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The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil Paperback – January 22, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Psychologist Zimbardo masterminded the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, in which college students randomly assigned to be guards or inmates found themselves enacting sadistic abuse or abject submissiveness. In this penetrating investigation, he revisits—at great length and with much hand-wringing—the SPE study and applies it to historical examples of injustice and atrocity, especially the Abu Ghraib outrages by the U.S. military. His troubling finding is that almost anyone, given the right "situational" influences, can be made to abandon moral scruples and cooperate in violence and oppression. (He tacks on a feel-good chapter about "the banality of heroism," with tips on how to resist malign situational pressures.) The author, who was an expert defense witness at the court-martial of an Abu Ghraib guard, argues against focusing on the dispositions of perpetrators of abuse; he insists that we blame the situation and the "system" that constructed it, and mounts an extended indictment of the architects of the Abu Ghraib system, including President Bush. Combining a dense but readable and often engrossing exposition of social psychology research with an impassioned moral seriousness, Zimbardo challenges readers to look beyond glib denunciations of evil-doers and ponder our collective responsibility for the world's ills. 23 photos. (Apr. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Social psychologist Zimbardo is best known as the father of the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, which used a simulated prison populated with student volunteers to illustrate the extent to which identity is situated within a social setting; student volunteers randomly chosen to play guards became cruel and authoritarian, while those playing inmates became rebellious and depressed. With this book, Zimbardo couples a thorough narrative of the Stanford Prison Experiment with an analysis of the social dynamics of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, arguing that the "experimental dehumanization" of the former is instructive in understanding the abusive conduct of guards at the latter. This comparison, which is the book's core insight, is embedded in a sprawling discussion about situational influences that cobbles together a discussion of the psychology of evil, a strong criticism of the Bush administration, and a chapter celebrating heroism and calling for greater social bravery. This account's Abu Ghraib focus will generate demand. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Everything does tie in nicely together at the end though.
The book does a great job of masterfully bringing in everything together, experiments related to the SPE, the SPE itself, and what it all means to a great conclusion. It is a harrowing one; that everyone has the capacity for evil, but the last chapter in this book explains the flip side of that, which is that we all have the capacity for good as well.
Just so you are warned, this Book contains very graphic material. Graphic depictions of Violence, Horrific sexual abuse, and strong language. If you are easily offended, this book may be too much for you.
A second warning regarding the author himself. He does a very good job of calling attention to situational influence. He shows just how much people can be 'corrupted' by situational factors. He details the results of numerous experiments, and demonstrates the similarities between the experiments and real world events quite effectively.... to a point. Specifically, in Chapter fifteen, as he analyzes Abu Ghraib, and demonstrates how situational forces trumped dispositional qualities in the individuals involved, right up until he gets to the top of the Chain of command. unfortunately, at this point, his personal political views prevent him from completing the situational analysis. This is really too bad, as he does such an excellent job of it up to this point. It would have been so much better if he could have completed the circle. Fortunately, his personal prejudices are relatively easy to spot, and with that knowledge, the attentive reader can work it out on their own. It is certainly not something that detracts from the book, just something to be mindful of so as not to miss the bigger picture.
Besides, Dr. Zimbardo tells and documents how good people - at least good students - may become evil in a very short time (The Stanford experiment on students etc.). Let us hope there is a way back for recent evil-doers who still have a conscience. And it was the same way with Greek soldiers that were in the service of the Junta too. The poor soldiers had to do bad things for their leaders, and turned bad.
There are more recent examples from the time the American Army was in Irak and pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison leaked out. The book covers it.
Then, why four stars and not five? Regardless that it is good backgroup material, tiredness has it its say here and now: The book is so long.