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The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  14,685 Ratings  ·  734 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)
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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)

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Aug 05, 2008 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
Bookdragon Sean
Zimbardo fucked up, BIG TIME.

During the "Stanford Prison Experiment," an experiment he created, he was part of the actual testing and also became victim to the traps the other participants fell into.

The idea was to separate the participants into two groups, guards and prisoners with Zimbardo taking the role of prison overseer in a monitored environment. But things quickly went from weird to damn right unethical. Instead of simply playing the roles assigned to them, everybody involved actuall
Nov 15, 2007 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
Apr 02, 2008 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
Dec 04, 2007 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
Thomas Edmund
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As a huge psych nerd I was really happy to stumble across this book in the local library. For those who don't know and/or have forgotten psyc101 Zimbardo is the professor behind the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. The seminal experiment where (Spoiler alert I guess) where ordinary young men were put in a simulated prison situation (randomly assigned to prisoners and guards, mind) and the whole thing had to be shut down before the week ended due to inhumane abuse and practices.

The Lucifer Ef
A classic on the subject, Zimbardo tackles in this book the longest description and explanation of his Stanford Prison Experiment, along with two other main themes: the Abu Ghraib abuses and, in the last chapter, heroism and altruism. Now, of course I am a little biased (at the moment I am using his study as a building block for an essay on obedience and my Social Psychology paper was on Abu Ghraib), but I loved this book. I love the subject, I love the writing, I find the entire theme endlessly ...more
Eden Prosper
Jul 13, 2011 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
George Hu
Dec 16, 2007 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
Aug 18, 2015 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
Oct 10, 2013 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
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
Selene Matheson
Apr 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I had to read this for a psychology class in college.
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
May 29, 2007 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
Jul 01, 2015 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
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
„Ефектът Луцифер“ (изд. „Изток-Запад“, 2017; превод: Людмила Андреева) от поведенческия психолог Филип Зимбардо е безкомпромисна аутопсия на жестокостта в най-човешката ѝ форма и „твърде мрачно пътуване в сърцето и съзнанието на тъмнината”.
...6 дни и прекратяване предсрочно на драматичния „театър“, който доброволците на Станфордския експеримент стартират. 6 дни, в които цветята на злото избуяват до задушаване. Зимбардо проследява час по час своята machina malum.
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Feb 04, 2008 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
Yasmine Abdel Hai
May 25, 2015 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
Aug 20, 2007 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
John Wiswell
Jul 23, 2012 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
Steven Peterson
Jun 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jeffrey Howard
Jan 06, 2016 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
Jun 17, 2015 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
Situations matter, in 500 pages. I was shocked to learn children were (are?) detained at Gitmo. Other than that, ordinary humans being capable of great good or great bad, depending on the situation, isn’t a new revelation. Whistle blowers getting punished while monsters get praised, also not surprising. It isn’t a few bad apples, it is the barrel. Pointing out that terrorists don’t start out crazy, they start out patriotic, is unsettling.

Ultimately I gave Zimbardo’s book five stars because of th
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a new view on good and evil and it was wonderfully done.
This was definitely a long book to read. Take your time while reading this because each chapter gets deeper and the information builds upon what goes on in the world, in good people, and in the people that turned evil.
Nurlan Imangaliyev
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
After reading this book I am feeling quite devastated. Somewhere deep inside I even wish I haven't read it at all.
The book uncovers the ugly nature of human beings, the things they are capable of doing when granted authority, anonymity or when put in a group of similarly mischievous people. It contains a number of different findings on how and why "normal" and "decent" people find themselves involved in despicable acts of evil. One might get really depressed by this book, beware...
Noah W
Jan 16, 2013 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
Jun 23, 2015 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
Maria Caggiano
Jul 01, 2007 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
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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
“Sticks and stones can break your bones, but names can kill you.” 50 likes
“The most dramatic instances of directed behavior change and "mind control" are not the consequence of exotic forms of influence, such as hypnosis, psychotropic drugs, or "brainwashing," but rather the systematic manipulation of the most mundane aspects of human nature over time in confining settings.” 40 likes
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