Essay on Searching for the Cause of Evil

Submitted By Mordax88
Words: 894
Pages: 4

Jason Thomas
English 1010 Mr.Judson
October 4, 2012 Searching for the Cause of Evil In the book ''The Lucifer Effect" the author Phillip Zimbardo(Ph.D in psychology from Yale University and professor emeritus at Stanford University)asks the question "Is it possible for angels to become devils?"(pg1) or, in other words, is it possible that good men and women can become evil? Through out the text he gives examples of groups in Asia, Africa, Germany and the Middle-East where everyday people were influenced, normally by a person in power or a government as a whole, to commit horrific acts of torture, rape and murder. By using personal experience, additional research and asking well placed questions, Prof.Zimbardo causes the reader to ask themselves "Am I capable of evil?"(pg1) Prof.Zimbardo was uniquely qualified to write this book because of the project he directed in 1971 called "The Stanford Prison Experiment". In this project they randomly assigned college students who had volunteered for the project to play the role of either guard or prisoner in a converted basement hallway of the Stanford campus. The goal was to create a realistic prison setting because the professor and his associates "wanted to understand some of the dynamics operating in the psychology of imprisonment"(pg20). The results they got were far beyond what they had initially anticipated. What was supposed to be a three week experiment was cut short when, after only a few days the

"prisoners" started showing signs of mental break downs, being aggressive toward the "guards", believing they were actually prisoners and attempting a jail break. At the same time the "guards" were in charge of keeping order so they scaled up with the situation by shaving the hair off all the "inmates" and giving them numbers instead of names to strip them of their identity, standing on their backs while making them do push-ups, making a 'quiet box' for the ones who instigated trouble and some of the guards on night watch even went as far as sexual humiliation. You can see from this example how pressure from the situation to act a certain way can affect the human mind and may make you wonder as Prof.Zimbardo states "If you put good people in in a bad place, do the people triumph or does the place corrupt them?"(pg20) The author goes on through the text relating the information he had gathered on other horrible instances where people were put into situations and made poor choices. He goes into quite a bit of detail as he describes these instances, one reason being as he says "I will not allow you(the reader)to drift back to the comfortable separation of Your Good and Faultless Side from Their Evil and Wicked Side"(pg1). With statements like that and asking questions to make the reader think if they really know themselves, their family, friends or lover, the book has a very serious and engaging feeling to it that would cause anyone with an open mind who reads it to think on what they believe and if their beliefs are a true source of power that they could draw strength from if they were ever placed in a similar situation. Moreover he not only uses his first hand knowledge but also pulls from other experts such as historians, professors and interviews with individuals who were present for the…