took thirty years before the military recognized his heroic deeds… Paradoxically, Lieutenant Calley (an orchestrator of the massacre) was treated as a hero.” Certainly people are to blame for the moral crimes they commit, and yet it seems somehow flippant to assume that all people can avoid the blameworthy road, that all people are capable of risking hardship or death to resist descending into evil--especially when submitting to situational demands is the psychologically normal (and perhaps healthy) thing to do. The stronger and sadder argument, the one that Zimbardo tries to avoid making, is the one his own research supports: Most of us are available for total moral conquest by our bosses, parents, peers, and government, irredeemably adrift on currents much stronger than ourselves.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I was excited to read this, since I have a psychology background and had heard that it was a good look at the Stanford Prison Experiment, which I studied in college. I wasn't too impressed with this book though. It is at least 100 pages too long and bogged down by excessive detail, making it read like a numbing textbook. The breakdown is as follows: 200 pages on Zimbardo's Prison Experiment, 100 pages of analysis of the experiment, 75 pages on Abu Ghraib, 75 pages about the Bush administration's I was excited to read this, since I have a psychology background and had heard that it was a good look at the Stanford Prison Experiment, which I studied in college. I wasn't too impressed with this book though. It is at least 100 pages too long and bogged down by excessive detail, making it read like a numbing textbook. The breakdown is as follows: 200 pages on Zimbardo's Prison Experiment, 100 pages of analysis of the experiment, 75 pages on Abu Ghraib, 75 pages about the Bush administration's culpability, 50 pages on factors for improvement, 25 pages on heroism, and 50 pages of footnotes. The author did not attempt to eliminate his personal biases (even embracing them, calling himself a "bleeding heart liberal" at one point), which really bothered me, since the book was presented as an unbiased view of social behavior as it relates to situational forces. The subject WAS very interesting, but I'd recommend it to a limited audience - those who are schooled in social psychology and/or prison societies, who are comfortable diving into scientific literature, and who won't mind the liberal spin that Zimbardo includes.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs

    Zimbardo fucked up, BIG TIME. During the "Stanford Prison Experiment," an experiment he created, he was part of the actual testing and also became victim to the traps the other participants fell into. The idea was to separate the participants into two groups, guards and prisoners with Zimbardo taking the role of prison overseer in a monitored environment. But things quickly went from weird to damn right unethical. Instead of simply playing the roles assigned to them, everybody involved actua Zimbardo fucked up, BIG TIME. During the "Stanford Prison Experiment," an experiment he created, he was part of the actual testing and also became victim to the traps the other participants fell into. The idea was to separate the participants into two groups, guards and prisoners with Zimbardo taking the role of prison overseer in a monitored environment. But things quickly went from weird to damn right unethical. Instead of simply playing the roles assigned to them, everybody involved actually became the roles. The guards became violent, the prisoners became unhinged and unstable and Zimbardo himself became rather tyrannical and uncaring. The experiment would have continued if his girlfriend, at the time, didn’t break through to him and show him how messed up things were. It almost erupted "The most apparent thing that I noticed was how most of the people in this study derive their sense of identity and well-being from their immediate surroundings rather than from within themselves, and that's why they broke down—just couldn't stand the pressure—they had nothing within them to hold up against all of this.” Zimbardo is rather embarrassed at his own part, understandably. But he still used the findings of the experiment to theorise why it actually happened and considered how normal people can become violent and evil so quickly. It’s all about situational factors and conformity. The men adapted to their roles all too quickly and the power given to the guards was theirs to exploit at their own will. The separation of men into two factions also helped to evoke as dangerous “us” and “them” attitude allowing for an unsympathetic approach to others. The Lucifer Effect discusses the psychology of roles we take on when forced into power struggles. It’s a strong piece of research, and Zimbardo theorises quite heavily. His assumptions on his own experiments are grounded, though he takes them much further afield and considers many violent prisons. As logical as some of his argument are, at this stage they are only arguments rather than findings. I much preferred the first section of the book, the part about his research, rather than his speculations on situations with seperate cultural and social factors. What The Lucifer Effect shows us though is the dangers of conformity and where it can lead us. Social conditioning plays a huge part in our cognitive makeup, a part we’re not always aware of until it’s too late. I really appreciated the author’s honesty; it must have been hard to write a book about one’s own short comings.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I, after a couple of weeks, have finally finished “The Lucifer Effect.” I normally don’t dog ear books because, well, that’s almost sacrilegious, but there were points that I knew I wanted to come back to. Like this one which really came out there unexpectedly, and had me laughing so hard. After asking what his parents do, his religious background, and whether he goes to church regularly, Prescott is angered by the prisoner’s statement this his religion is “nondenominational. He retorts, “You ha I, after a couple of weeks, have finally finished “The Lucifer Effect.” I normally don’t dog ear books because, well, that’s almost sacrilegious, but there were points that I knew I wanted to come back to. Like this one which really came out there unexpectedly, and had me laughing so hard. After asking what his parents do, his religious background, and whether he goes to church regularly, Prescott is angered by the prisoner’s statement this his religion is “nondenominational. He retorts, “You haven’t even decided about something as important as that either.” The guy was so angry that he then had to step out of the room and let the board continue the “parole hearing.” Wow. Then there was this little tidbit about the lessons learned when a normally powerless person is given power: this is the transformation. Admire power, detest weakness. Dominate, don’t negotiate. Hit first when they turn the other cheek. The golden rule is for them, not for us. Authority rules, rules are authority. The sum of the whole: Systems create these Situations that then once submerged into them; ordinary “good” people would do things that are categorically “evil.” Once a person is put into a set “situation” created by this “system” they emerge from it not able recognize who they are; they are not going to be the same person. This is why surprise, surprise the people, who committed those “you can not believe they did that” acts against prisoners at Abu Ghraib, while responsible for their actions, aren’t solely to blame. The entire portion of the book accounting the Horrors of Abu Ghraib was unbelievably fascinating. It really gave you a complete view of what happened from the bottom up. Riveting read I must say. The only down side, obviously this book is a bit wordy. There were times when I put the book down and didn’t bother with it for days on end. I know that some people just skipped to the "good stuff," but I stuck it out, having read the whole thing. I’m glad that I did, because of the social implications and discoveries that you get from these chapters of basic “setup” or “premise,” it really gives you a more in depth understanding of what happens later in the book. Very interesting read although a bit tough at times.

  5. 4 out of 5

    David

    Well, I need to state my prejudices upfront. I'm kind of a secret fan of Doctor Zimbardo. See, I guess at some point he put together some kind of massive 26-episode series of half-hour lectures on how the mind works for public TV. They would come on at some ungodly hour of the morning so that I used to catch them while scarfing down my nutritious Lucky Charms and locally squozen OJ before leaving for work. Doctor Z would introduce each episode with a kind of geekish seriousness of purpose that o Well, I need to state my prejudices upfront. I'm kind of a secret fan of Doctor Zimbardo. See, I guess at some point he put together some kind of massive 26-episode series of half-hour lectures on how the mind works for public TV. They would come on at some ungodly hour of the morning so that I used to catch them while scarfing down my nutritious Lucky Charms and locally squozen OJ before leaving for work. Doctor Z would introduce each episode with a kind of geekish seriousness of purpose that one totally had to respect. Plus he would always be wearing some seriously appalling fashion atrocity - most commonly a truly regrettable sports jacket or shirt. But some episodes he'd get those down only to spoil the effect with some kind of hypnotically iridescent tie whose width was at least a decade off the prevailing norm. But the programs were not actually an insult to the intelligence, for the most part - the material was decently organized, lucidly presented, with a minimum of pomposity. If I'm not mistaken, in recent months Doctor Z has resurfaced on my public TV dial with a fresh, updated, completely revamped version of the lectures. One imagines lots of snazzy functional mRI s**t. But of course that's not Doctor Z's only claim to fame. It's a safe bet the first few sentences of his obituary will define him in terms of the (infamous) "Stanford Prison study". In the early 1960s Stanley Milgram had shocked the scientific community with his series of "obedience experiments" that showed how an apparently strongly hardwired obedience to authority could lead people to commit barbaric acts of cruelty (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...). A decade later Zimbardo eliminated any possible doubt when a simulated "prison experiment" he was conducting on the Stanford campus had to be discontinued early for ethical reasons because the behavior of the participating students had degenerated into "Lord of the Flies" savagery within a period of only 4 days. The first 200 pages of this book are given over to a description of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE). The middle third covers lessons learned from SPE and summarizes other experimental work related to the problem of people behaving badly. The final 200 pages discusses events at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, as well as other excesses of the Bush administration in terms of what has been learned about human behavior from the SPE and similar experiments. To me, it's this final part of the book that is the most interesting. The initial material is readable enough, but seems way over-extended. I suspect that very few people (or the kind of people reading this book) are unaware of the SPE, so summarizing the main findings in 20-30 pages should have been possible, instead of the 200-page account which helps inflate "The Lucifer Effect" to a bloated 550 pages. That said, I remain a fan of Doctor Zimbardo. Even if the book is a little too long, he is always clear. And though what he has to say can be depressing, it's clearly not wrong. Understanding our own weaknesses and the factors that can allow cruelty and evil to flourish seems more important than ever these days. This is a good book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    George Hu

    Well, interesting title and interesting subject, but I highly doubt his hypothesis. This book was borne out of Philip Zimbardo's work with a U.S. army soldier, who was one of the prison guards at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Zimbardo is also the one who ran the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment in the 1970s. Basically, his premise in this book is that circumstances shape the individual, and our actions can be molded by the circumstances that we are in. E.g., it was the duress and egregious circumstance Well, interesting title and interesting subject, but I highly doubt his hypothesis. This book was borne out of Philip Zimbardo's work with a U.S. army soldier, who was one of the prison guards at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Zimbardo is also the one who ran the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment in the 1970s. Basically, his premise in this book is that circumstances shape the individual, and our actions can be molded by the circumstances that we are in. E.g., it was the duress and egregious circumstances suffered by the participants in the Stanford Prison Experiment and at Abu Ghraib that led them to commit such heinous acts. However, he leaves many questions unanswered. What is it within us that CAUSES us to respond to circumstances in that negative fashion, as opposed to the other way around? He attempts to explain evil with the circumstantial and phenomenological--utterly insufficient and unsophisticated at best. It's interesting, but naive. Forgettable really, even as a psychological resource. I heard him speak at the 2007 APA Convention in San Francisco--forgettable as well except for Hollywood-style theatrics to illustrate his point. As one who provides therapy to Iraq veterans myself, there is much more to the roots of human evil than, "My circumstances made me do it." Want a better resource? Read "The Problem of Pain" by C.S. Lewis. Much more worth your time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Edmund

    As a huge psych nerd I was really happy to stumble across this book in the local library. For those who don't know and/or have forgotten psyc101 Zimbardo is the professor behind the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. The seminal experiment where (Spoiler alert I guess) where ordinary young men were put in a simulated prison situation (randomly assigned to prisoners and guards, mind) and the whole thing had to be shut down before the week ended due to inhumane abuse and practices. The Lucifer Ef As a huge psych nerd I was really happy to stumble across this book in the local library. For those who don't know and/or have forgotten psyc101 Zimbardo is the professor behind the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. The seminal experiment where (Spoiler alert I guess) where ordinary young men were put in a simulated prison situation (randomly assigned to prisoners and guards, mind) and the whole thing had to be shut down before the week ended due to inhumane abuse and practices. The Lucifer Effect is the first time Zimbardo has opened up with a first hand account of the whole experiment which is equal parts intriguing and horrifying. The majority of the first part of the book (and the books as a whole) is devoted to the experiment, and while I found it enthralling I suspect anyone looking for more pop psychology would find the section very heavy given its a blow-by-blow analysis of the experiment. The most twisting thing about it is hearing how sucked into the role Zimbardo himself got and how far it all had to go before it stopped. The central section covers broader literature on conformity, explaining how human beings can be heavily influenced to do evil by their situations, systems and roles. This section was really interesting and well presented, being quite short and sweet comparatively, reviewing studies such as what could be called the Prison study's sister experiment the Milgrim Shock experiments and Asch's original social conformity papers. The penultimate section deals with Zimbardo's experience with the Abu Gharib prison. This section is by far the most horrifying and challenging to read, as Zimbardo describes and analyzes the military prison run in the heart of Iraq. I suspect many would find this section grueling and difficult to read but ultimately the lessons learned are important ones. Finally Zimbardo concludes with advice on heroism and resisting systematic and situational pressure to do wrong. I found this section hit and miss. Providing advice for resisting situational pressure was invaluable, the sections theorizing on the make-up of heroes was a little idealistic and theoretical compared to the robustly conceptualized other sections. In total Lucifer Effect is a scary but valuable read, at around 500 pages with heavy material it is not for the faint of heart, but I am really glad Dr Zimbardo shared his story and knowledge his insights and knowledge cannot be overvalued.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    A classic on the subject, Zimbardo tackles in this book the longest description and explanation of his Stanford Prison Experiment, along with two other main themes: the Abu Ghraib abuses and, in the last chapter, heroism and altruism. Now, of course I am a little biased (at the moment I am using his study as a building block for an essay on obedience and my Social Psychology paper was on Abu Ghraib), but I loved this book. I love the subject, I love the writing, I find the entire theme endlessly A classic on the subject, Zimbardo tackles in this book the longest description and explanation of his Stanford Prison Experiment, along with two other main themes: the Abu Ghraib abuses and, in the last chapter, heroism and altruism. Now, of course I am a little biased (at the moment I am using his study as a building block for an essay on obedience and my Social Psychology paper was on Abu Ghraib), but I loved this book. I love the subject, I love the writing, I find the entire theme endlessly fascinating and also - don't tell anyone - I really like Zimbardo. I think he is a great psychologist who happened to conduct the right experiment at the right time, and his work on heroism and altruism could truly change the way we raise our children and the way our societies respond to human rights violations and other morally unjustifiable things. For anyone interested in the "psychology of evil", situational vs dispositional factors, oppressive systems - or for anyone who comes with a historical interest from the side of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th and 21st Century - this is truly a book for you. I would argue, one of the best works on a branch of psychology, ever.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jessaka

    “I would rather die than to accept being treaded as less than a human being.” ~~an ex prisoner from a real penitentiary I have heard of the Stanford Prison Experiment for years, and even just hearing about it was disheartening. Reading the book wass more than disheartening, it was depressing. It is that I have always tried to understand evil, but I don’t think we really can in any meaningful way. Perhaps, it is just that it is part of our nature, and yet unlike animals, we appear to be the most v “I would rather die than to accept being treaded as less than a human being.” ~~an ex prisoner from a real penitentiary I have heard of the Stanford Prison Experiment for years, and even just hearing about it was disheartening. Reading the book wass more than disheartening, it was depressing. It is that I have always tried to understand evil, but I don’t think we really can in any meaningful way. Perhaps, it is just that it is part of our nature, and yet unlike animals, we appear to be the most vicious of all in the animal kingdom, but also the most loving. I once thought that religion was the way to compassion, to goodness, but then I saw what it has done to others, how cruel it could be. I thought perhaps Buddhism, with its profession of compassion, was the way, and that meditation developed gooid traits. I was sadly mistaken. I gave up on all religion. I began reading this book for answers. I found none. I tried reading the book “Behave.” It became boring and I couldn’t see reading more than 800 pages. Evil, it taught, was due to faulty wiring in the brain. Well, yes, for some it is. That has been proven. But what about perfectly good, decent people who are kind towards others until being put in a situation where you are told to be a guard over others? Well, all hell breaks loose. In this Stanford study even a Buddhist who tried to keep his cool, so to speak, broke down. At least he tried, and perhaps that is all we can do. This study went on in the 70s at Stanford University. One of the psychology professors wanted to do this study and received permission. He found around 20 men who passed his mental health test as well as criminal background tests. Then he divided them up as guards and prisoners and put them in a prison for the test. All he told the guards was to make the prisoners behave, but at the same time, do not physically harm them. The experiment lasted 6 days, but it should have been stopped much earlier. As the days went on the guards became more sadistic, and while there were those who didn’t wish to harm others, as they days went by, they were slwly giving in in, but in smaller ways. As a result, the prisoners were dehumanized. Some were breaking down mentally and wanted out, but by then some had forgotten that they could leave anytime, just as those guards had forgotten how to treat others with dignity. It was almost the same as what is happening at our borders with the men, women, and children in cages. The difference is, the camps at the border are far crueler, the dehumanizing is much worse. If prisoners in the Stanford study broke down after a few days, what is happening to those in the border camps? I have that answer in my mind’s eye: I see them being raped, beaten, and murdered. What is happening at the border should be policed, stopped, but by a different group than those who are over them. But the harm is coming from our present government, from a president who says, “If they don’t like how they are being treated, then they should quit coming here.” Yet, the Hispanics have no where else to go. Five countries have been taking them in; they are swamped. I think Ben Ference who was the prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials said it best, maybe: “War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people.” Well, perhaps, it is more than that. Perhaps, putting a man over another human being while saying that that person is evil, makes murders out of anymore who has the power to kill, and it doesn’t have to be in a war situation. This book is acquired reading in psychology classes, but it should be required reading in high school because it should be read by everyone.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Eden Prosper

    Philip Zimbardo’s The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil was a stimulating read. A lot of psychology books tend to be a bit dry or scientifically wordy, becoming tedious and stodgy. It’s refreshing to be able to retain knowledge that can later be reflected on. The Lucifer Effect delves into the psychology of roles we assume when forced into power struggles. It’s a facet of research that reveals the power of social situations and the social construction of reality. Starting of Philip Zimbardo’s The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil was a stimulating read. A lot of psychology books tend to be a bit dry or scientifically wordy, becoming tedious and stodgy. It’s refreshing to be able to retain knowledge that can later be reflected on. The Lucifer Effect delves into the psychology of roles we assume when forced into power struggles. It’s a facet of research that reveals the power of social situations and the social construction of reality. Starting off with a short overview on crimes against humanity, the history of the degradation in Rwanda and Nanking, the horrors and abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison, and the atrocity of Nazi Germany. The first half of the book is a written reenactment of his Stanford Prison Experiment organized in 1971 in which he selected a group of college students to assume the role of prisoners and another group to assume the role of guards, set up in a mock prison, they were to endure a set of prison rules for two weeks. The experiment proved interesting insight into the psychology of sadism, humiliation, and dehumanization, of prisoners surrendering their humanity and compassion to social power. These chapters are, indeed, monotonous and are lagging in interest; however I found them to have a reasonably significant share in revealing the pattern of thought that we undergo when put in these situations. His aspiration with this study was to differentiate between dispositional behaviors and situational, in which we overemphasize personality in explaining any behavior while concurrently underemphasizing situational influences. The imagined threat of being cast outside the “in-group” coupled with the threat of rejection. This hits home, living in a society that encourages individualism. Typically, roles are tied to specific situations; they are enacted when one is in that situation. Yet some roles are sinister, and can become who we are most of the time. Most interesting are the chapters following the review of the SPE in which Zimbardo analyses the psychological transformation of the human mind under pressure. The other half of the book breaks down the psychology of social dynamics in power, conformity, obedience, deindividuation, dehumanization, and the evil of inaction finishing with a very intense chapter on Abu Ghraib’s abuses of power, interrogations and tortures which is wrapped up by putting our government’s perverse, and conspiratorial system on trial as an influence for these war crimes and crimes against humanity and what can be done to prevent future abuses. At last the book ends with a chapter on resisting situational influences and celebrating heroism which brings to our attention that, although heroes seem to be few and far between just as the “bad apples” seem to be, the banality of evil shares much with the banality of heroism. We are just as capable of doing good as we are of doing evil. Just as evil is unconsciously learned, so we can learn strategies of resistance towards evil deeds. This was a liberating read for me as it raised my consciousness to underlying psychological evil in the human condition. As an ordinary person, I can be seduced into behaving in evil ways under the sway of powerful systematic and situational forces. Only by being made aware of my influential limitations, can I then make the ethical choice between the permeable line between good and evil as we are not slaves to the power of situational forces, and we can learn to resist and oppose them. Such knowledge can release us all from subjugation to the mighty grasp of conformity, compliance, persuasion, and other forms of social influence and coercion. After all, we are only human. Complex, yet very far from perfect. I highly recommend this book if you’re willing to learn more about how you subconsciously tick. “Each of us is the end product of the complex development and specialization that have grown out of millions of years of evolution, growth, adaptation, and coping. Our species has reached its special place on Earth because of our remarkable capacity for learning, for language, for reasoning, for inventing, and for imagining new and better futures. Every human being has the potential to perfect the skills, talents, and attributes we need to go beyond surviving to thrive and enhance our human condition.”

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kq

    This book should be called "The Stanford Prison Experiment and Other Things Regarding How Good People Turn Evil". The first 200 or so pages are about The Stanford Prison Experiment (1971 study involving the psychological effects of prisoners and prison guards). If you took Psychology 101 or 102 in college you more than likely read about it. Anyway, once I reached page 113 I was really wishing for a new topic, but no, it kept going and going--repeating the same subject matter and psychological fi This book should be called "The Stanford Prison Experiment and Other Things Regarding How Good People Turn Evil". The first 200 or so pages are about The Stanford Prison Experiment (1971 study involving the psychological effects of prisoners and prison guards). If you took Psychology 101 or 102 in college you more than likely read about it. Anyway, once I reached page 113 I was really wishing for a new topic, but no, it kept going and going--repeating the same subject matter and psychological findings of the Stanford study. Once I saw the light and new subject was finally presented (maybe around page 236) I was pretty burnt out and at that point, I didn't care anymore. I read the rest of the 300 or so pages, however I can't recall anything that I read and I don't care. Pros: Cool title, interesting topic, interesting experiment. Cons: 480 pages too long, not enough about Lucifer.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    This is a horribly difficult book to read, not because Zimbardo’s writing is bad or the subject is uninteresting, but because it exposes how easily people can be manipulated into a role — and I don’t just mean the guards, but also the prisoners. It’s important because it examines, in minute detail, the events of a now infamous experiment: the Stanford Prison Experiment. This was run, not by Stanley Milgram, as people often think, but by Philip Zimbardo, and even he became caught up in the act of This is a horribly difficult book to read, not because Zimbardo’s writing is bad or the subject is uninteresting, but because it exposes how easily people can be manipulated into a role — and I don’t just mean the guards, but also the prisoners. It’s important because it examines, in minute detail, the events of a now infamous experiment: the Stanford Prison Experiment. This was run, not by Stanley Milgram, as people often think, but by Philip Zimbardo, and even he became caught up in the act of it. It wasn’t even a very convincing prison, and yet it quickly made both guards and prisoners act their roles. And not even them, but people outside it who should have seen through the illusion, like the chaplain. Both this experiment and Stanley Milgram’s experiments are kind of horrifying, because we don’t want to think it’s that easy. If you read Behind the Shock Machine, by Gina Perry (the title links to my review), she shows that it’s not that easy — Milgram’s experiments were honed to a fine point, and only the results which supported his conclusions most spectacularly were published. But still, the fact remains that you don’t have to scratch far below the surface to find something unsavoury about the way humans seem to act. As Dar Williams says in ‘Buzzer’: I get it now, I’m the face, I’m the cause of war; we don’t have to blame white-coated men anymore. This book, this experiment, isn’t all there is to be said about human nature, of course. But it’s an important account of something which revolutionised our understanding of human psychology, and shone a light on things we need to examine — even if they turn out not to hold as true as we fear. Kudos to Zimbardo for his unflinching discussion of everything that went on in the experiment, and every time he failed to safeguard the interests of the participants. Originally posted here.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nick Imrie

    I read this book years and years ago, and at the time I thought it was amazing. The Stanford Prison experiment was especially striking; totally changed how I thought about human behaviour. But if anyone thinks the same then I'd encourage you to read the accounts that cast doubt on it. The medium blog: The Lifespan of a Lie And this Twitter thread: Jay Van Bavel I read this book years and years ago, and at the time I thought it was amazing. The Stanford Prison experiment was especially striking; totally changed how I thought about human behaviour. But if anyone thinks the same then I'd encourage you to read the accounts that cast doubt on it. The medium blog: The Lifespan of a Lie And this Twitter thread: Jay Van Bavel

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sara Sherra

    A while ago, i found the book title really interesting and decided at once to add the book to my "to-read" list. I was, unfortunately, very disappointed with it, as it turned out to be not quite what i expected. I thought the book was about "Understanding How Good People Turn Evil", when it was just simply "Examples of How Good People Turn Evil". Dr. Zimbardo was excessively thorough regarding the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Abu Ghraib incident, only to the point that proves that ordinary A while ago, i found the book title really interesting and decided at once to add the book to my "to-read" list. I was, unfortunately, very disappointed with it, as it turned out to be not quite what i expected. I thought the book was about "Understanding How Good People Turn Evil", when it was just simply "Examples of How Good People Turn Evil". Dr. Zimbardo was excessively thorough regarding the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Abu Ghraib incident, only to the point that proves that ordinary "good" people can "turn bad" when faced with certain situations, but not why or how it can be avoided, as the title of the book claims! I just thought a successful psychologist as himself would actually deliver what he promised.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Selene

    I had to read this for a psychology class in college.

  16. 5 out of 5

    K

    Be forewarned -- this is not a relaxing book on any level. Having said that, it's pretty fantastic. How good people turn evil is a huge question, more ambitious than most authors would undertake and probably a set-up for disappointment as who can possibly answer that? And I admit, Zimbardo's answers are incomplete but still pretty impressive. According to Zimbardo, when we try to explain good people committing evil deeds we tend to rely on what's called dispositional explanations -- it's about THE Be forewarned -- this is not a relaxing book on any level. Having said that, it's pretty fantastic. How good people turn evil is a huge question, more ambitious than most authors would undertake and probably a set-up for disappointment as who can possibly answer that? And I admit, Zimbardo's answers are incomplete but still pretty impressive. According to Zimbardo, when we try to explain good people committing evil deeds we tend to rely on what's called dispositional explanations -- it's about THEM, their personality, their character, the fact that they are one of those few "bad apples" that spoils the barrel. Zimbardo, a prominent social psychologist, strongly advocates replacing this thinking with a situational explanation -- the idea that the situation is a set-up for bringing out evil qualities in any normal person, or that we should blame the "bad barrel" for creating the "bad apples" rather than the other way around. Zimbardo makes his case convincingly with a level of detail that feels overwhelming at times but is necessary in order to help the reader truly appreciate his position (his writing style also balances a scholarly and academic tone with highly personal insights, which serve to make the book more engaging). He first explores his famous experiment, the Zimbardo prison experiment of 1971, where he randomly assigned college students to the roles of "prisoner" and "guard," staged the "prisoners'" arrests, and brought the prisoners to a mock prison he set up in a basement at Stanford University. Although the experiment was meant to last two weeks, it was disbanded after five days because everyone got way too carried away. The guards became completely absorbed in their roles and psychologically abused the prisoners; the prisoners, for their part, quickly displayed signs of learned helplessness and mostly broke rather than successfully resisting their guards. Note -- every participant in the experiment was prescreened for signs of preexisting psychopathology and all were found to be completely normal. After describing this experiment in much detail, Zimbardo goes on to discuss the ethics of the experiment and to apply it to a variety of prisoner-guard situations. He then describes other social psychology experiments which further support his situational theory of normal people turning evil, culminating in a detailed discussion of the events at Abu Ghraib and making convincing arguments for the idea that the situation, and the system, carried more of the blame than did the individual guards (although of course he does not completely absolve them of personal responsibility). Zimbardo's book is well-written, intelligent, and ultimately convincing. It did not address one question I had: what about people who you think are good who surprise you by doing evil things in an apparently normal context? Was I simply wrong about them, or is there a more complicated explanation? But with that said, this was as complete an answer as you're probably going to get to why the Nazis, the Abu Ghraib prison guards, and others can seem like normal people through and through and then turn around and engage in cruelty. The book's style as well as its content make it a difficult read at times but it is ultimately very rewarding. Highly recommended.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Letitia

    It is extremely difficult to rate this book because I have a thousand thoughts about it. So I am rating it a 4-star because I DO want people to read it. However if I were ranking Zimbardo as an author alone, I would give it 2 stars. Despite Zimbardo's abysmal efforts as a writer, this is a fascinating book, which examines many known and unknown studies on "evil." To read this, I recommend skimming the whole section where Z describes the Stanford Prison Experiment. Maybe watch the videos online, i It is extremely difficult to rate this book because I have a thousand thoughts about it. So I am rating it a 4-star because I DO want people to read it. However if I were ranking Zimbardo as an author alone, I would give it 2 stars. Despite Zimbardo's abysmal efforts as a writer, this is a fascinating book, which examines many known and unknown studies on "evil." To read this, I recommend skimming the whole section where Z describes the Stanford Prison Experiment. Maybe watch the videos online, instead. This section of the book is tedious, and Z summarizes it all repeatedly anyway. When it really gets interesting is AFTER the description of SPE, when Z collects many other studies with a far better methodology that look at what makes morally good or neutral people decide to do cruel things. This is the stuff that keeps social scientists awake at night, and I love it! Z draws on experiences with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Third Reich, and all of them are fascinating and horrifying examples of what seemingly good people will do to each other when an authority tells them to. I highly recommend this book for discussion groups, book clubs, etc. If you can muddle through Z's repetitive descriptions and truly awful methodology, this book brings up really fascinating questions about who we are as individuals, and whether who we are as a group is comprised of something totally different.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sitaphul

    um, so i decided to stop reading this book because it's not suprising to me (in the LEAST!) that a bunch of college educated, middle-class white kids would act all brutish and prison-guardesque if they didn't have to be responsibile for any of their actions, and stuff. hello, blackwater? hello, um, the u.s. army? hello, fox news network? screw situational ethics when white boys have the whole world as their prison den! also, i stopped reading this book because zimbardo (google his picture! eerie um, so i decided to stop reading this book because it's not suprising to me (in the LEAST!) that a bunch of college educated, middle-class white kids would act all brutish and prison-guardesque if they didn't have to be responsibile for any of their actions, and stuff. hello, blackwater? hello, um, the u.s. army? hello, fox news network? screw situational ethics when white boys have the whole world as their prison den! also, i stopped reading this book because zimbardo (google his picture! eerie!) almost ran my sister over in his SUV back in her stanford days.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Viktor Stoyanov

    Тhe Stanford Prison Experiment. The reason why I have … and probably most of the readers have reached to this book. Having in mind this, I would have to split my rating in two: First part: 5/5 Just fascinated of the significance of the experiment. Here it is completely narrated and analyzed in 2:1 ratio, which is a good proportion for the book and for the reader to interpreter what happened and what conclusion may be pointed out. It frighten us with results of how easily people can be manipulated Тhe Stanford Prison Experiment. The reason why I have … and probably most of the readers have reached to this book. Having in mind this, I would have to split my rating in two: First part: 5/5 Just fascinated of the significance of the experiment. Here it is completely narrated and analyzed in 2:1 ratio, which is a good proportion for the book and for the reader to interpreter what happened and what conclusion may be pointed out. It frighten us with results of how easily people can be manipulated into a role — both guards and prisoners. And also – the supervisors of the imaginary institution, the priest, the layer, the relatives of the convicts and so on every possible role in the role play. The events are told as happened and examined on a bonus layer of thoughts. Such empiric scientific work show us principles of less known disciplines as the social engineering, which I find myself mainly interested in. Zimbardo's experiment remains a gold mine for the psychology researchers and give us all the rest a good knowledge of the behavior psychology. Second part 3/5 I wasn't so impressed with what later came (after the SPE) in this book though. The life of the involved in the experiment, the well-known stories (examples) of war-related inhuman behavior are told in a viewer point of view with the idea of further analysis. This I find it more of a “general philosophizing” (as one of the prisoners was charged) and not so valuable in context. Easily, the book could have been half of it and it would be a great thought-provoking read. Here, in the second part, I see the shadow of Zimbardo’s political views and even autobiographic elements. Later in the years TV show interviews, personal relations and so on, does not bring the same energy as the first part and definitely does not bring added value. Not to mention the endless footnotes and repeats. In general: 4/5 Zimbardo narrates well. His work is of a great importance and great interest of mine. His approach of telling the story is a scientific one, logical and structured. At high level, but in a level not to be confusing with too specific terms, not explained additionally. We can learn a lot and important insights, behavior psychology related. Would recommend the book to all psychology interested readers, those who like to explain to themselves the human behavior, those managing people in any way, prison guards  and would strongly recommend it to other writers. I will finish with favorite quotation (I counted in two times mentioned in the book): “Sometimes I think this whole world Is one big prison yard Some of us are prisoners The rest of us are guards” Bob Dylan

  20. 4 out of 5

    John Wiswell

    This is one of those books that exposes ratings as preposterous. Any conscientious person ought to read segments of this book, particularly Zimbardo's early chapters on his infamous Stanley Prison Experiment. Performed decades ago, it exposed that the horrors of Abu Ghraib were not the implausible acts of monsters, but the likely results of unchecked prison power situations. Zimbardo hired students to roleplay for two weeks as either guards or prisoners in a mock facility. Within a week he had t This is one of those books that exposes ratings as preposterous. Any conscientious person ought to read segments of this book, particularly Zimbardo's early chapters on his infamous Stanley Prison Experiment. Performed decades ago, it exposed that the horrors of Abu Ghraib were not the implausible acts of monsters, but the likely results of unchecked prison power situations. Zimbardo hired students to roleplay for two weeks as either guards or prisoners in a mock facility. Within a week he had to shut it down because the physical and sexual abuse of the faux-guards and the mental agony of the faux-prisoners had risen to highly illegal levels. Those college students weren’t monsters; even the worst offenders felt trapped in a bizarre system that was far too similar to military and prisons around our country and world, and it shone a horrible light on why prisons become so bad. Zimbardo recounts having been so moved at the end of the experiment that he wanted to devote the rest of his life to curbing situational factors that cause us to do evil to our fellow human beings, and this book is his giant argument for the cause. Yet The Lucifer Effect is highly uneven. I’m uncomfortable with it as a whole because it does not solely present science, but from its Forewords, claims scientism and desire to change the lives of the readers. Agendas can compromise data and would rightly leave audiences skeptical of Zimbardo’s findings. What stories didn’t he tell you? The guards seemed to grow mildly abusive incredibly quickly – did Zimbardo ever leave out factors as to why? Did he ever embellish stories from his experiment? In documenting the lives of guards from the real Abu Ghraib, some of whom he met, did he crop their personal histories to make them seem more sympathetic? This all rightly rests at his feet because he is not sharing science, but an argument about human behavior. If this man was willing to wait a week watching such abuse happen, he might be capable of much more, especially if convinced his disobeying scientific truth was for a greater good that he’s not necessarily serving. He deserves respect for admitting his own biases, where many socially concerned scientists will try to hide them, but those biases are dangerous and invite more skepticism the farther the book strays from things he actually researched. More than half of the book is speculation or third-hand-at-best analysis building a case for the evils of unthinking obedience or situational factors. Zimbardo claims that obedience has caused more evil in the world than rebellion, and whether this is empirically sound, he gives many strong examples of obedience’s problems. He cites studies in which nurses gave what they believed were dangerous doses of medicine to patients upon orders and research that shows significant numbers of airline accidents arrive due to an underling’s obedience to the captain’s orders. He also cites ample historical events, such as African genocides, Rape of Nanking and the Nazi Holocaust, which would have required both significant evil and significant compliance (and for which we have firsthand reports documenting both). Whether this is substantial research is debatable, but as a plea for his audience to consider when they are inactive, or why they rise to negative behavior, it’s likely to be effective on some. For others, it will be a casualty of the struggle between scientific journalism and activism. Many sections left me craving more science, or more rigorous and open definitions of the topics. The handling of Situationalism and Individualism is particularly cloying. Zimbardo opens his book arguing that Situationalism (the view that situations influence our behavior) is significant or dominant, as opposed to Individualism (the view that our choices or brain-makeup influence our behavior). As the study goes out we find cases like that of Sarge, whose individual history of nigh-homelessness and street life clearly affected the way he behaved in the given situations, and perfectly explained why he deviated from other prisoners in the same situations. This was a case of clear Individualism - not so good for that thesis statement about Situationalism. Worse, it would suggest something about the more homogenous reactions of more affluent subjects, but a potentially radically different results-set for people of other walks of life. While the study provided several examples of common reactions (given the guards demanding prisoners sing their numbers, virtually all prisoners sang them) and thereby verified that Situationalism has some validity, it didn’t bear out that Individualism was irrelevant. Things grew murkier when Zimbardo attempted to draw conclusions about human behavior from outliers, like the “John Wayne” guard who was unusually sadistic and thus not a proper example for how Situationalism determines our behavior; if it was, everyone would behave as he did. Instead, it’s more likely that the “John Wayne”-styled guard had both Individualist characteristics and Situational responses. Ultimately this can become like arguing how to pronounce tomato: a sociopath has trouble forming neural connections that produce common human reactions to certain stimuli, and has a different set instead. One can say the situation dominates by always eliciting this reaction from the sociopath, or that the sociopath’s individual brain chemistry dominates by always producing this reaction to a situation. When arguments reach this level, they are not helpful to expanding our knowledge about behavior or social situations. Thus the preoccupation with validating Situationalism distracted from the actual evidence, and from a correct holistic view of the results. At over six hundred pages, I’d rather the book indulge in greater specifics rather than arguing myopically for an idea of Situationalism. The greater problem is that, at over six hundred pages, I want more firsthand material than this. The latter half of the book drags miserably with hypotheses about government cover-ups and what might have gone through the minds of guards at Abu Ghraib. Following a real study with hard data, this post hoc guessing about strangers, even when informed by biographical information, does not illuminate. There comes a point when I began to lose faith in Zimbardo’s hypothesis because he was stretching everything in the world to fit his idea of Situational corruption. Yet we know that there are situations that make us freeze up – those times when we think someone else will call the cops or stop to help, or when we tuck our heads down and don’t disagree with a bully. Zimbardo has historical examples where these obedient passivities cost lives, but he would have been better served to pick only five or ten of them and make his argument concise and deep. It would then have let him transcend so many shortcuts, like blaming “the system” for defending itself, when any scientist knows there is no such thing as “the system” – only people behaving together.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Yasmine Abdelhai

    unnecessary elboration in regards to the abu graham prison incidents and the stanford prison experiment. The book doesn't not prove a theory or give an understanding of the process of becoming evil. that being said chapter 15, and 16 went breifly over the psychological/ behavioural factors that makes people turn bad and then also breifly how should we deal with evil people when we are faced with situation where they try to dehumanize us etc. but then in the chapter after that he goes and gives e unnecessary elboration in regards to the abu graham prison incidents and the stanford prison experiment. The book doesn't not prove a theory or give an understanding of the process of becoming evil. that being said chapter 15, and 16 went breifly over the psychological/ behavioural factors that makes people turn bad and then also breifly how should we deal with evil people when we are faced with situation where they try to dehumanize us etc. but then in the chapter after that he goes and gives examples of people who stood in the face of evil and they were some how punished by the society latter on! :D i was right all along Human beings are not so human after all we are doomed ! :D

  22. 4 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    This is an important book. It presents a perspective on the roots of human behavior, let's call it "the situational approach," against other orientations. As Philip Zimbardo notes, many of us commonly commit the "Fundamental Attribution Error," in which (page 212) "dispositions matter more than situations." That is, when others do something of which we disapprove, we tend to assume that some internal motivation led them to the bad deed, rather than that they may have simply been responding to a This is an important book. It presents a perspective on the roots of human behavior, let's call it "the situational approach," against other orientations. As Philip Zimbardo notes, many of us commonly commit the "Fundamental Attribution Error," in which (page 212) "dispositions matter more than situations." That is, when others do something of which we disapprove, we tend to assume that some internal motivation led them to the bad deed, rather than that they may have simply been responding to a situation as best they could. This book strongly speaks of the value of understanding how situations can shape behavior. The book begins with a detailed description of the famous prison study, conducted by Zimbardo at Stanford University in 1971. Here, some students were assigned to play the role of prison guards and others as prisoners. After a matter of days, the experiment had to be shut down. Why? The guards begin to use their power to oppress prisoners; many prisoners lost their ability to resist and became apathetic. A stunning result, in which adopting certain roles in an experimental situation seemed to make ordinary students into devils (prison guards) or helpless individuals (prisoners). This book (page 5) "is my attempt to understand the process 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?'" In this book, Zimbardo goes from the prison experiment to the evil perpetrated at Abu Ghraib Prison. He contends that many of those involved in improper behavior toward prisoners at the Prison were probably caught up in a situation that influenced them to misbehave, rather than their being wicked to begin with. In other words, the personal dispositions of many of those caught up in mistreating prisoners was not because they were "bad apples," but because they were apples caught up in a "bad barrel," or system. Zimbardo, at a number of points, argues that it is very easy to write off those who misbehave as bad, rather than having to deal with the far more difficult question of how to create situations or systems or norms that move us toward positive rather than negative behavior. Key aspects of situations that affect our behavior: social roles, rules, norms, structures, and so on. He summarizes the various instances of people doing bad things by noting that (page 444): "We have witnessed the conditions that reveal the brutal side of human nature and have been surprised at the ease and the extent to which good people can become so cruel." In the final chapter, he presents an approach toward trying to impel people away from evil and toward good (or heroism). He provides a "ten-step program," summarized by a series of aphorisms such as "I made a mistake"; "I am responsible"; "I can oppose unjust systems." He concludes by developing a perspective on what heroism means, examples of heroism, and different types of heroism. He refers to Arendt's argument about Adolf Eichmann exemplifying "the banality of evil," in which an ordinary person (Eichmann) commits such stunning evil. Zimbardo argues that we should strive to create "the banality of heroism," where ordinary people can behave in exemplary fashion. Will readers accept his arguments? Reading comments from other reviewers certainly suggests that his work will not appeal to those who do not believe that structures, systems, and institutions can pervert ordinary people. An individualistic society like the United States makes acceptance of a situational perspective problematic for many. Whatever one's perspective on such issues, though, Zimbardo's book forces the reader to address fundamental issues of human good and evil, and what the wellsprings of each might be.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Ever since reading Frankenstein, I have been interested in the concept of evil. How can perfectly ordinary people become perpetrators of such horrible things? What turns a good person evil? These are the fundamental questions that Dr Philip Zimbardo attempts to answer in the book The Lucifer Effect. In 1971 Zimbardo conducted an experiment at Stanford University funded by the U.S. Navy into the causes of conflict between military guards and prisoners. This experiment is known as the Stanford pri Ever since reading Frankenstein, I have been interested in the concept of evil. How can perfectly ordinary people become perpetrators of such horrible things? What turns a good person evil? These are the fundamental questions that Dr Philip Zimbardo attempts to answer in the book The Lucifer Effect. In 1971 Zimbardo conducted an experiment at Stanford University funded by the U.S. Navy into the causes of conflict between military guards and prisoners. This experiment is known as the Stanford prison experiment and is wildly studied and found in most psychology textbooks. Then in 2003, news broke about human rights violations that were happening in Abu Ghraib, including torture and abuse to the prisoners by the United States Army and the Central Intelligence Agency. Philip Zimbardo appeared as a psychological expert during the legal proceedings conducted by the US Supreme Court. This lead to the writing and publication of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. With a growing interest in psychology, when this book was recommended to me by a BookTuber (along with others) I knew I had to read this first. I have already done a blog post on this book, regarding the concept of enclothed cognition. There is a lot of interesting things to learn about psychology within the book. However this was written to help people safeguard themselves; if we can understand just how easy it is to be manipulated and corrupted, we are more likely to notice when it is happening. For me, I felt most manipulated by the American government (this is also a problem with the Australian government as well) with the way they spin things, that lead to the treatment of prisoners. If you look at the trials that came out of the Abu Ghraib incident, many people were punished but people like Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney or even George W. Bush never stood trial for their actions. The fact that Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay are classified as Detention Centres so they do not have to abide by the Geneva Conventions is horrifying and makes me suspect of how my country treats detainees. The Lucifer Effect is a very interesting book, I feel like I have gotten a lot out of it, although it will need to be re-read in the future. Philip Zimbardo has put a lot of information into the book, but I do wish that there was more information on some of the theories mentioned. I am fascinated by psychology theories and want to learn more on the topics. I have a list of non-fiction books to get through, that might help me develop a better understanding. I recommend The Lucifer Effect to everyone, it is horrifying to read how people treat others, but it is important to understand the situations and work towards building a better solution. This review orginally appeared on my blog; http://www.knowledgelost.org/book-rev...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rachael

    If you've ever wondered how people get to "that" point when they can do something you consider heinous or evil, this is an interesting read. This book discusses the Stanford Prison Experiment and how the impact of a situation can have a greater impact on human behavior than we as an American society recognize. Although everyone has individual choice, we habitually underestimate the impact of the situation on the individual in both positive and negative cases. It is a fascinating and intriguing t If you've ever wondered how people get to "that" point when they can do something you consider heinous or evil, this is an interesting read. This book discusses the Stanford Prison Experiment and how the impact of a situation can have a greater impact on human behavior than we as an American society recognize. Although everyone has individual choice, we habitually underestimate the impact of the situation on the individual in both positive and negative cases. It is a fascinating and intriguing topic and will definitely make you question our treatment of guards and prisoners.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    Situations matter, in 500 pages. I was shocked to learn children were (are?) detained at Gitmo. Other than that, ordinary humans being capable of great good or great bad, depending on the situation, isn’t a new revelation. Whistle blowers getting punished while monsters get praised, also not surprising. It isn’t a few bad apples, it is the barrel. Pointing out that terrorists don’t start out crazy, they start out patriotic, is unsettling. Ultimately I gave Zimbardo’s book five stars because of th Situations matter, in 500 pages. I was shocked to learn children were (are?) detained at Gitmo. Other than that, ordinary humans being capable of great good or great bad, depending on the situation, isn’t a new revelation. Whistle blowers getting punished while monsters get praised, also not surprising. It isn’t a few bad apples, it is the barrel. Pointing out that terrorists don’t start out crazy, they start out patriotic, is unsettling. Ultimately I gave Zimbardo’s book five stars because of the detailed account of the Stanford Prison Experiment, reference to several known psychological experiments, and his knowledge of military and CIA abuses. Not sure I buy in to his last chapter about how to resist a bad barrel. We humans are punitive and cruel to those who do not conform. Then again, humans have managed to create good barrels, how else would the SPE have found good kids or Abu Ghraib have had decorated men and women? Figuring out how to get situations that keep people away from becoming monsters is a worthy endeavor.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    This was a really interesting book about the Zimbardo prison experiment. If you are a psychology student, you will have to study Zimbardo and social psychology at some point. I think this was a really accessible, easy to read book about the experiment. It takes you day by day through what happened during the Zimbardo experiment, a discussion around the ethics, criticism. It also looks at other studies on obedience, compliance and conformity. It also looks at Abu Ghraib prison abuse and torture as This was a really interesting book about the Zimbardo prison experiment. If you are a psychology student, you will have to study Zimbardo and social psychology at some point. I think this was a really accessible, easy to read book about the experiment. It takes you day by day through what happened during the Zimbardo experiment, a discussion around the ethics, criticism. It also looks at other studies on obedience, compliance and conformity. It also looks at Abu Ghraib prison abuse and torture as well as heros and people who go against societal pressure. Even though, this is a really interesting study, you do have to take this book with a pinch of salt. It is going go be biased and it does gloss over the BBC prison experiment criticism and findings pretty quickly. Towards the end it did get pretty political, which I wasn't a fan of and did find hard to read. I wouldn't recommend this book to the general public, because there is a lot of psychology terminology and jargon which isn't explained and won't make sense to you if you do not study psychology, but if you do, I can't see why you wouldn't like this book. Just a heads up, the font is really small! Overall, this was incredibly interesting and definitely helped further my understanding of the study

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rissa

    This was a new view on good and evil and it was wonderfully done. This was definitely a long book to read. Take your time while reading this because each chapter gets deeper and the information builds upon what goes on in the world, in good people, and in the people that turned evil.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nurlan Imangaliyev

    After reading this book I am feeling quite devastated. Somewhere deep inside I even wish I haven't read it at all. The book uncovers the ugly nature of human beings, the things they are capable of doing when granted authority, anonymity or when put in a group of similarly mischievous people. It contains a number of different findings on how and why "normal" and "decent" people find themselves involved in despicable acts of evil. One might get really depressed by this book, beware...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Howard

    The Lucifer Effect in many ways reads like an introductory social psychology book as Zimbardo trudges through experiments that have become staples for undergraduate psychology courses: Stanley Milgram's obedience experiment, Asch's conformity experiment, and, of course, the Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo makes a strong case for how bad systems, or "bad barrels" produce "bad apples", that atrocities are committed by regular people, often, because of situational factors. Evil acts aren't jus The Lucifer Effect in many ways reads like an introductory social psychology book as Zimbardo trudges through experiments that have become staples for undergraduate psychology courses: Stanley Milgram's obedience experiment, Asch's conformity experiment, and, of course, the Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo makes a strong case for how bad systems, or "bad barrels" produce "bad apples", that atrocities are committed by regular people, often, because of situational factors. Evil acts aren't just isolated incidents. This includes police brutality, child abuse in the catholic church, and war crimes by the American military. It's a shame Zimbardo doesn't turn his critical eye toward the political system as a whole. Each of us is part of bad systems, and once inside of them, any of use are capable of great evils, or what Zimbardo refers to as the "banality of evil." Abu Ghraib. Nazi concentration camps. Gitmo. Routine police abuse of citizens. Lynchings. Imprisonment and torture of innocent people. Each of us are capable of these things, given the right circumstances--according to Zimbardo. One of the most fascinating threads I found weaved throughout the book was the question of free will. Zimbardo tries with all his effort to avoid having to address the question. He doesn't want to alienate his readers. He wants to be true to his assumptions, and make his case. Yet, he walks a thin, ambiguous line between free will and determinism. He comes as close as possible as one can to say we are objects left purely to the whims of genetic, biological, and social factors without saying it. On the other hand, he frequently states that we should hold individuals responsible for their 'evil acts.' He doesn't explore this philosophical quandary, which to be fair, would distract from the great psychological contributions of the book. I don't necessarily fault him for this, I only wish he would clearly state his assumptions up front. That aside, I found his book to be too tedious, full of excessive quotations and details--especially from the Stanford Prison Experiment. He spent half the book recounting this with obsessive attention. The Lucifer Effect seems more like Zimbardo's effort to clear his name and his work. He wants the world to know the nuts and bolts of his ground-breaking experiment, to own up to the harm he caused to its participants, and to show the great insights gained from it. He wants to make the case for the Abu Ghraib torturers he defended, for which he feels he weren't fairly heard out--that they were too harshly punished for something most of us would have taken part in, given the circumstances. This book felt more like a "look at me and my great work" display than a more general presentation implied by the book's title. I expected something far less in the weeds, something less limited to the SPE and Abu Ghraib. I wanted something that covered the wider history, and broad theory behind the subject. I find this book helpful, and full of great observations. It isn't light reading. I would offer up this book as a psychologically-rooted source for my personal criticism of the State, and why political systems continue to produce such bitter, and toxic fruits. One shouldn't think this book is all darkness and cynicism. Zimbardo writes humanely, and almost warmly about a terrifying matter, ending the book on a positive note. We are not constrained to our systems, even if we find ourselves inside intoxicating ones. If we want to make a difference in the world we should change the systems, which create our situational factors, which influence--the intellectually honest Zimbardo would use the word cause--our behavioral outcomes. Evil may be banal and common, but so is heroism and goodness.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Noah W

    "Am I capable of evil?" is the question that I want you to consider over and over again as we journey together..." ~ Zimbardo This book explains how "normal" people can commit atrocities. He delves into both physical and academic examples of normal students and citizens that turn into brutally ruthless bullies. The Holocaust, Abu Graib, and his infamous Stanford Prison Experiment are the main case studies that Zimbardo uses to drive his point home. Some important lessons: - People will inflict pain "Am I capable of evil?" is the question that I want you to consider over and over again as we journey together..." ~ Zimbardo This book explains how "normal" people can commit atrocities. He delves into both physical and academic examples of normal students and citizens that turn into brutally ruthless bullies. The Holocaust, Abu Graib, and his infamous Stanford Prison Experiment are the main case studies that Zimbardo uses to drive his point home. Some important lessons: - People will inflict pain if a strong authority figure commands them. - Dehumanizing subjects allows bullies to justify violence and abuse. - Peer pressure can force compliance over the short and long term. - Elitism and victim mentalities pose a great threat to their respective holders. - One person making a stand can prevent bad things from happening. "Am I capable of evil?" By the end of this book, your view of society will be changed. This book would be an excellent resource or conversation starter to addressing the depravity of man or the importance of understanding issues of morality. We do not rise to the occasion... we fall to the level of our training. Moving forward, I strongly believe that it is critical to examine this issue and to commit to maintaining civility at all costs, the key in making the tough decisions now, rather than later.

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