The Lucifer Effect

Stanford prison experiment

Zimbardo’s book, The Lucifer Effect, gets its title from the metamorphosis of Lucifer into Satan. Though the Christian Scriptures do not make this claim, according to Christian legend, Lucifer was once God’s favorite angel until he challenged God’s authority and was cast into Hell with all the other fallen angels. Thus, Zimbardo derives this title to explain how good people turn evil. Zimbardo’s main assumption on why good people do awful things is due to situational influences and power given from authority.

The Lucifer Effect was written in response to his findings in the Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo believes that personality characteristics could play a role in how violent or submissive actions are manifested. In the book, Zimbardo says that humans cannot be defined as “good” or “evil” because we have the ability to act as both especially at the hand of the situation. According to Zimbardo, “Good people can be induced, seduced, and initiated into behaving in evil ways. They can also be led to act in irrational, stupid, self-destructive, antisocial, and mindless ways when they are immersed in ‘total situations’ that impact human nature in ways that challenge our sense of the stability and consistency of individual personality, of character, and of morality.”

He also notes that we as humans wish to believe in unchanging goodness of people and our power to resist situational and external pressures and temptations. In chapter 12, “Investigating Social Dynamics: Power, Conformity, and Obedience”, Zimbardo discusses that peer pressure, the desire to be ‘cool’, the fear of rejection, and simply being a part of a group are the focal points to acting preposterous to your character.

In The Journal of the American Medical Association, Zimbardo’s situational perspective received support from other social situational experiments that demonstrated the same idea and concept. Almost ten years prior to the Stanford Prison Experiment (1971), Stanley Milgram conducted research on obedient behavior in 1965 that embraced situational forces. Milgram had “teachers” that delivered mock electric shocks to the “learner” for every wrong answer that was given in a multiple choice test. The teachers however did not know that the electric shocks weren’t real but still continued to deliver them to the learner. At the end of the experiment, 65% of men ages 20–50 complied fully up to the very last voltage. In the same room as the teacher, there was a “confederate” that kept tabs on the teacher and if they were delivering the shocks to each wrong answer. In the beginning of the study, participants signed a waiver that clearly explained the ability to opt-out of the experiment and not deliver the shocks. But with the surprising result rate of teachers who did continue to shock the learners, there was a situational force. The situational force that influenced the teachers to continue was the voice of the confederate egging them on by phrases such as, “I advise you to continue with this experiment” or “I am telling you to continue delivering the shocks” and the one that caught most teachers was “You must continue with the shocks.” Although the teachers knew that they could leave the experiment at any point in time, they still continued when they felt uncomfortable because of the confederate’s voice demanding to proceed.

Both Milgram and Zimbardo’s experiment tested situational forces on an individual. Both results concluded that irrational behavior compared to one’s character is plausible for any human because we have both tendencies in our nature.

— Wikipedia on Philip Zimbardo

2014.06.23 Monday ACHK

點石不成金

這段改編自 2010 年 4 月 10 日的對話。

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我發現我有一個,一般人沒有的優點,就是除了想自己才智過人外,亦同時想令到身邊的人,有我的才智,或者超過我的才智。

我發現我有一個,一般人沒有的優點,就是除了想自己才智過人外,亦同時想令到身邊的人,才智過人。

(安:我都有一點兒這個傾向。但是,最大的問題是,我發覺大部分人,也是不能提升的。例如,我試過以一個免費補習的形式,教導一位舊同事英文文法。那樣,他就可以有系統地,學習英文文法。

我不是說我是,英文文法專家,但我純熟過他很多,所以,我教他的文法,一定足夠他平日工作使用。

不過,在上了很多課之後,我發現他仍然會問我一大堆,在課程之中,明明已經教過他的東西。換句話之,我花了那麼多時間後,他竟然可以,近乎一句不漏地,把我教的內容忘記。)

有些情況下,應該幫助別人。有些情況下,則不應該幫助別人。至於哪些情況下應該幫,哪些情況下不應幫,可根據一個大原則,就是

如果你幫他,事情的發展,是好還是壞?

換而言之,你要企圖做好事,但千萬不要企圖做好人。時刻「企圖做好人」的危機是,你很多時會「好心做壞事」,害了別人,又害了自己。

你在這件事上,棋差一着的地方是,你竟然「免費」教導他。沒有成本,自然不會上心。毋須付出,自然不會重視。

如果他有交學費,而那些學費是來自他自己,不是來自他父母金錢的話,他就不會對你的教導,左耳入右耳出。

— Me@2014.06.23

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If you’re good at something, never do it for free.

— The Dark Knight

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When you give a lot of importance to someone in your life, you lose your importance in their life.

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2014.06.23 Monday (c) All rights reserved by ACHK