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The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  7,092 ratings  ·  439 reviews
What makes good people do bad things? Renowned social pshychologist Philip Zimbardo has an answer, and in The Lucifer Effect he explains how-and why- we are all susceptible to the lure of the "dark side." Drawing on examples from history as well as his own trailblazing reasearch, Zimbardo, the creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment, details how situational forces and gr ...more
Hardcover, 551 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by Random House (NY) (first published 2007)
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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
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
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
Katie Abbott Harris
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
Eden Prosper
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
George Hu
Dec 16, 2007 George Hu rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
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 5 of 5 stars
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
Aaron Schmidt
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
The dust jacket and introduction of this book claim that the author will investigate such horrors as the Holocaust, the Jonestown massacre, the Rwandan genocide, and Abu Gharib prison abuses. However, more than half the book is a play by play of Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment. The other topics are briefly touched upon, but with nowhere near the depth that he scrutinizes his own experiment. It becomes incredibly tiring to have one experiment cited over and over as proof for why people do b ...more
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
Петър Стойков
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.
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
Noah W
Jan 19, 2013 Noah W rated it 4 of 5 stars
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 2 of 5 stars
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
John Wiswell
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
Andrew Smith
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!
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
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
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
It was an interesting, fascinating, and enlightening adventure in the dark side of human nature. The results of the SPE has been validated thoroughly with real-world accounts of evil drawn from relevant empirical studies and history. I especially like the pages devoted to Abu Ghraib. It was filled with investigative reports that made me understand the complex dynamics of the Person, Situation, and System that can work in concert to make people do bad things. This book forewarns us that anyone is ...more
Valentina Glagoleva
Если вас интересует вопрос, как получается, что люди готовы воевать, убивать и издеваться над другими людьми, то эта книга то, что надо.
Для меня было слишком затянутое и подробное описание самого Стенфордского эксперимента, но после него очень толково объяснено что, как и почему.
Ken Dowell
Zimbardo, a Stanford University psychology professor, delves into the question of why seemingly normal people become abusive or worse. He is a social psychologist and as such hypothesizes that situational factors are in play here rather than dispositional ones. In other words the kind of evil that we find in Nazi Germany, in the genocide in Rwanda and in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq is not the result of individuals who are predisposed to abusive, cruel and immoral behavior but rather the result ...more
Rossy Marinova

Part 1
The book answers for me questions I have in mind since early childhood. What is the philosophy of evil? Is it possible good people to turn bad when provoked by social demands?
Zimbardo tells us the story of a social experiment he creates in which students are separated into two groups - prisoners and guards.
As the experiment unfolds we are shown how the young men forget that this is a game and behave as they could not leave the project and this is their life now. While the guards are trying
Read about this book on the Daily Anarchist.

Overall I really enjoyed this book as it gives a good description of the state of humanity and how situational influences causes people to behave. I find it fascinating how people can end up doing horrendous things because of the environment around them and how most people can cave into these influences.

One thing that Zimbardo stressed in the book is that the people that did the horrendous things are normal and how each of us can be susceptible to thes
Steven Peterson
This is an important book. It presents a perspective on the roots of human behavior, let's call it "the situational approach," against other orientations. As Philip Zimbardo notes, many of us commonly commit the "Fundamental Attribution Error," in which (page 212) "dispositions matter more than situations." That is, when others do something of which we disapprove, we tend to assume that some internal motivation led them to the bad deed, rather than that they may have simply been responding to a ...more
Morgan Blackledge
This book represents Philip Zimbardos life's work. Over thirty years in the making. It's brilliant. its important. But be warned, this book is way too fuckin long! The book weighs in at a tubby 575 pages. I believe it could have been more effective at half the length. One thing you should know before reading this book is that an enormously large portion of it is an account of the authors infamous Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE). If you (like me) are tiered of hearing Zimbardo talk (on and on) a ...more
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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...
The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It Shyness: What It Is, What To Do About It Psychology: Core Concepts (6th Edition) The Psychology of Attitude Change and Social Influence (McGraw-Hill Series in Social Psychology)

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