Monday, April 02, 2007

Understanding How Good People Turn Evil: The Lucifer Effect

In 1971, psychology professor Philip Zimbardo created the Stanford Prison Experiment in which 24 college students were randomly assigned the roles of prison guards and prisoners at a makeshift jail on campus.



The experiment was scheduled to run for two weeks. By Day Two, the guards were going far beyond just keeping the prisoners behind bars. In scenes eerily similar to Abu Ghraib, prisoners were stripped naked, bags put on their heads and sexually humiliated. The two-week experiment had to be canceled after just six days. Zimbardo tells the full story of the landmark study in his new book, "The Lucifer Effect." (Democracy Now! (video - real player) - Recommended! | Read the rush transcript)

Lucifer Effect website; putting the torture architects on trial
On the new Lucifer Effect website you are given the freedom to judge four US leaders who approved of the policies on which the abuse and torture [in the current "war on terror"] are based: George Tenet, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush. The charges for each leader are taken from public documents and analyses by Human Rights Watch. Vote here.


- See last Friday's broadcast of Philip Zimbardo on Democracy Now! (video - real player) - Recommended! | Read the rush transcript
- The Lucifer Effect website,
- Lucifer Effect Voting Booth
- The Stanford Prison Experiment on Wikipedia

2 comments:

Psychols said...

It is not surprising that the veneer of decency is stripped away. What is suprising is that it is stripped away so very quickly. We are what we do, and we do as we are told.

Erik Abbink said...

I agree. I'm wondering what part of it is the "human" factor, and how much "conditioning" by the current social environment has played part in the speediness of the Lucifer-effect. Would it be any different id we had taken a bunch of Asians, Inuit, Russians, or Bushmen?

I guess we're not going to find out soon.

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