Are good people capable of doing evil? How do good people even turn evil? These are just a few questions social psychologist Philip Zimbardo has explained through his text, “the Lucifer effect, understanding how good people turn evil”. The text is illustrated to understand the process of transformation at work when good or ordinary people do bad or evil things. Doing so the author first defines evil to “consist of intentionally behaving in ways that harm, abuse, dehumanize, or destroy innocent others, or encouraging others to do so on your behalf” (Zimbardo 5). Zimbardo’s theories of why good people do evil things explain the human history of evil behavior.
The author separates good people from bad people for at least two reasons. First it creates a dual logic that perceive evil to be an entity, a quality that is inherent in some people and not in others. Second those who are of bad seeds ultimately produce bad fruits; we can learn to become good or evil regardless of our genetic inheritance. The author has explained that the reason good people become evil are because of systematic powers, and the lack of better decision making when faced with unfamiliar scenes. How well we really know our strengths and weaknesses can determine if we are capable of even becoming or doing evil. It is reveal; those who are men in immense power are those in positions to make decisions, having major consequences on those who are not of that power. “They are in command of the major hierarchies and organizations of
modern society. They direct the military establishment and occupy command posts of the social structure, in which are now centered the effective means of power” (Zimbardo 10).
History has taught us that no man or state is incapable of evil. Choosing to follow the tragic story of 20 year old Adam Lanza killing 26 victims, 20 of whom were kids of Newtown elementary school Connecticut, shows Zimbardo’s theories of doing evil. Some details of the conformity theory, obedience, and de-individuation will be used to further explain Adam’s case of evil. The theory of conformity tells us that it is the uniqueness among us that keeps us together. The theory also explains that the attitude and self-influence comes through culture. The theory of conformity also tells us of the change in behavior, is due to the real or imagined influence of other people.
Pairing Adam to the theory of conformity, we know after the tragic incident of Adam’s decisions to take the lives of 26 innocent people where motivated through the influence of his mother (sources say). We also see Adam’s behavior and drive towards this fatal incident, has been shaped through his high school years. Recognizing Adam’s shyness and awkward behavior through high school photos, we have learned that Adam’s decision were certainly influence through his environment, and peers around him. Due to the rules of conformity, many are left out of “social- circles”. Whether we may choose to conform or not, we do so base on the influence around us. Behaviors are said to be approved or disapproved by others. Backing up the theory of conformity and Adams motives for his actions are the social proof of people’s perception of how people behave in a given situation. Because we chose to conform or not, we are secretly also choosing whether we abide to the rules or not. In Adam’s case, Adam choose not to conform to the norm of socializing.
This is not to say Adam did not conform, choosing not to be part of a group is still conforming (how many of us think we are special). Many of us find ourselves to me unique in the sense of we hold different characteristics. Because of the struggle to stand out or the simple idea of being