It is amazing to think that a perfectly good individual could just turn evil. This brings us to question ourselves if we are capable of evil. Most people would want to say “no”, but based on Zimbardo’s findings we should not reach this conclusion too quickly. In opening the book, we see an image from M.C. Escher’s “Circle Limit IV,” and depending on how we see this image, we will either see angels or demons/devils. Fundamentally what is derived from the image, are some psychological truths that we can’t deny. First, our world consists of both good and evil. Second, there is a fine line between good and evil which can easily be permeated. Third, it is possible for angels to become devils and vice-versa. There are many interpretations of evil, but what is it from a psychological standpoint? According to Zimbardo, evil is the intentional behavior that creates harm, abuse or dehumanization or furthermore using authority and power to get others to act as such. Throughout the book, we learn the dynamics of character transformations and evil from a psychological standpoint. Zimbardo’s book focuses greatly on the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) but also sheds light on the opposite end of the spectrum: heroism.
Zimbardo’s book should be approached with a psychological perspective in mind. Zimbardo is a professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford University. He has successfully sold millions of copies of his more famous works and is very involved in the Stanford Research center at Stanford University. Zimbardo is considered an expert by many in psychological studies, especially concerning character transformations due to his world-known Stanford Prison Experiment.
The Lucifer Effect comes with the premise that we really only know ourselves and our limits from the limited experiences we’ve had in familiar environments and situations. What happens though once we are encountered by unfamiliar situations and environments? Assumingly, most people are moral and are well grounded in their own morality. Although, through Zimbardo’s book, we learn that morality can easily be disengaged with a certain amount of ease, especially in dehumanizing situations and environments.
So, what was the Stanford Prison Experiment exactly? Zimbardo conducted a voluntary psychological research study where participants volunteered to either act as prisoners or guards (randomly chosen) in a simulated prison environment. The participants consisted of male college students and were offered $15 per day for their voluntary participation. The study consisted of 24 students divided up as prisoners and guards. The interesting part about the study was that the participants could quit at any time, but interestingly some stuck it out the whole time through and we will later see some of the effects and lessons associated.
The Stanford Prison Experiment was a classic example of unfamiliar situations influencing how people acted and demonstrated how an institutional setting could alter...