What makes good people do bad things? How can moral people be seduced to act immorally? Where is the line separating good from evil, and who is in danger of crossing it? Renowned social psychologist Philip Zimbardo has the answers, and in The Lucifer Effect
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. Zimbardo is perhaps best known as the creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment. Here, for the first time and in detail, he tells the full story of this 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 the "bad barrel" - the idea that the social setting and the system contaminate the individual, rather than the other way around.
This is a book that dares to hold a mirror up to mankind, showing us that we might not be who we think we are. While forcing us to reexamine what we are capable of doing when caught up in the crucible of behavioral dynamics, though, Zimbardo also offers hope. We are capable of resisting evil, he argues, and can even teach ourselves to act heroically.
©2007 Philip G. Zimbardo, Inc. (P)2011 Tantor
"Zimbardo challenges readers] to look beyond glib denunciations of evil-doers and ponder our collective responsibility for the world's ills." (Publishers Weekly)
Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.
This book redefines the perspective of good and evil, and shows us that there is no true "good" or "evil" person, only circumstances that push us toward one or the other. This book, even if it drags on at some points, is worth listening to if you wonder about what makes people good and evil.
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
I have studied the Standford Prison Experiment for many years and teach it in one of my classes in which I focus on theories of morality. The points made in documentaries and other writings I have come across have made me feel like Zimbardo has kept a very tight hand on the portrayal of this very controversial experiment (now considered unethical in psychological study circles due to the mental anguish caused to participants) and, more disturbing, his tight grip on his own reputation and role in the experiment. The fact is, Zimbardo went as crazy as any of his guards, maybe more so, considering the power he wielded in the situation, and it when his girlfriend (later his wife) who eventually pointed out that he was senselessly tormenting kids and letting them torment each other and she was the reason that the experiment ended. In almost every documentary I have seen, there is Zimbardo, employing subtle mitigations for his own behavior, using phrases like "EVEN I [emphasis mine] was affected by the power of the situation..." etc., when perhaps he should have said "ESPECIALLY I was affected by the power of the situation, which I set in motion and in which I should have shown the most responsible behavior..." In short, I always say Zimbardo as one engaging in justifying denial and rationalization.
I was impressed that in the PREFACE of this book, Zimbardo acknowledges his behavior as "evil," using that very word in regard to himself and he doesn't follow it up with his usual posturing regarding it. I also like that he emphasizes in this book that the individual is STILL RESPONSIBLE for his/her behavior, even when under the power of a situation, something I have not heard him really say in so many words before, or at least in not such clear terms.
Another reviewer complains of all the details given about the Standford Prison Experiment, but I, as someone who has studied this benchmark in group psychology for a long time, was DELIGHTED to finally get the full story.
And that he had included an entire section on individual responsibility and how to resist the power of the situation makes this a masterpiece in psychology.
Thumbs up all the way around.
(I never comment on the narrators, because I feel that is irrelevant in the evaluation of a book--hey, I am choosing to listen rather than read, so I take what I can get--but I also have to respond to the other reviewer's panning of Foley reading this text. He's not the best, but I don't find him distracting in the slightest.)
Tough to answer. It is a chore to absorb because the subject is so distasteful and contrary to wishful thinking. As far as value to my personal life is concerned, it rates in the top three. As far as enjoyability is concerned it rates low. This is a "must read" and tears away at the illusion that we are all basically averse to committing atrocious behaviors.
This is not a book about characters. It is a work on the CHARACTER of mankind.
Dunno. It is a tough book to narate because of the distasteful subject matter.
The book made me angry at my species, my government and the people who are willing to sell-out being good humans in exchange for awards, promotions or just not being punished for violating basic human ethics because of orders from peoples supposedly in positions of authority.
This is another great work that, if read by the masses, would have a positive outcome on our world because people cannot just sit back and ignore the world after experiencing "The Lucifer Effect" and the artful and determined way Zimbardo gave it to us.
I agree with Jose below, "No consideration for the reader"
The sheer ammount of minutia in this book is something to be endured rather than enjoyed.
Still, at it's core it's an interesting book, but the way it is presented leaves much to be desired.
The Lucifer Effect is the lifework of Phil Zimbardo who is famous for the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE). Much of the book is dedicated to the SPE and little attention is given to other scenarios. The day-by-day break down of the SPE is tedious and borderlines on torture. The book dedicates 16 hours to describing the complete experiment (longer than some of their subjects lasted in the experiment). Listening to the redundant and cold statements of Mr Zimbardo is only half the story; Kevin Foley’s voice is absolutely lifeless. I have kicked rocks that projected more emotion than Mr Foley. Imagine a high school 1950’s Sex Ed video, take the audio and remove all pitch –welcome to the Foley experience.
If you value your sanity buy another book. This was my first buy with Audiable and it really left me with a sour taste.
Kevin Foley did a masterful job of reading this book. His inflections and style of reading did not get old.
The look inside human nature and what can happen in superior/subordinate roles. I especially enjoyed the comprehensive details into Abu Ghraib as juxtaposed to the Stanford Prison Experiment.
His style of reading is pleasing. I got a more "storytelling" feel from his reading as opposed to just the recitation of words on a page. He brought the accounts depicted in the book to life.
It's a little long for that but I found ways to squeeze in more listening time into my days. I sure felt more productive on my way to and from work by listening to this book for school!
Will be looking for more books read by Kevin Foley.
i'm completely new to this topic... it is a great book, but it's quite long, and i lost my patience for the last part of the book..
We are every bit as complicated as it appears. However, it is humbling how easily manipulated we are by situational forces.
As an almost-a-doctor of psychology, I think this information is important for everyone to be aware of and the story is told in a fairly user-friendly way. I would definitely recommend this book to others based on that. However, the reader sounds like a robot. When I was listening to it while cooking, my boyfriend thought from the other room that I was watching 2001: A Space Odyssey. I wouldn't recommend searching out whoever's doing the audio, but it can be tolerated.
I regret that this may be a review that seems to wander over many areas and not be very focused.
The first part of the book is a summary of the Stanford Prison Experiment. In this experiment the author admits to not having kept clear control of the people in the experiment. In fact, I would say that there were incidents that he describes where he encouraged the decadent behavior, by having the leader tell "guards" (students acting as guards) to be more guard-like.
One of my questions from this experiment is how much the preconceived ideas of the students and the professor fed in to the results. There is validity to the results, as can be seen from Andersonville and the Northern prison referenced make.
In the later half of the book he moves on to Abu Grab. I must say, if I knew that this was the real focus of this book I probably would not have bought it. I did find some of the insights helpful, however this was marred by his ignorance of the military and his desire to use this as an attack against the Bush administration.
Because it is an audible book, I cannot remember all of the inaccuracies -- but here are some that I remember:
Firstly the rendition program was created by President Clinton. It was used by Bush.
Secondly his understanding of the NCOIC and his evaluations is inaccurate. the author was highly impressed with the list of medals of this soldier. As I listened to the list, it was a "normal" list for anyone who had been enlisted for 12 years (give or take) The National Defense Service Ribbon is given simply for being part of the military during a time of war, others are regular parts of the service. That is why military people call them "candy". The NCO in question had evaluations that were not impressive. If the author would have read any of the manuals on writing NCOERs he would have been less impressed.
Thirdly, he places the lack of training on the Bush administration. I see another fault. During VietNam it was decided that all PW (prisoner of War) units would be from the reserves, as a way to keep us from being part of a war that did not have public support. The unforeseen consequences of that is a less trained...less disciplined force in those positions.
I should note that I have had some exposure to a few prisons (not major, but some exposure), having worked at the US Army Retraining Brigade, the USDB (Leavenworth), and various county jails (I am a pastor). These are places of disproportionate power, but the best of them set up systems of checks and balances. Obviously there were major problems in Abu Grab -- what I would refer to as command and control issues, as well as staffing, cleanliness, etc. I would also wonder about the wisdom of using one of the worst prisons from Sadaam.
The author's interest in using this as a forum to attack the Bush administration is easily seen from his admission that the rest of the book he would be acting as prosecutor. This was the last 1/4 of the book. Again, this is not what I bought this book for.
I wonder if he would like to turn this kind of analysis to the inhumanity of taking away the dignity of work, the slavery of the welfare system, the inhumanity of bureaucracy in government, and the results of other liberal "ideals".
Again, not the book that I thought I was getting, but I did appreciate the exposure to social psychology.
Yes, if that friend is interested in psychology and/or theories about good and evil.
Zimbardo's theory is, in short, that there is no such thing as bad apples, only bad barrels. He explains this through the controversial Stanford Prison Experiment, and looks at other events (such as the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse) in this light. The Stanford Prison Experiment shows, as the Milgram experiment, that perfectly normal people are capable of doing very bad things under the right circumstances.
This is really something that should interest everyone, because most of us walk around with the idea of ourselves as someone who would never do anything evil - that we are fundamentally different from evil people. According to Zimbardo, we are all at risk of doing bad things, and he offers some insight on how to avoid it here.
Quite a lot of it is dedicated to the Stanford Prison Experiment, and everything else is based on this. It is a rather long book, slightly dry at times, but good overall. I found the descriptions of what went on in the "prison" interesting, but some people might be put off by the amount of detail put into this part. Other than that, it was thought-provoking to listen to the comparison between his experiment and real events, such as Abu Ghraib.
There have been made several documentaries about the Stanford Prison Experiment. My tag-line would probably be something about bad barrels. Or something... This is a weird question...
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