Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil” as Want to Read:
The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,506 Ratings  ·  558 Reviews
Renowned social psychologist and creator of the "Stanford Prison Experiment," Philip Zimbardo explores the mechanisms that make good people do bad things, how moral people can be seduced into acting immorally, and what this says about the line separating good from evil.

The Lucifer Effect explains how—and the myriad reasons why—we are all susceptible to the lure of “the dar
Hardcover, 551 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by Random House (NY) (first published 2007)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Lucifer Effect, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Dries Van Thielen De-individualism and anononimity as driving explanations for bad behaviour! And a 300 page or so summary of his Stanford Prison Experiment! It reads…moreDe-individualism and anononimity as driving explanations for bad behaviour! And a 300 page or so summary of his Stanford Prison Experiment! It reads fluent, backing up his findings with 'recent' events such as Abu Graib, Rwanda Genocide... (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Sep 03, 2008 Rebecca rated it liked it
Philip Zimbardo’s The Lucifer Effect is a difficult read, not because its premise is particularly startling, but because its examination of the psychology of evil shows it to be disturbingly simple. By placing each act of breathtaking cruelty beside a description of its perpetrator--invariably an ordinary, psychologically normal person--Zimbardo makes clear that we are just animals socialized into one behavior, and easily socialized into another. And though he never outright asks it, every page ...more
Nov 15, 2007 Katie rated it liked it
I was excited to read this, since I have a psychology background and had heard that it was a good look at the Stanford Prison Experiment, which I studied in college. I wasn't too impressed with this book though. It is at least 100 pages too long and bogged down by excessive detail, making it read like a numbing textbook. The breakdown is as follows: 200 pages on Zimbardo's Prison Experiment, 100 pages of analysis of the experiment, 75 pages on Abu Ghraib, 75 pages about the Bush administration's ...more
May 10, 2008 Amanda rated it really liked it
I, after a couple of weeks, have finally finished “The Lucifer Effect.” I normally don’t dog ear books because, well, that’s almost sacrilegious, but there were points that I knew I wanted to come back to. Like this one which really came out there unexpectedly, and had me laughing so hard.

After asking what his parents do, his religious background, and whether he goes to church regularly, Prescott is angered by the prisoner’s statement this his religion is “nondenominational. He retorts, “You ha
Feb 16, 2010 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
Well, I need to state my prejudices upfront. I'm kind of a secret fan of Doctor Zimbardo. See, I guess at some point he put together some kind of massive 26-episode series of half-hour lectures on how the mind works for public TV. They would come on at some ungodly hour of the morning so that I used to catch them while scarfing down my nutritious Lucky Charms and locally squozen OJ before leaving for work. Doctor Z would introduce each episode with a kind of geekish seriousness of purpose that o ...more
George Hu
Dec 16, 2007 George Hu rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: ehh, not sure
Well, interesting title and interesting subject, but I highly doubt his hypothesis. This book was borne out of Philip Zimbardo's work with a U.S. army soldier, who was one of the prison guards at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Zimbardo is also the one who ran the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment in the 1970s. Basically, his premise in this book is that circumstances shape the individual, and our actions can be molded by the circumstances that we are in. E.g., it was the duress and egregious circumstance ...more
Sep 19, 2015 Nikki rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a horribly difficult book to read, not because Zimbardo’s writing is bad or the subject is uninteresting, but because it exposes how easily people can be manipulated into a role — and I don’t just mean the guards, but also the prisoners. It’s important because it examines, in minute detail, the events of a now infamous experiment: the Stanford Prison Experiment. This was run, not by Stanley Milgram, as people often think, but by Philip Zimbardo, and even he became caught up in the act of ...more
Eden Prosper
Jul 21, 2011 Eden Prosper rated it it was amazing
Philip Zimbardo’s The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil was a stimulating read. A lot of psychology books tend to be a bit dry or scientifically wordy, becoming tedious and stodgy. It’s refreshing to be able to retain knowledge that can later be reflected on.

The Lucifer Effect delves into the psychology of roles we assume when forced into power struggles. It’s a facet of research that reveals the power of social situations and the social construction of reality.

Starting of
Be forewarned -- this is not a relaxing book on any level.

Having said that, it's pretty fantastic. How good people turn evil is a huge question, more ambitious than most authors would undertake and probably a set-up for disappointment as who can possibly answer that? And I admit, Zimbardo's answers are incomplete but still pretty impressive.

According to Zimbardo, when we try to explain good people committing evil deeds we tend to rely on what's called dispositional explanations -- it's about THE
Dec 25, 2013 Kq rated it it was ok
This book should be called "The Stanford Prison Experiment and Other Things Regarding How Good People Turn Evil". The first 200 or so pages are about The Stanford Prison Experiment (1971 study involving the psychological effects of prisoners and prison guards). If you took Psychology 101 or 102 in college you more than likely read about it. Anyway, once I reached page 113 I was really wishing for a new topic, but no, it kept going and going--repeating the same subject matter and psychological fi ...more
Feb 17, 2008 Sitaphul rated it did not like it
um, so i decided to stop reading this book because it's not suprising to me (in the LEAST!) that a bunch of college educated, middle-class white kids would act all brutish and prison-guardesque if they didn't have to be responsibile for any of their actions, and stuff. hello, blackwater? hello, um, the u.s. army? hello, fox news network? screw situational ethics when white boys have the whole world as their prison den!

also, i stopped reading this book because zimbardo (google his picture! eerie
Nov 09, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Hanaa
Ever since reading Frankenstein, I have been interested in the concept of evil. How can perfectly ordinary people become perpetrators of such horrible things? What turns a good person evil? These are the fundamental questions that Dr Philip Zimbardo attempts to answer in the book The Lucifer Effect. In 1971 Zimbardo conducted an experiment at Stanford University funded by the U.S. Navy into the causes of conflict between military guards and prisoners. This experiment is known as the Stanford pri ...more
Apr 10, 2014 Letitia rated it really liked it
It is extremely difficult to rate this book because I have a thousand thoughts about it. So I am rating it a 4-star because I DO want people to read it. However if I were ranking Zimbardo as an author alone, I would give it 2 stars.

Despite Zimbardo's abysmal efforts as a writer, this is a fascinating book, which examines many known and unknown studies on "evil." To read this, I recommend skimming the whole section where Z describes the Stanford Prison Experiment. Maybe watch the videos online, i
Sara Sherra
Aug 08, 2015 Sara Sherra rated it it was ok
A while ago, i found the book title really interesting and decided at once to add the book to my "to-read" list. I was, unfortunately, very disappointed with it, as it turned out to be not quite what i expected. I thought the book was about "Understanding How Good People Turn Evil", when it was just simply "Examples of How Good People Turn Evil". Dr. Zimbardo was excessively thorough regarding the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Abu Ghraib incident, only to the point that proves that ordinary ...more
Jul 13, 2015 Shadowdenizen rated it it was amazing
This was not an easy book to rate (or to read.)

Overall, This was very readable and compelling, despite the fact that it was very densely written, and not for the faint of heart.

While I'm not sure I buy 100% into the underlying premise the author espouses (That human values are plastic, and that anyone can be capable of great evil given the right circumstances, and that true evil is born from situational [external] causes, and it's not dispositional [inherently internal]), he does make a fairly c
Noah W
Jan 19, 2013 Noah W rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
"Am I capable of evil?" is the question that I want you to consider over and over again as we journey together..." ~ Zimbardo

This book explains how "normal" people can commit atrocities. He delves into both physical and academic examples of normal students and citizens that turn into brutally ruthless bullies.

The Holocaust, Abu Graib, and his infamous Stanford Prison Experiment are the main case studies that Zimbardo uses to drive his point home.

Some important lessons:
- People will inflict pain
Maria Caggiano
Jul 01, 2007 Maria Caggiano rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Those who anticipate staying in the military or other large organization
Shelves: othernon-fiction
First the Pro's: This book was written by the principle investigator of the "Stanford Prison Experiment" in the 1970's. This individual also was an expert witness at the trial of SFC Frederick, one of the MP's convicted for abusing prisoners at Abu Garhaib. It sheds light on how poor leadership and systemic dehumanization can lead normal people to commit acts of incredible cruelty. I think it is an important read for any of us who anticipate staying in the military long enough to be in a leaders ...more
Yasmine Abdel Hai
Feb 17, 2016 Yasmine Abdel Hai rated it liked it
unnecessary elboration in regards to the abu graham prison incidents and the stanford prison experiment. The book doesn't not prove a theory or give an understanding of the process of becoming evil. that being said chapter 15, and 16 went breifly over the psychological/ behavioural factors that makes people turn bad and then also breifly how should we deal with evil people when we are faced with situation where they try to dehumanize us etc. but then in the chapter after that he goes and gives e ...more
Mar 18, 2008 John added it
Zimbardo argues that human behavior is highly plastic and that evil behavior comes from situational rather than dispositional factors (outer vs inner determinants). He talks a lot about what happened and why in his fascinating and revealing Stanford Prison Experiment. The rest is about the what and why of US military personnel torturing people at the Abu Ghraib prison and sketches of numerous other experiments supporting his thesis. He argues that the experiments and evaluations of what happened ...more
Nov 21, 2008 Rachael rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those interested in psychology, and the effects of a situation on human behavior
If you've ever wondered how people get to "that" point when they can do something you consider heinous or evil, this is an interesting read. This book discusses the Stanford Prison Experiment and how the impact of a situation can have a greater impact on human behavior than we as an American society recognize. Although everyone has individual choice, we habitually underestimate the impact of the situation on the individual in both positive and negative cases. It is a fascinating and intriguing t ...more
Jeffrey Howard
May 10, 2016 Jeffrey Howard rated it liked it
The Lucifer Effect in many ways reads like an introductory social psychology book as Zimbardo trudges through experiments that have become staples for undergraduate psychology courses: Stanley Milgram's obedience experiment, Asch's conformity experiment, and, of course, the Stanford Prison Experiment.

Zimbardo makes a strong case for how bad systems, or "bad barrels" produce "bad apples", that atrocities are committed by regular people, often, because of situational factors. Evil acts aren't jus
Aaron Schmidt
Jan 25, 2012 Aaron Schmidt rated it really liked it
I read this book at the exact right time in my life, at the end of college and before grad school. Just as I was thinking about what it would mean to be an educator, this book pushed me right over the edge. It's such a fascinating read, and really makes you contemplate things you'd probably rather ignore, like humanity's capacity for, well, humanity in the face of stress, strife, and life in general.

I think it's a little self-referential and a bit self-congratulatory, which means the analysis co
John Wiswell
Aug 14, 2012 John Wiswell rated it liked it
This is one of those books that exposes ratings as preposterous. Any conscientious person ought to read segments of this book, particularly Zimbardo's early chapters on his infamous Stanley Prison Experiment. Performed decades ago, it exposed that the horrors of Abu Ghraib were not the implausible acts of monsters, but the likely results of unchecked prison power situations. Zimbardo hired students to roleplay for two weeks as either guards or prisoners in a mock facility. Within a week he had t ...more
Dec 14, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"resistance creates an emotional burden for those who maintain their independence."

A very Long read.
Disturbing yet very informative.
Numerous moments of "I would never do that .. how could they?" and "but can I tell if I'm not in that situation? "

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I will.

I liked how it showed that we brag about our "goodness" while being totally oblivious to powers around us that could make us do things we Never dreamed or doing.

Judyta Szaciłło
It could be an incredibly interesting book had the author been far more concise. The same information, observations and conclusions are repeated over and over again. Nevertheless, the subject of the book is fascinating and worth the effort, because it helps a lot in understanding how human beings work - as individuals and as societies. It also forces you to think more critically about yourself and, at the same time, it makes you aspire to do better. It is a great pity that the narrative is so di ...more
Chedy Riahi
Oct 08, 2015 Chedy Riahi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
تأثير إبليس: كيف يتحول الطيب إلى شرير

قد يوحي العنوان بتناول مانوي للموضوع، و لكن هذا الكتاب تشريح لجزء مظلم في الطبيعة البشرية يجعل الإنسان العادي يخرج عن القانون و يقترف تصرفات لاأخلاقية تصل إلى المساهمة في الإبادة

يخصص الكاتب جزءا هاما من الكتاب لتناول "تجربة سجن ستانفورد" التي قام بها سنة 1971 و حيث قامت مجموعة من الطلبة العاديين انقسمت إلى سجناء و حراس بتبني تصرفات سادية و مرضية في أقل من أسبوع، مما دفع بالكاتب إلى إنهاء التجربة. يقوم زمباردو بتحليل مفصل تليه استنتاجات تهم المجتمع اليوم ، بدا
Петър Стойков
Sep 24, 2014 Петър Стойков rated it it was amazing
Ако не сте чували за Станфордският затворнически експеримент - марш да си наваксате. Това е един от най-известните експерименти в съвременната наука, където един психолог взема няколко студенти (доброволци), разделя ги на случаен принцип на надзиратели и затворници и ги заключва в едно просторно мазе, където от талашит са направени "килии" и е накачил камери, за да ги гледа какво правят.

Младежите всичките са избрани предварително да са нормални, без психични и поведенчески отклонения, всичките с
Colin N.
Jul 25, 2011 Colin N. rated it really liked it
I picked up "The Lucifer Effect" because Zimbardo, the author, was the creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment in the 1970s, which I had studied in Psych in college and thought was really interesting. Zimbardo expands on the lessons learned from that experiment to present an extensive analysis of what forces cause good people to act in evil ways. His basic thesis is that people often focus on disposition in assigning blame for evil acts, thinking that a person must be inherently evil or good. ...more
Andrew Smith
Aug 22, 2014 Andrew Smith rated it it was amazing
I happened across this while researching an article and devoured it thereafter. For such a weighty, research-based book, it's tremendously readable, well-written and entertaining and offers a very, very surprising and important view of what makes us tick as humans in society, along with suggestions for how to avoid the worst sides of our nature, encouraging the best. I know this is probably said too often, but everyone should read this book!
Oct 01, 2008 Tori rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I actually had to skip a chapter in this book, as it was a loner and there was no way to renew it and the fines were piling up, so I skipped chap. 15 "Putting the System on Trial" as it was not applicable to the point I read the book for (to gain a better understanding of villains for my writing). Overall, this is perhaps the most depressing book I've ever read. It challenged my beliefs about humanity, and made all too clear how base our country has been and has become. Reading it was like bathi ...more
Jul 14, 2007 Nancy rated it really liked it
I would give this book 5 stars for subject matter and 3 stars for execution. While this Stanford Prison Experiment is a fascinating subject, and it's great to get all the details lo these many decades later, the book offers diminishing returns after the first half or so. It picks up a bit when Zimbardo gets into the parallels with Abu Ghraib, but that section dwindles in value after a while as well. Still, the fact that the experiment so clearly shows the impact of environment on behavior and ho ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Obedience to Authority
  • Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty
  • The Anatomy of Evil
  • The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty
  • Guilty by Reason of Insanity: A Psychiatrist Explores the Minds of Killers
  • A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives
  • The Mask of Sanity
  • Out of Character: Surprising Truths About the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us
  • The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain
  • The Social Animal
  • Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love
  • Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts
  • Forty Studies That Changed Psychology: Explorations into the History of Psychological Research
  • The Branded Mind: What Neuroscience Really Tells Us about the Puzzle of the Brain and the Brand
  • Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America
  • Why People Die by Suicide
  • The Story of Psychology
  • Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us
Dr. Philip George Zimbardo is an American psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University. He is president of the Heroic Imagination Project. He is known for his Stanford prison study, and authorship of various introductory psychology books and textbooks for college students, including The Lucifer Effect and The Time Paradox.
More about Philip G. Zimbardo...

Share This Book

“Sticks and stones can break your bones, but names can kill you.” 36 likes
“Fear is the State's psychological weapon of choice to frighten citizens into sacrificing their basic freedoms and rule-of-law protections in exchange for the security promised by their all-powerful government.” 29 likes
More quotes…