Don’t Miss This NPR Audio on Situational Psychology!

1 05 2007

As I listened to Zimbardo’s wonderful radio interview this morning, I thought about kid-hitting! This brilliant situational psychologist who followed up on Milgram’s seminal experiments with shock “learning”, explains how the unhealthy environments of power and control he has studied, make even gentle, loving, anti-war individuals turn monstrous, make them inflict and then justify any brutality (including unimaginable emotional abuse) committed on the weak and subservient, the moment they are made into authority figures and perceive their control is challenged by those entrusted to their care.
And it’s also about The Emperor’s New Clothes, why good people can’t “see” how wicked it is and instead become complicit themselves, maybe assuming it’s a necessary human evil. I hope to work on this more with some of you, so please listen and think . . .

‘Lucifer Effect’ Asks Why Good People Go Bad


(Audio available at the link.)

Fresh Air from WHYY, May 1, 2007 · Best known for the landmark Stanford Prison Experiment — in which student volunteers in a mock prison transformed with startling speed into sadistic guards or emotionally broken prisoners — Philip Zimbardo has written a book on the psychology of the unspeakable.

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.



4 responses

1 05 2007

I just listened to it a second time. Wow.

Obviously my keen interest in such situational psychology right now is because it sounds as if it might apply to how good, loving people can become religious-ritual childbeaters playing a dehumanized power role based on this grand godly “train up a child” plan, become faceless authority monsters to their own beloved children and not be able to see it themselves or realize what they are doing, or how to stop before they really hurt their subjects. And all the people around them fall into their own roles, and can’t see it either.

Government underminers too, maybe, even with the best of intentions. . .if so, the solution is that they have to be STOPPED and extricated from the whole situation so they can become the unique individuals they were before. What’s that bible verse about losing yourself?

2 05 2007

Just came from the bookstore, where I bought The Lucifer Effect. It’s hefty. In more ways than one. 🙂

I’ll keep you posted but first I have two history books, that Favorite Daughter and I plan to read “together” before she tries a different American history class in the fall, replacing the one she dropped (see below for that story):
Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States”
Sarah Vowell’s “The Partly Cloudy Patriot”

They are BOUND to be more gripping power of story than this!

5 05 2007

Some Zimbardo endorsements

Professor Zimbardo deserves heartfelt thanks for disclosing and illuminating the dark, hidden corners of the human soul.
— Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic

This is a book for our times, a multilayered classic. What is truly remarkable is its blending of sensitive personal exploration, brilliant social-psychological analysis, and sustained ethical passion.
— Robert Jay Lifton, author of The Nazi Doctors and Superpower Syndrome

If there has been a more important and compelling book written in the last twenty-five years, I’ve not encountered it. Phil Zimbardo’s engaging and beautifully written tour de force uncovers the sources of evil–big and small. The Lucifer Effect accomplishes more than simply making the darkness visible; it also helps to make lightness possible. It is crucial reading for everyone.
— Jon D. Hanson, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

5 05 2007

LOTS of great links to his interviews and research, both print and audio here.

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