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The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by P.Zimbardo

Hello everyone,


Prior to getting into the first book, there are a few other things I would like to share. Following the post for this book, I will create posts on some of my favorite books that I have read in the past to give you all some content and begin to build a wish list of books! Since I'm sitting next to a collection of my previously read titles I'll share a few that (maybe will intrigue you all to do a brief research on a title or two). So here they are: (oh and to the real critics maybe I should italicize or underline book titles? lol) The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, Blink by Malcom Gladwell (who is an author I recommend to people trying to get into reading because I love the way he presents his research and his inclination to study the things he studies), How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett, and World Without Mind: The Existential Threat Of Big Tech by Franklin Foer. I plan to discuss more books not mentioned but I just wanted to name a few to intrigue the audience.


Now onto the subject at hand, this post will feature my thoughts, feelings, and insight on what I read in a New York Times Bestseller released in 2007. A quick idea of how I ultimately make my decision on a book: first I go to Barnes & Noble lol, second however many books I buy, I try to avoid buying the same subjects, next thing: I check the inside for the chapter outlines and how intriguing they sound. Then there are only a couple other true factors that influence the decision, the back of the book (for synopsis) and a new interest is reading what the critics say (as if we give a damn about a critic, they can't make up YOUR mind, right?) But it's still nice to see what others have to say or what insightful info it offers within the pages. Sometimes I'll also pick a random chapter and read a few pages.


So here we have: The Lucifer Effect: Understanding Why Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo. He was a professor emeritus of Stanford University at the time of the publishing of this book. I started this book on 12/25/2020 and finished it on 01/25/2021. It consists of 488 pages (not including the index and notes portions) and 16 chapters. What interested me to buying this book? Well the title is rather catchy yet interesting as well, and it seemed to offer a very informative read. I think one should read this book because it helps one take up the possible ideas of being in some of the unforeseen situations mentioned yet have zero clue of how or what that situation would force one to do. That is also one of my views on reading, like think about this shit from as many perspectives, personalities, and backgrounds as you can. I feel that can help humans understand, love, and learn from each other better.


Here's a portion where I'll give an overall letter grade on what I think about the book and honestly at the current moment I do not have a definitive system on what denotes a specific grade but in time I shall create one. (Open to all ideas on helping me create one! Feel free to pitch on ideas that will possibly engage one more into a specific book!)


Grade: A-


And there's my first grade lol, lastly I want to make a section where I can try to interest a specific crowd of readers and for this I can only say everyone, but I also understand if you are not a consistent reader this some long shit to start with lol.


So, a nice portion of the book revolves around The Stanford Prison Experience in 1971 which includes an exclusive firsthand narrative by the creator of the experience itself, Mr. Zimbardo. Obviously, in 1971 folks were doing and able to do a hell of a lot of things differently, ethically and morally speaking. This experience was created with intentions to study the transformation of ordinary "everyday" people (college students of this particular study) from a psychological extent on how and why evil derives from the influence of powerful situational forces. In other words, you ain't you sometimes, and even the situational forces at your job can bring something otherwise of yourself. But of course, jail some whole other shit, right? Right. Which is another theme of the book, the institutionalized prison and work settings create unfavorable situations by systemic ignorance and inaction.


Oddly enough, the first quote that I highlighted in the book was in the Preface on page X (Roman Numeral). It goes: "However, most psychologists have been insensitive to the deeper sources of power that inhere in the political, economic, religious, historic, and cultural matrix that defines situations and gives them legitimate or illegitimate existence. A full understanding of the dynamics of human behavior requires that we recognize the extent and limits of personal power, situational power, and systemic power." Now that right there makes me think of a situation of a lame ass manager/supervisor that enjoys having power because they do not have it any where else in life, so they attempt to abuse it. Which that can be an example of personal power, while falling under systemic power because his/her superiors allow it or have no idea that it goes on.


"Most of us hide behind egocentric biases that generate the illusion that we are special. These self-serving protective shields allow us to believe that each of us is above average on any test of self-integrity." (p.5). I would say you a damn lie if you disagree with this quote lol, and if you don't then you have to be some what selfish to others feelings. According to Zimbardo, following this quote that such ego-centric biases as this are found in societies that foster independence like America. Of course, you'd think of yourself as special! Why not!? However this book shows that over time the consistent pressure of negativity or inaction in the presence of negativity, in turn, does indeed result in evil acts and outcomes.


I forgot, I wanted to briefly describe the SPE (Stanford Prison Experience) there were 9 male college students who signed up to receive $15/day for two weeks to be an inmate in the basement of a Stanford University school hall. None of the students wanted to be guards so they were randomly selected by the other people that signed up. These students were tested with psych evaluations, health and physical shit the whole 9 yards lol. To show they were mentally fit and sane for what they were about to endure. They were informed of the start date and were unexpectedly and randomly arrested at their homes. This is how it all begins in the process of the study to try to make it all as real as possible. The creators of this experienced informed the guards of what is to be and not to be allowed with the prisoners. Everything short of physical abuse was allowed. They had 3 cells with 3 inmates each, in addition to a makeshift solitary confinement cell. The experience did not go the expected length of 2 weeks because everyone involved in this experience began to sink deeper into this experience as being their true and actual reality. The prisoners were being filmed to their ignorance of course but for the benefit of the study. The information showed that there was a single digit percentage of time that they spoke about their personal lives and anything involved with that. It just ended being jail talk. (Sound familiar about sitting at your job and only talking about your job with your coworkers?)


The experience was stopped after a week because some of the inmates were experiencing mental break downs from the deindividuation caused by systemic rules in this prison. Zimbardo points to deindividuation as one of the major causes of evil because it makes the individual feels anonymous as if no one knows them or cares about them. Which creates the actions and ideas of "oh well nobody cares or sees me so fuck it" (quote by me lol). The prisoners were only to be referred to by their numbers, of course no privacy or consistent sleep in a prison. Verbal abuse from the guards escalated daily as everyone got mentally entrenched in their "role".


This idea brings another theme in the book of "bad apples" versus "bad barrel". Or bad police or bad system? My own example right there. The biggest focus of this, to me, in the book was research and work on the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq with the U.S. military. Zimbardo goes to note how the highest officials of that "bad barrel" should be responsible in their actions in creating that barrel which in turn trickled down to effect the "bad apples". And by high officials he goes all the way up to pin blame on George Bush as well. I would like to wrap this up with a few more quotes from the book.


So another good quote I highlighted and just found is rather lengthy yet I feel important to share and think about: "System power involves authorization or institutionalized permission to behave in prescribed ways or to forbid and punish actions that are contrary to them. It provides the '"higher authority'" that gives validation to playing new roles, following new rules, and taking actions that would ordinarily be constrained by pre-existing laws, norms, morals, and ethics. Such validation usually comes cloaked in the mantle of ideology. Ideology is a slogan or proposition that usually legitimizes whatever means are necessary to attain an ultimate goal. Ideology is the '"Big Kahuna'" which is not challenged or even questioned because it is so apparently '"right'" for the majority in a particular time and place. Those in authority present the program as good as virtuous, as a highly value moral imperative" (p.226). This speaks volumes to me! So basically, one should conform to whatever bullshit the people that run this place or system says? No thank you.


Honestly, since that quote was long as shit, I kind of want to share less quotes so with that being said I shall pick two more and end it there lol. Next one, I have here is: "In all wars, at all times, in every country, wars transform ordinary, even good men into killers. That is what soldiers are trained to do, to kill their designated enemies. However, under the extreme stresses of combat conditions, with fatigue, fear, anger, hatred, and revenge at full throttle, men can lose their moral compass and go beyond killing enemy combatants." (p.417). With this quote, Zimbardo's has prior references of historical events where some militaries raped and killed innocent civilians for fun, for no reason at all or to "blow off steam". This indicates that their surrounding environment played part in these unforeseen and horrid actions. What I feel from this is, in war situations enemies are painted by the leading nation as those who oppose or threat their form of governing, which could lead to a demise. Seems a bit drastic, yet sounds similar to propaganda by Hitler which is also spoken upon a time or two in this book.


Ironically and thankfully this leads to the last quote that I wish to use: "The central premise of this new war was that terrorism is the primary threat to '"national security,'" and to the '"homeland,'" and that it must be opposed by all means necessary. This ideological foundation had been used by virtually all nations as a device for gaining popular and military support for aggression, as well as repression. It was used freely by right-wing dictatorships in Brazil, Greece, and many other nations in the 1960s and '70s to justify torture and death-squad executions of their citizens who were positioned as the '"enemies of the state.'" (p.430). Here this quote followed basically the rhetoric of President G.W. Bush in response to the 9-11 attacks. In conclusion, evil can be spread and interpreted in many ways, and just when you think it won't be you it can be!


Thanks everyone if you read this far, comments and responses are welcomed! My next read is Conscious: A Brief Guide To The Fundamental History Of The Mind by Annaka Harris. I began this a few minutes before writing this post, I will be doing other books before I finish and post my thoughts on this one.


Peace. Love. Blessings.


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