Zimbardo is a gifted teacher and researcher. His research results show us the surprisingly thin line between good and evil in people’s behavior – including, possibly, our own. He has gone on to show that while many may behave in an evil way, others behave heroically in their everyday life.

Why you should listen:

One of the biggest questions facing psychologists is that of causation. People want us to respond to the question, Why did he or she do that?”. We are interested in the motives of people we observe. We are particularly interested in the motives of wrong doers. Dr. Zimbardo addresses this question in a fast paced talk.

Who is he:

Philip Zimbardo was the leader of the notorious 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment. He knows what evil looks like. After serving as an expert witness during the Abu Ghraib trials, he wrote The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. From Nazi comic books to the tactics of used-car salesmen, he explores a wealth of sources in trying to explain the psychology of evil.


  1. Zimbardo’s first question, like many before him, is ”What makes people go wrong?” He suggests there are several factors. What are two of them?
  1. He gives his definition of evil, which is all about…….?
  1. About Abu Ghraib, the military defended itself by laying the abuses at the feet of “a few rogue solders”. Zimbardo disagrees with this because……?
  1. Zimbardo says that we can look at evil as Dispositional – the bad apple, or Situational – the bad barrel, or Systemic – the bad barrel makers. To him the most important is …..?
  1. What does Zimbardo mean when he says “All evil starts at 15 volts”?
  1. Watch the talk again and note the seven items that will bring about evil behavior in most good people, according to Zimbardo’s studies.

The psychology of evil with Philip Zimbardo


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