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The Stanford Prison Experiment: A Simulation Study on the Psychology of Imprisonment


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"How we went about testing these questions and what we found may astound you. Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress. Please read the story of what happened and what it tells us about the nature of human nature."

–Professor Philip G. Zimbardo

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When Dr. Philip Zimbardo, author of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, first appeared, he and Dr. Phil examined what makes a good person do bad things. Now, they continue to explore blind obedience to authority and how social influences can have a negative impact on your life. Don't miss Dr. Zimbardo's eye-opening experiment on group conformity with teen girls. Would your daughter follow the crowd and bully an innocent victim? And, an ex-gang member speaks out about gang prevention and finding the courage to choose his own path. Plus, learn about Dr. Zimbardo's Heroic Imagination Project that teaches participants how to become everyday heroes.

elcome to, official web site of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil (Random House, ). In this book, I summarize more than 30 years of research on factors that can create a "perfect storm" which leads good people to engage in evil actions. This transformation of human character is what I call the "Lucifer Effect," named after God's favorite angel, Lucifer, who fell from grace and ultimately became Satan.

Rather than providing a religious analysis, however, I offer a psychological account of how ordinary people sometimes turn evil and commit unspeakable acts. As part of this account, The Lucifer Effect tells, for the first time, the full story behind the Stanford Prison Experiment, a now-classic study I conducted in In that study, normal college students were randomly assigned to play the role of guard or inmate for two weeks in a simulated prison, yet the guards quickly became so brutal that the experiment had to be shut down after only six days.

How and why did this transformation take place, and what does it tell us about recent events such as the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses in Iraq? Equally important, what does it say about the "nature of human nature," and what does it suggest about effective ways to prevent such abuses in the future?

Please join me in a journey that the poet Milton might describe as making darkness visible. Although it is often hard to read about evil up close and personal, we must understand its causes in order to contain and transform it through wise decisions and innovative communal actions. Indeed, in my view, there is no more urgent task that faces us today.

   — Philip Zimbardo
   Professor Emeritus
   Stanford University

About the Book

About the Movie

About Phil Zimbardo

Stanford Prison Experiment

Celebrating Heroism

Resisting Influence


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The Lucifer Effect

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil
by Philip Zimbardo
Random House Publishing Group, 1st Ed. Reprint () (public library)
Summarized by Joshua Elle


In a compelling story of his own life&#;s journey, Phil Zimbardo juxtaposes his famous Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) and the equally famous Milgram experiment on obedience to authority with the scandalous events at the Abu Ghraib prison during the war in Iraq. The title, The Lucifer Effect, refers to the extreme transformative arc from good to evil that God’s favorite angel Lucifer underwent, and provides a context within which to examine lesser human transformations from good to evil. His main point is that while individuals should be held responsible for their own conduct, we must also examine the Situational and Systemic factors that shape individual conduct. We must accept that there aren&#;t just bad apples, but bad barrels, and in turn bad barrel makers. Zimbardo&#;s three tiered analysis categories are: Person, Situation, and System. The conclusion of the book proposes to continue to study the power of Situational and Systemic forces that can influence normal individuals to commit evil, inhumane acts, but also with the thought of turning that influence in the direction of heroic, humane behavior.

Application to Ethical Systems

It is rarely reasonable to attribute bad organizational outcomes solely to the few individuals who get caught. Zimbardo&#;s approach to examining the Situational and Systemic factors, rather than merely the Personal factors, should help readers to inoculate their organizations against unethical behavior. Specifically, precautionary measures should include avoiding the belief that individuals are invulnerable to Situational forces, being wary of the increased power of Situational forces in novel situations, and knowing that seemingly benign details present in the Situation and System can have deleterious effects, which can quickly become uncontrollable. The Lucifer Effect can also be seen as a stern reminder to take greater care in designing the systems we use to keep organizations functioning, and to take great care in the day to day leadership of organizations.

Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1: The Psychology of Evil: Situated Character Transformations
The journey begins with the question, &#;am I capable of evil?&#; Zimbardo then highlights three psychological truths: the world is filled with both good and evil; the barrier between the two is permeable; and angels and devils can switch.

In Zimbardo&#;s words, “evil consists in intentionally behaving in ways that harm, abuse, demean, dehumanize, or destroy innocent others &#; or using one&#;s authority and systemic power to encourage or permit others to do so on your behalf.”

The red thread of evil is traced through a number of nefarious systems of power that ended up committing atrocious crimes against humanity, from Homer’s account of the Trojan War where Agamemnon orders the slaughtering of Trojan women and children, to the Hutus slaughtering the Tutsis in Rwanda in the early s, and to the Japanese slaughtering Chinese civilians during World War II. The abject dehumanization and moral disengagement that facilitated these atrocities is also observed in laboratories like Zimbardo’s SPE and in the Abu Ghraib prison.

Chapter 2: Sunday&#;s Surprise Arrests
This chapter begins by highlighting the characteristics of Palo Alto, California, from where the SPE participants are drawn. Zimbardo compares the characteristics of the community of Palo Alto with that of the Bronx, New York by describing a field study he conducted that compared the treatment an abandoned automobile in each neighborhood. The situational factors present in the Bronx created anonymity and deindividuation; the automobile was plundered shortly after being abandoned. The same automobile in the setting of a Palo Alto community where there was a lack of anonymity and individuation went untouched. Within that setting, the remainder of the chapter describes the details of how the initial arrests of the SPE participants were carried out.

Chapter 3: Let Sunday&#;s Degradation Rituals Begin
Once the prisoners and guards slip into their respective roles it is not long before degradation begins. The rules of the prison community were expressly intended to create a harmonious setting, but with the donning of the guards&#; and prisoners&#; titles and attire, the guards asserted their new authority with creative evil or inaction, whereas the prisoners became rather submissive.

Chapter 4: Monday&#;s Prisoner Rebellion
This chapter recounts how each individual gets further into his role. Some of the prisoners do begin rebelling, even become so distraught that they have to be removed from the experiment.

Chapter 5: Tuesday&#;s Double Trouble: Visitors and Rioters
Family members of the prisoners visiting the prison see the mental and physical toll that the SPE has taken upon their sons, boyfriends, or brothers. They leave convincing themselves that the mock-prisoners are tough and that they can endure, rather than thinking to question the sense in continuing to conduct such an experiment that would exact such a toll on their loved ones. In other words, dispositional factors are used to avoid confronting the Situational and Systemic flaws that have arisen. By now, Zimbardo himself felt that he was ever more enveloped in his role as a prison superintendent, and no longer an unbiased, objective researcher.

Chapter 6: Wednesday Is Spiraling Out of Control
A priest is called in to speak with the prisoners, and even he gets sucked into the role pressed upon him by the Stanford Prison. Two standby participants are inserted into the roles of prisoners, one as an agent provocateur working for Zimbardo who soon turns to aid his fellow prisoner, and a second who begins to wage a battle of wills against the prison guards and administration by starting a hunger strike.

Chapter 7: The Power of Parole
A parole board is convened that is made up of one man recently paroled from the California State prison system. Despite his having been turned down by many a parole board during his lengthy sentence, he fails to act compassionately toward these mock prisoners. He is overcome by the situation, and pulled down into his role on the other side of the table. When asked if the prisoners would be willing to forfeit their pay for the experiment in exchange for their freedom, they agree that they would, but still allow themselves to be handcuffed and escorted back to their cells.

Chapter 8: Thursday&#;s Reality Confrontations
By now the roles have come to rule not only the participants&#; emotions, but their reasoning. Later in the evening Zimbardo is confronted by a recent doctoral graduate, who is also Zimbardo&#;s romantic interest. She exclaims that what he was doing to those boys was terrible. Her message faced stern resistance by Zimbardo, and it wasn&#;t until past midnight that he was won over, apologized to her, and resolved to terminate the experiment come morning. As this unfolded the guards were subjecting the prisoners to sexually humiliating treatment, prompting one of Zimbardo&#;s assistants to also conclude that the experiment should be terminated.

Chapter 9: Friday&#;s Fade to Black
Things come to an end and the debriefing takes place. In analyzing what had come to pass, Zimbardo explains that:

&#;the System includes the Situation, but it is more enduring, more widespread, involving extensive networks of people, their expectations, norms, policies, and, perhaps, laws. Over time, Systems come to have a historical foundation and sometimes also a political and economic power structure that governs and directs the behavior of many people within its sphere of influence. Systems are the engines that run situations that create behavioral contexts that influence the human action of those under their control. At some point, the System may become an autonomous entity, independent of those who initially started it or even those in apparent authority within its power structure. Each System comes to develop a culture of its own, as many Systems collectively come to contribute to the culture of a society.&#; ().

It was astounding to Zimbardo the kind of moral re-education that took place, where the pattern of getting into the act occurred with almost every outside visitor. Even the worst-behaving guard was left wondering, &#;why didn&#;t people say something when I started to abuse people?&#; ().

Chapter The SPE&#;s Meaning and Messages: The Alchemy of Character Transformations
Zimbardo notes that the prisoners exhibited a passivity, dependency, and depression resembling Martin Seligman&#;s idea of Learned Helplessness. There were personal transformations resembling that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. What brought about this drastic change was a Situation, both sanctioned and maintained by a background System that Zimbardo helped create. Some key observations applicable to mock prisoners in the SPE&#;as well as to Nazi doctors during the Holocaust&#;are stated in this chapter as follows: &#;…by creating this myth of our invulnerability to situational forces, we set ourselves up for a fall by not being sufficiently vigilant to situational forces.&#; (). &#;Situational power is most salient in novel settings, those in which people cannot call on previous guidelines for their new behavioral options.&#; (). &#;The System’s procedures are considered reasonable and appropriate as the ideology comes to be accepted as sacred.&#; (). Zimbardo stresses that the Situational and Systemic approach will prevent one from making the fundamental attribution error whereby all blame (and credit) is given to the individual. He also notes the human propensity for fallacious post hoc justification.

Chapter The SPE: Ethics and Extensions
In this chapter Zimbardo discusses absolute and relative ethics, and how the obviously unethical outcome of the SPE was set up in a manner that received official sponsorship and approval. The experiment involved no deception, and was open to inspection by outsiders. The remainder of the chapter covers the follow-on stories of many of the people involved, as well as concepts that lead to further research.

Chapter Investigating Social Dynamics: Power, Conformity, and Obedience
Zimbardo frames this chapter using C.S. Lewis&#; idea that people often desire to be inside some inner ring. He explains that the dramatic changes for the worse occur through the manipulation of mundane aspects of human nature. He highlights other experiments, such as Milgram&#;s, that illustrate this phenomenon. Then he explores the historical applicability of the &#;Banality of Evil,&#; from Nazis, to suicide bombers, to school shooters, and to Jim Jones cultists.

Chapter Investigating Social Dynamics: Deindividuation, Dehumanizaiton, and the Evil of Inaction
Explaining the plasticity of human nature, Zimbardo postulates that, &#;what we are is shaped both by the broad systems that govern our lives &#; wealth and poverty, geography and climate, historical epoch, cultural, political and religious dominance &#; and by the specific situations we deal with daily. Those forces in turn interact with our basic biology and personality.&#; (). He discusses work by Albert Bandura on the effects of humanizing and dehumanizing labels (). Zimbardo recommends that, &#;by making explicit the mental mechanisms people use to disengage their moral standards from their conduct, we are in a better position to reverse the process, reaffirming the need for moral engagement as crucial for promoting empathetic humaneness among people.&#; (). He also goes on to explore the Evil of Inaction, to include bystander effects and conditions.

Chapter Abu Ghraib&#;s Abuses and Tortures: Understanding and Personalizing Its Horrors
Zimbardo offers thorough examinations of the perpetrators convicted in connection with the atrocities that occurred at Abu Ghraib&#;s prison. He constructs a compelling argument for his System design considerations. About Chip Frederick, whose sentence was the longest, Zimbardo concludes that &#;he could have been the best of apples in [the US military’s] good barrels.&#; (). This is not a plea from Zimbardo to wholly excuse the heinous acts of these individuals, but to suggest that the influential power of the System should be considered in mitigating their sentences, and should lead to looking up the chain of command for additional liable parties.

Chapter Putting the System on Trial: Command Complicity
Here Zimbardo examines the systemic problems, the plausible deniability, the admitted failure of leadership, and even the acknowledgement that the SPE&#;s finding had not been heeded, which have all been missing from the service of justice in this matter. He introduces, &#;a new kind of modern evil, &#;administrative evil,&#; that constitutes the foundation of complicity of the chain of political and military command in these abuse tortures. Both public and private organizations, because they operate within a legal framework, not an ethical framework, can inflict suffering, even death, on people by following cold rationality for achieving the goals of their ideology, a master plan, a cost-benefit equation, or the bottom line of profit.&#; ().

Chapter Resisting Situational Influences and Celebrating Heroism
Zimbardo envisions creating a &#;Reverse Milgram&#; experiment where people comply with intensifying demands to do good. Zimbardo further discusses what it means to be heroic: &#;For an act of personal defiance to be worthy of being considered &#;heroic,&#; it must attempt to change the system, to correct an injustice, to right a wrong.&#; (); &#;Disobedience by the individual must get translated into systemic disobedience that forces change in the situation or agency itself and not just in some operating conditions.&#; (); &#;It is all to easy for evil situations to co-opt the intentions of good dissidents or even heroic rebels by giving them medals for their deeds and a gift certificate for keeping their opinions to themselves.&#; (); &#;Heroism can be defined as having four key features: (a) it must be engaged in voluntarily; (b) it must involve a risk or potential sacrifice, such as the threat of death, an immediate threat to physical integrity, a long-term threat to health, or the potential for serious degradation of one&#;s quality of life; (c) it must be conducted in service to one or more other people or the community as a whole; and (d) it must be without secondary extrinsic gain anticipated at the time of the act.&#; (). Zimbardo further explores the &#;Banality of Heroism&#; (), explicating situational action vectors, which he states are: &#;group pressures and group identity, the diffusion of responsibility for the action, a temporal focus on the immediate moment without concern for consequences stemming from the act in the future, presence of social models, and commitment to an ideology.&#;


To Learn More:


/by David NewmanTags:Book Summaries, Ethical Systems, ResearchSours:

Philip Zimbardo

The “Lucifer Effect” describes the point in time when an ordinary, normal person first crosses the boundary between good and evil to engage in an evil action.

Philip George Zimbardo (born 23 March) is a psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University. He is president of the Heroic Imagination Project, famous for his Stanford prison study involving Groupthink processes and for authorship of various introductory psychology books and textbooks for college students, including The Lucifer Effect and The Time Paradox.


If you observe such abuses and don’t say, “This is wrong! Stop it!” you give tacit approval to continue. You are part of the silent majority that makes evildeeds more acceptable.
  • Whether we consider Nazi Germany or Abu Ghraib prison, there were many people who observed what was happening and said nothing. At Abu Ghraib, one photo shows two soldiers smiling before a pyramid of naked prisoners while a dozen other soldiers stand around watching passively. If you observe such abuses and don’t say, “This is wrong! Stop it!” you give tacit approval to continue. You are part of the silent majority that makes evil deeds more acceptable.
  • The idea of the banality of heroism debunks the myth of the “heroic elect,” a myth that reinforces two basic human tendencies. The first is to ascribe very rare personal characteristics to people who do something special — to see them as superhuman, practically beyond comparison to the rest of us. The second is the trap of inaction — sometimes known as the "bystander effect." Research has shown that the bystander effect is often motivated by diffusion of responsibility, when different people witnessing an emergency all assume someone else will help. Like the “good guards,” we fall into the trap of inaction when we assume it’s someone else’s responsibility to act the hero.
    • "The Banality of Heroism" in The Greater Good (Fall/Winter /), co-written with Zeno Franco
  • The “Lucifer Effect” describes the point in time when an ordinary, normal person first crosses the boundary between good and evil to engage in an evil action. It represents a transformation of human character that is significant in its consequences. Such transformations are more likely to occur in novel settings, in “total situations,” where social situational forces are sufficiently powerful to overwhelm, or set aside temporally, personal attributes of morality, compassion, or sense of justice and fair play.
Evil is the exercise of power to intentionally harm (psychologically), hurt (physically), or destroy (mortally or spiritually) others.

Stanford prison experiment ()[edit]

We're going to take away their individuality in various ways. In general what all this leads to is a sense of powerlessness. That is, in this situation we'll have all the power and they'll have none.
This was a controversial study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard conducted at Stanford University from August 14 to August 20 in by a team of researchers led by Zimbardo. Twenty-four male students out of 75 were selected to take on randomly assigned roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison situated in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. The participants adapted to their roles well beyond Zimbardo's expectations, as the guards enforced authoritarian measures and ultimately subjected some of the prisoners to psychological torture, leading to dangerous and psychologically damaging situations.
  • You can create in the prisoners feelings of boredom, a sense of fear to some degree, you can create a notion of arbitrariness that their life is totally controlled by us, by the system, you, me, and they'll have no privacy We're going to take away their individuality in various ways. In general what all this leads to is a sense of powerlessness. That is, in this situation we'll have all the power and they'll have none.
    • Zimbardo to those selected to be "prison guards"

Quotes about Zimbardo[edit]

It becomes clear that the Asch, Milgram and Zimbardo experiments replicated, in a compressed time, the dynamics of authority and groupthink that play a critical role in our socialization. ~ Toni Raiten-D'Antonio
  • It becomes clear that the Asch, Milgram and Zimbardo experiments replicated, in a compressed time, the dynamics of authority and groupthink that play a critical role in our socialization. Asch showed that once the standard is set, people will adopt it and go along with it, even if it is illogical. When the stakes are raised, as they were in Milgram's work, people may struggle with unethical commands, but the majority still obey. And when authorities set parameters but leave the decision-making to the rest of us, we still have a tendency to impose strict control on those we consider deviant. All of these findings affirm the power of culture, socialization, and our widespread fear that we will be judged and punished.
    Since human beings have a desperate need for safety, approval, and belonging (which yields access to group resources), the worst kind of punishment is ostracism.
    This shunning may be subtle or extreme.
    • Toni Raiten-D'Antonio, in Ugly as Sin&#;: The Truth about How We Look and Finding Freedom from Self-Hatred (), Ch. 8&#;: Difference as Deviance p. 89

External links[edit]


Effect wiki lucifer the

The Lucifer Effect

Book by Philip Zimbardo

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil is a book which includes professor Philip Zimbardo's first detailed, written account of the events surrounding the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) — a prison simulation study which had to be discontinued after only six days due to several distressing outcomes and mental breaks of the participants. The book includes over 30 years of subsequent research into the psychological and social factors which result in immoral acts being committed by otherwise moral people. It also examines the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib in , which has similarities to the Stanford experiment. The title takes its name from the pious story of the favored angel of God, Lucifer, his fall from grace, and his assumption of the role of Satan, the embodiment of evil.[1][2] The book was briefly on The New York Times Non-Fiction Best Seller[3] and won the American Psychological Association's William James Book Award.[4]


The first chapter is on the book's title theme of Lucifer and on the nature of moral transformation as an outcome of the interplay between individual disposition, situation, and systems of power.[5] The largest portion of the book, Chapters 2 through 9, is primarily a day-by-day account of the events which transpired during the Stanford experiment, largely written in literary present tense with dialogue taken from original experiment transcripts and includes several photographs taken at the time. Chapter 10 presents the data gathered in the SPE, and Chapter 11 is an examination of the ethical questions raised about the experiment. The remainder of the book covers a number of topics within the field of social psychology, such as similar studies like the Asch conformity experiments, Milgram experiment, Albert Bandura's research on moral disengagement, research on the bystander effect by John M. Darley and Bibb Latané, and Zimbardo's own later work on deindividuation.[6][7] There is also an examination of the Stanford experiment's relevance to events such as the Attica Prison riot and the torture and abuse of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in , with a special focus on the story of Sergeant Ivan Frederick.[6] Zimbardo relates his experience as an expert witness for the defense at Frederick's military trial, and describes his view of what led to an "All-American poster soldier" becoming involved in the torture of prisoners. The final chapter describes the concept of heroism, the key roles of Joe Darby, the whistleblower of the Abu Ghraib events, and Christina Maslach, the graduate student who convinced Zimbardo to end the Stanford experiment early, and advice on how to resist negative situations.[1][6][2]


Rose McDermott wrote that the book "deserves to be required reading for all those interested in the intersection of psychological processes and political reality" and suggests that several sections would make excellent assigned readings in psychology coursework, such the chapter on heroism and Chapter 12 "Investigating Social Dynamics" which she called "the single best, most insightful, and concise summary of the history of social psychology I have ever read".[1]Robert V. Levine said that "[t]his important book should be required reading not only for social scientists, but also for politicians, decision makers, educators" and that the "[Abu Ghraib] section alone is worth the price of the book".[2] Juan Manso-Pinto (University of Concepción, Chile) in a Spanish language review wrote that "The Lucifer Effect, more than a book, is a manual of social psychology about evil" and that though "written in English, its simple and colloquial language facilitates its reading".[7]Stuart Wheeler recommended the book, calling it "very readable".[8]

Ervin Staub describes it as "a highly personal book" and as one which "makes a valuable contribution", but about the Stanford Prison Experiment itself, calls it a case study rather than an experiment.[6] Joachim I. Krueger (Brown University) wrote that the book is "magnificent and timely", but offers a critical examination of the Stanford Prison Experiment, saying that if "judged against conventional standards, the SPE does not qualify as an experiment" and, bringing the interpretation back to one of disposition, said "[s]ituations do not 'overpower' people but rather reveal latent possibilities".[5]

Theologian Richard Holloway wrote that Zimbardo's day-by-day account of the experiment was "too bloated and detailed his page diary unbalances the book" and that "the book is better when it tries to apply the lesson of the experiment to other contexts".[9]


The Lucifer Effect was 11th on The New York Times Non-Fiction Best Seller list for the week ending April 7, [3][10]


Philip Zimbardo presented his work in The Lucifer Effect at TED[11]

The film The Stanford Prison Experiment drew on the dialogue presented in The Lucifer Effect, which was based on transcripts from the original experiment.[12]


  1. ^ abcMcDermott, Rose (October ). "Reviewed Work: The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo". Book Reviews. Political Psychology. International Society of Political Psychology. 28 (5): – JSTOR&#;
  2. ^ abcLevine, Robert (September–October ). "The Evil That Men Do". Scientists' Bookshelf. American Scientist. Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society. 95 (5): – ISSN&#; JSTOR&#;
  3. ^ ab"Best Sellers: April 22, ". The New York Times. April 22, Retrieved June 21,
  4. ^"William James Book Award". Past Recipients. APA Div. 1: Society for General Psychology. Retrieved June 20,
  5. ^ abKrueger, Joachim I. (Summer ). "Lucifer's Last Laugh: The Devil Is in the Details"(PDF). American Journal of Psychology. University of Illinois Press. (2): – doi/ JSTOR&#; Retrieved June 12,
  6. ^ abcdStaub, Ervin (August 8, ). "Evil: Understanding Bad Situations and Systems, But Also Personality and Group Dynamics"(PDF). PsycCRITIQUES. American Psychological Association. 52 (32). Article 1. doi/a ISSN&#; Retrieved June 21, &#; via Center for the History of Psychology.
  7. ^ abManso-Pinto, Juan (Winter ). "Zimbardo, P. G. (). The Lucifer Effect. Understanding how good people turn evil". Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología (in Spanish). Fundación Universitaria Konrad Lorenz. 40 (1): +.
  8. ^Wheeler, Stuart (May 5, ). "Only obeying orders". The Spectator. London. (): 60– ISSN&#; Retrieved June 24,
  9. ^Holloway, Richard (April 1, ). "Exploration of evil proves a punishing exercise for readers". Book review: The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil. Scotland on Sunday. Edinburgh, Scotland: Johnston Publishing Ltd.
  10. ^"The New York Times Best Seller List"(PDF). Hawes Publications. April 22, Retrieved June 21,
  11. ^"Philip Zimbardo: The Psychology of Evil – TED Talk". TED. February Retrieved June 24,
  12. ^Cockrell, Cathy (July 8, ). "Professor Emerita Christina Maslach recalls famous prison study, now a movie". Berkeley – Department of Psychology. Retrieved June 21,

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

The Lucifer Effect - Philip Zimbardo - CDI 2009

Philip Zimbardo

American social psychologist

Philip George Zimbardo (; born March 23, ) is an American psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University.[1] He became known for his Stanford prison experiment, which was later severely criticised for both ethical and scientific reasons. He has authored various introductory psychology textbooks for college students, and other notable works, including The Lucifer Effect, The Time Paradox, and The Time Cure. He is also the founder and president of the Heroic Imagination Project.[2]

Early life[edit]

Maslach and Zimbardo in

Zimbardo was born in New York City on March 23, , to a family of Italian immigrants from Sicily. Early in life he experienced discrimination and prejudice, growing up poor on welfare and being Italian. He was often mistaken for other races and ethnicities such as Jewish, Puerto Rican or black. Zimbardo has said these experiences early in life triggered his curiosity about people's behavior, and later influenced his research in school.[3]

He completed his B.A. with a triple major in psychology, sociology, and anthropology from Brooklyn College in , where he graduated summa cum laude. He completed his M.S. () and Ph.D. () in psychology from Yale University, where Neal E. Miller was his advisor.[4] While at Yale, he married fellow graduate student Rose Abdelnour; they had a son in and divorced in [5][6]

He taught at Yale from to From to , he was a professor of psychology at New York University College of Arts & Science. From to , he taught at Columbia University. He joined the faculty at Stanford University in [7]

Stanford prison study[edit]

Main article: Stanford prison experiment


In , Zimbardo accepted a tenured position as professor of psychology at Stanford University. With a government grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, he conducted the Stanford prison study in which male college students were selected (from an applicant pool of 75).

After a mental health screening, the remaining men were randomly assigned to be "prisoners" or "guards" in a mock prison located in the basement of the psychology building at Stanford.[8] Prisoners were confined to a 6' x 9' cell with black steel-barred doors. The only furniture in each cell was a cot. Solitary confinement was a small unlit closet.

Zimbardo's goal for the Stanford Prison study was to assess the psychological effect on a (randomly assigned) student of becoming a prisoner or prison guard.[9]

A article from the Stanford News Service described the experiment's goals in more detail:

Zimbardo's primary reason for conducting the experiment was to focus on the power of roles, rules, symbols, group identity and situational validation of behavior that generally would repulse ordinary individuals. "I had been conducting research for some years on deindividuation, vandalism and dehumanization that illustrated the ease with which ordinary people could be led to engage in anti-social acts by putting them in situations where they felt anonymous, or they could perceive of others in ways that made them less than human, as enemies or objects," Zimbardo told the Toronto symposium in the summer of [10]


Zimbardo himself took part in the study, playing the role of "prison superintendent" who could mediate disputes between guards and prisoners. He instructed guards to find ways to dominate the prisoners, not with physical violence, but with other tactics, verging on torture, such as sleep deprivation and punishment with solitary confinement. Later in the experiment, as some guards became more aggressive, taking away prisoners' cots (so that they had to sleep on the floor), and forcing them to use buckets kept in their cells as toilets, and then refusing permission to empty the buckets, neither the other guards nor Zimbardo himself intervened. Knowing that their actions were observed but not rebuked, guards considered that they had implicit approval for such actions.[11]

In later interviews, several guards told interviewers that they knew what Zimbardo wanted to have happen, and they did their best to make that happen.[12]

Less than two full days into the study, one inmate began suffering from depression, uncontrolled rage, crying and other mental dysfunctions. The prisoner was eventually released after screaming and acting in an unstable manner in front of the other inmates. This prisoner was replaced with one of the alternates.[8]


By the end of the study, the guards had won complete control over all of their prisoners and were using their authority to its greatest extent. One prisoner had even gone as far as to go on a hunger strike. When he refused to eat, the guards put him into solitary confinement for three hours (even though their own rules stated the limit that a prisoner could be in solitary confinement was only one hour). Instead of the other prisoners looking at this inmate as a hero and following along in his strike, they chanted together that he was a bad prisoner and a troublemaker. Prisoners and guards had rapidly adapted to their roles, stepping beyond the boundaries of what had been predicted and leading to dangerous and psychologically damaging situations. Zimbardo himself started to give in to the roles of the situation. He had to be shown the reality of the study by Christina Maslach, his girlfriend and future wife, who had just received her doctorate in psychology.[13] Zimbardo reflects that the message from the study is that "situations can have a more powerful influence over our behaviour than most people appreciate, and few people recognize [that]."[14]

At the end of the study, after all the prisoners had been released and the guards let go, everyone was brought back into the same room for evaluation and to be able to get their feelings out in the open towards one another. Ethical concerns surrounding the study often draw comparisons to the Milgram experiment, which was conducted in at Yale University by Stanley Milgram, Zimbardo's former high school friend.[15]

More recently, Thibault Le Texier of the University of Nice has examined the archives of the experiment, including videos, recordings, and Zimbardo's handwritten notes, and argued that "The guards knew what results the experiment was supposed to produce Far from reacting spontaneously to this pathogenic social environment, the guards were given clear instructions for how to create it The experimenters intervened directly in the experiment, either to give precise instructions, to recall the purposes of the experiment, or to set a general direction In order to get their full participation, Zimbardo intended to make the guards believe that they were his research assistants.".[16] Since his original publication in French,[17] Le Texier's accusations have been taken up by science communicators in the United States.[18] In his book Humankind - a hopeful history ([19][20] historian Rutger Bregman points out the charge that the whole experiment was faked and fraudulous; Bregman's argued this experiment is often used as an example to show people easily succumb to evil behavior, but Zimbardo has been less than candid about the fact that he told the guards to act the way they did. More recently, an APA psychology article reviewed this work in detail [21] and concluded that Zimbardo encouraged the guards to act the way they did, so rather than this behavior appearing on its own, it was generated by Zimbardo.

Prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison[edit]

Further information: Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse

Zimbardo reflects on the dramatic visual similarities between the behaviour of the participants in the Stanford prison experiment, and the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. He did not accept the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of StaffGeneral Myers' claim that the events were due to a few rogue soldiers and that it did not reflect on the military. Instead he looked at the situation the soldiers were in and considered the possibility that this situation might have induced the behavior that they displayed. He began with the assumption that were probably "good apples" in a situation like that of the Stanford prison study, where he knew that physically and psychologically normal and healthy people were behaving sadistically and brutalising prisoners.[14]

Zimbardo became absorbed in trying to understand who these people were, asking the question "are they inexplicable, can we not understand them". This led him to write the book The Lucifer Effect.[14]

The Lucifer Effect[edit]

Main article: The Lucifer Effect

The Lucifer Effect was written in response to his findings in the Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo believes that personality characteristics could play a role in how violent or submissive actions are manifested. In the book, Zimbardo says that humans cannot be defined as good or evil because we have the ability to act as both especially at the hand of the situation. Examples include the events that occurred at the Abu Ghraib Detention Center, in which the defense team—including Gary Myers—argued that it was not the prison guards and interrogators that were at fault for the physical and mental abuse of detainees but the Bush administration policies themselves.[22] According to Zimbardo, "Good people can be induced, seduced, and initiated into behaving in evil ways. They can also be led to act in irrational, stupid, self-destructive, antisocial, and mindless ways when they are immersed in 'total situations' that impact human nature in ways that challenge our sense of the stability and consistency of individual personality, of character, and of morality."(Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect, p.&#;)

In The Journal of the American Medical Association,[23]

There are seven social processes that grease "the slippery slope of evil":[24]

  • Mindlessly taking the first small step
  • Dehumanization of others
  • De-individuation of self (anonymity)
  • Diffusion of personal responsibility
  • Blind obedience to authority
  • Uncritical conformity to group norms
  • Passive tolerance of evil through inaction or indifference


In , Zimbardo published his work with John Boyd about the Time Perspective Theory and the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI) in The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life. In , he met Richard Sword and started collaborating to turn the Time Perspective Theory into a clinical therapy, beginning a four-year long pilot study and establishing time perspective therapy.[25] In , Zimbardo did his Ted Talk "The Psychology of Time" about the Time Perspective Theory. According to this Ted Talk, there are six kinds of different Time Perspectives which are Past Positive TP (Time Perspective), Past Negative TP, Present Hedonism TP, Present Fatalism TP, Future Life Goal-Oriented TP and Future Transcendental TP.[26]

In , Zimbardo, Richard Sword, and his wife Rosemary authored a book called The Time Cure.[27]

Time Perspective therapy bears similarities to Pause Button Therapy, developed by psychotherapist Martin Shirran, whom Zimbardo corresponded with and met at the first International Time Perspective Conference at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. Zimbardo wrote the foreword to the second edition of Shirran's book on the subject.[28]

Heroic Imagination Project[edit]

Main article: Heroic Imagination Project

As of Zimbardo is heading a movement for everyday heroism as the founder and director of the Heroic Imagination Project (HIP), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting heroism in everyday life.[1] The project is currently collecting data from former American gang members and individuals with former ties to terrorism for comparison, in an attempt to better understand how individuals change violent behavior. This research portion of the project is co-headed by Rony Berger, Yotam Heineburg, and Leonard Beckum.[29] He published an article contrasting heroism and altruism in with Zeno Franco and Kathy Blau in the Review of General Psychology.[30]

Social intensity syndrome (SIS)[edit]

In , Zimbardo began working with Sarah Brunskill and Anthony Ferreras on a new theory called the social intensity syndrome (SIS). SIS is a new term coined to describe and normalize the effects military culture has on the socialization of both active soldiers and veterans. Zimbardo and Brunskill presented the new theory and a preliminary factor analysis of it accompanying survey at the Western Psychological Association in [31] Brunskill finished the data collection in December Through an exploratory component factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis, internal consistency and validity tests demonstrated that SIS was a reliable and valid construct of measuring military socialization.[32]

Other endeavors[edit]

Zimbardo in Berlin, Germany in

After the prison experiment, Zimbardo decided to look for ways he could use psychology to help people; this led to the founding of The Shyness Clinic in Menlo Park, California, which treats shy behavior in adults and children. Zimbardo's research on shyness resulted in several bestselling books on the topic. Other subjects he has researched include mind control and cultic behavior.[33]

Zimbardo is the co-author of an introductory Psychology textbook entitled Psychology and Life, which is used in many American undergraduate psychology courses. He also hosted a PBS TV series titled Discovering Psychology which is used in many college telecourses.[34]

In , Zimbardo testified for the defense in the court martial of Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick, a guard at Abu Ghraib prison. He argued that Frederick's sentence should be lessened due to mitigating circumstances, explaining that few individuals can resist the powerful situational pressures of a prison, particularly without proper training and supervision. The judge apparently disregarded Zimbardo's testimony, and gave Frederick the maximum 8-year sentence. Zimbardo drew on the knowledge he gained from his participation in the Frederick case to write a new book entitled The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, about the connections between Abu Ghraib and the prison experiments.[35]

Zimbardo's writing appeared in Greater Good Magazine, published by the Greater Good Science Center of the University of California, Berkeley. Zimbardo's contributions include the interpretation of scientific research into the roots of compassion, altruism, and peaceful human relationships. His most recent article with Greater Good magazine is entitled: "The Banality of Heroism",[36] which examines how ordinary people can become everyday heroes. In February , Zimbardo was a guest presenter at the Science of a Meaningful Life seminar: Goodness, Evil, and Everyday Heroism, along with Greater Good Science Center Executive Director Dacher Keltner.

Zimbardo, who officially retired in , gave his final "Exploring Human Nature" lecture on March 7, , on the Stanford campus, bringing his teaching career of 50 years to a close. David Spiegel, professor of psychiatry at the Stanford University School of Medicine, called Zimbardo "a legendary teacher", saying that "he has changed the way we think about social influences."[37]

Zimbardo has made appearances on American TV, such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on March 29, ,[38]The Colbert Report on February 11, [39] and Dr. Phil on October 25, [40]

Zimbardo serves as advisor to the anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution and appears in the organization's videos to explain the bystander effect[41] and discuss the evil of inaction.[42]

Zimbardo speaking in Poland,

Since , Zimbardo has been active in charitable and economic work in rural Sicily through the Zimbardo-Luczo Fund with Steve Luczo and the local director Pasquale Marino&#;[it], which provides scholarships for academically gifted students from Corleone and Cammarata.[43]

In , Zimbardo co-authored a book "Man (Dis)connected: How Technology Has Sabotaged What It Means To Be Male", which collected research to support a thesis that males are increasingly disconnected from society.[44] He argues that a lack of two-parent households and female-oriented schooling have made it more attractive to live virtually, risking video game addiction or pornography addiction.


In , Zimbardo received the American Psychological Foundation Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement in the Science of Psychology.[45]

In , he received an honorary doctorate degree from SWPS University in Warsaw.[46]

In , Zimbardo and University of Rome La Sapienza scholars Gian Vittorio Caprara, and Claudio Barbaranelli were awarded the sarcastic Ig Nobel Award for Psychology[47] for their report "Politicians' Uniquely Simple Personalities".[48]


  • Influencing attitude and changing behavior: A basic introduction to relevant methodology, theory, and applications (Topics in social psychology), Addison Wesley,
  • The Cognitive Control of Motivation. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman,
  • Stanford prison experiment: A simulation study of the psychology of imprisonment, Philip G. Zimbardo, Inc.,
  • Influencing Attitudes and Changing Behavior. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley Publishing Co., , ISBN&#;
  • Canvassing for Peace: A Manual for Volunteers. Ann Arbor, MI: Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, , ISBN
  • Influencing Attitudes and Changing Behavior (2nd ed.). Reading, MA: Addison Wesley., , ISBN
  • Psychology and You, with David Dempsey ().
  • Shyness: What It Is, What to Do About It, Addison Wesley, , ISBN&#;
  • The Psychology of Attitude Change and Social Influence. New York: McGraw-Hill, , ISBN&#;
  • Psychology (3rd Edition), Reading, MA: Addison Wesley Publishing Co., , ISBN&#;
  • The Shy Child&#;: Overcoming and Preventing Shyness from Infancy to Adulthood, Malor Books, , ISBN&#;
  • Violence Workers: Police Torturers and Murderers Reconstruct Brazilian Atrocities. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, , ISBN&#;
  • Psychology - Core Concepts, 5/e, Allyn & Bacon Publishing, , ISBN&#;
  • Psychology And Life, 17/e, Allyn & Bacon Publishing, , ISBN&#;X
  • The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, Random House, New York, , ISBN&#;
  • The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life, Simon & Schuster, New York, , ISBN&#;
  • The Journey from the Bronx to Stanford to Abu Ghraib, pp.&#;85– in "Journeys in Social Psychology: Looking Back to Inspire the Future", edited by Robert Levine, et al., CRC Press, ISBN&#;
  • Salvatore Cianciabella (prefazione di Philip Zimbardo, nota introduttiva di Liliana De Curtis). Siamo uomini e caporali. Psicologia della dis-obbedienza. Franco Angeli, ISBN&#;
  • Maschi in difficoltà, Zimbardo, Philip, Coulombe, Nikita D., Cianciabella, Salvatore (a cura di), FrancoAngeli Editore,
  • Man (Dis)connected, Zimbardo, Philip, Coulombe, Nikita D., Rider/ Ebury Publishing, United Kingdom, , ISBN&#;
  • Man Interrupted: Why Young Men are Struggling & What We Can Do About It. Philip Zimbardo, Nikita Coulombe; Conari Press,

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abTugend, Alina (January 10, ). "In Life and Business, Learning to Be Ethical". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 20, Retrieved January 21,
  2. ^"Phil Zimbardo, Ph.D." Heroic Imagination Project. Archived from the original on February 21,
  3. ^"Emperor of the Edge". Psychology Today. Retrieved January 5,
  4. ^"Phil Zimbardo Remembers". Neal Miller. April 15, Archived from the original on October 8, Retrieved November 7,
  5. ^Reginald, Robert () []. Contemporary Science Fiction Authors. Wildside Press. p.&#;
  6. ^"Mrs. Zimbardo Has Son". The New York Times. November 14, p.&#;
  7. ^"Philip G. Zimbardo". Stanford Prison Experiment - Spotlight at Stanford. Retrieved June 22,
  8. ^ ab"The Stanford Prison Experiment". Archived from the original on October 7, Retrieved July 12,
  9. ^"Slideshow on official site". p.&#;Slide 4. Archived from the original on May 12,
  10. ^"The Stanford Prison Experiment: Still powerful after all these years (1/97)". August 12, Retrieved July 12,
  11. ^Konnikova, Konnikova (June 12, ). "The Real Lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment". New Yorker. Retrieved July 12,
  12. ^Ratnasar, Romesh (). "The Menace Within". Stanford Alumni Magazine. Retrieved July 12,
  13. ^"The Stanford Prison Experiment: Still powerful after all these years (1/97)". August 12, Archived from the original on August 2, Retrieved November 7,
  14. ^ abc"Skepticality Episode 49". Skeptic Magazine. Archived from the original on April 22,
  15. ^"Emperor of the Edge". Psychology Today. Retrieved June 22,
  16. ^Thibault Le Texier, "Debunking the Stanford Prison Experiment." American Psychologist, Vol 74(7), Oct ,
  17. ^Le Texier, T. (). Histoire d’un mensonge: Enquête sur l’expérience de Stanford [History of a Lie: An Inquiry Into the Stanford Prison Experiment]. Paris, France: La Découverte
  18. ^Dr. Ben Blum, "The Lifespan of a Lie", Medium, June 7,
  19. ^Bregman, Rutger (). Humankind - a hopeful history (Illustrated&#;ed.). Little, Brown and Company. ISBN&#;.
  20. ^Jennifer Bort Yacovissi (July 16, ). "Humankind: A Hopeful History". Washington Independent Review of Books. Retrieved January 5,
  21. ^Haslam, S. A., Reicher, S. D., & Van Bavel, J. J. (). Rethinking the nature of cruelty: The role of identity leadership in the Stanford Prison Experiment. American Psychologist, 74(7), –
  22. ^"Panel blames Bush officials for detainee abuse". December 11, Archived from the original on March 6, Retrieved January 7,
  23. ^"The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil". The Journal of the American Medical Association. (11): – September 19,
  24. ^The psychology of evil | "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 15, Retrieved November 4, CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^Sword, Richard M.; Sword, Rosemary K.M.; Brunskill, Sarah R.; Zimbardo, Philip G. (). "Time Perspective Therapy: A new time-based metaphor therapy for PTSD". Journal of Loss and Trauma. 19 (3): – doi/ S2CID&#;
  26. ^Zimbardo, Philip. "The psychology of time". Archived from the original on May 4, Retrieved April 21,
  27. ^Zimbardo, Philip G.; Sword, Richard M.; Sword, Rosemary K.M. (). The Time Cure: Overcoming PTSD with the New Psychology of Time Perspective Therapy. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. ISBN&#;.
  28. ^Shirran, Martin (). Pause Button Therapy (2nd&#;ed.). Hay House. ISBN&#;.
  29. ^"Heroic Imagination Project - Creating a Society of Heroes in Waiting". Archived from the original on April 25, Retrieved December 3,
  30. ^Franco, Z., Blau, K. & Zimbardo, P. (). Heroism: A conceptual analysis and differentiation between heroic action and altruism.Review of General Psychology, 5(2),
  31. ^Brunskill, Sarah; Zimbardo, Philip (April ). "Social intensity syndrome phenomenon theory: Looking at the military as a sub culture". Western Psychological Association, Reno, NV. Archived from the original on April 3,
  32. ^Zimbardo, Philip G.; Ferreras, Anthony; Brunskill, Sarah R. (). "Social Intensity Syndrome: The Development and Validation of the Social Intensity Syndrome Scale". Journal of Personality and Individual Difference. 73: 17– doi/j.paid
  33. ^What messages are behind today's cults?Archived May 2, , at the Wayback Machine, APA Monitor, May
  34. ^"Resource: Discovering Psychology: Updated Edition". Archived from the original on January 11, Retrieved November 7,
  35. ^James Bone Rome. "The Times &#; UK News, World News and Opinion". Archived from the original on August 9, Retrieved November 7,
  36. ^Franco, Z. & Zimbardo, P. () The banality of heroismArchived June 18, , at the Wayback Machine. Greater Good, 3 (2),
  37. ^"Peninsula news &#; The Mercury News and Palo Alto Daily News". Archived from the original on May 10,
  38. ^"Philip Zimbardo - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - Video Clip &#; Comedy Central". March 29, Archived from the original on August 11, Retrieved November 7,
  39. ^"Philip Zimbardo on the Colbert Report". February 12, Archived from the original on September 30, Retrieved November 7,
  40. ^"Shows - When Good People Do Bad Things". Dr. December 22, Archived from the original on October 29, Retrieved November 7,
  41. ^"Bystander Revolution". Archived from the original on March 5, Retrieved May 5,
  42. ^"Bystander Revolution". Archived from the original on March 5, Retrieved May 5,
  43. ^"Zimbardo's foundation gives hope to Sicilian students". July 24, Archived from the original on June 11, Retrieved July 23,
  44. ^"Psychologist Philip Zimbardo: 'Boys risk become addicted to porn, video games and Ritalin'". Retrieved October 29,
  45. ^"Award: Phil Zimbardo to receive the APA's Gold Medal Award". Stanford University Psychology Department. Archived from the original on January 16, Retrieved July 27,
  46. ^Strefa Psyche Uniwersytetu SWPS (June 10, ), Tytuł Doktora Honoris Causa dla prof. Zimbardo w SWPS Warszawa, archived from the original on May 5, , retrieved March 2,
  47. ^Abrahams, Marc (April 20, ). "A simple choice". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Archived from the original on September 18, Retrieved October 24,
  48. ^Caprara, Gian Vittorio; Barbaranelli, Claudio; Zimbardo, Philip (February 6, ). "Politicians' uniquely simple personalities". Nature. (): BibcodeNaturC. doi/a0. S2CID&#;

External links[edit]


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