Book Title: The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good
People Turn Evil
Writer: Philip Zimbardo
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks New York
Also available online: www.lucifereffect.com
Pages: 578 including notes and index
Category: Social Psychology
The Lucifer Effect:
Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, is a remarkable, rather
revolutionary research study in psychology on the understanding the effect of
situational forces influencing man to turn evil. The book mainly based on the
study of the abuses of the Abu Ghraib Prison and the Stanford Prison. We have
heard much from media about the inhuman treatment with the prisoners of Abu
Ghraib in Iraq by the US officials. The heinous photographs of celebrating the
act of tortures on the helpless prisoners by the US military officials leaked
out and created hue and cry across the globe. It was a blot on the Bush
The researcher, Philip Zimbardo,
witnessed the sadistic behaviour of the personnel of Stanford prison and Abu
Ghraib. Also, he cited the tragedies like that of Rwanda, where a majority sect
of Hutus turned into brutes to compete with each other to massacre, lynch and
rape their peaceful neighboring minority Tutsis with an enthusiasm of national
pride. Zimbardo analyzed the factors, which turn normal human beings into such
evil beings, which in normal circumstances cannot be expected of them.
Zimbardo in contrast to
dispositional theory of human behaviour emphasizes the situational factor, in
broader sense, the system, which is the key player in producing such an evil
behaviour, in human beings who are otherwise gentle in their individuality. He
made an alarming conclusion that no one is immune to situational settings;
everyone is prone to behave like an evil incarnate under the influence of
situational forces. He writes:
I challenge readers to reflect
on how well they really know themselves, and how much confidence they have in
what they would or would not ever do when put into new behavioral settings.
He demands of authorities that
while blaming individuals of abuse of their power, they should consider the
compelling influence of situation or system, too.
However, the writer ends on a
positive note in the last chapter “Resisting Situational Influences and
Celebrating Heroism”. He concedes the fact that some people do act against
situational forces. They are rebels to the situation. He praises such
individuals and calls them heroes: heroes of the situation. He encourages others
to do the same. He suggests that the situational factor can be used to make
people do heroic jobs.
The book is divided into 16
chapters. It paces like a novel. The setting is picturesque and alluring. A
number of reviews and endorsements are furnished next to the title page.
All in all, the book is a guide to
human nature. Politicians, administrators, policy makers and social reformers
must read it to enlighten themselves about human nature.