Zimbardo Lecture Video “Why Good People Do Bad Things”

Words of the Day: Social Psychology concepts you can relate to the Stanford prison experiment

  1. Deinviduation: loss of self-awareness and personal responsibility that can occur when a person is part of a group whose members feel anonymous.
  2. Fundamental Attribution Error: our tendency to overemphasize dispositional (personality) traits and to underestimate situational factors when explaining another person’s behavior.
  3. Role-playing– the roles that people play can shape their behavior and attitudes. Ex. The “Guards” became cruel and sadistic. “Prisoners felt powerless and submissive.
  4. The Lucifer Effect: Philip Zimbardo’s book; idea that people have good and evil tendencies; and that good people can be corrupted by powerful situational forces.


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? Philip Zimbardo has the answers, and in his book, The Lucifer Effect he explains how and  why—we are all capable of crossing over to “the dark side.” Drawing on examples from history as well as his own prison experiment, Zimbardo details how situational forces and group dynamics can work together to make monsters out of decent men and women.

Zimbardo, professor of psychology at Stanford University, is perhaps best known as the creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment. For the first time, 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.

angels demons

“Angels and Demons” by M.C. Escher

This artwork is a symbol for how good and evil are both aspect of human nature.

View Zimbardo’s lecture about the Lucifer Effect.

Read more about the Stanford Prison Experiment


About victoriaruss

I teach World History, Civics, AP Psychology, and AP Government at West Bladen High School.
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