Understanding how good people turn evil

Discussion in 'Opinions, Beliefs, & Points of View' started by LightInTheDarkestNight, Aug 1, 2011.

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  1. LightInTheDarkestNight

    LightInTheDarkestNight Well-Known Member


    What are your thoughts on how good people turn evil?

    Do you think you're capable of doing evil things in certain situations?

    How aware are you of social influence and the impact it has on you?

    Even one person you like has great ability to influence you...

    Cialdini’s Principles of Social Influence, is quite interesting, it covers the basics of certain influences, how it's exploited and also on the best defense(s) for it.

    I saw this Author Phillip Zimbardo on Dr. Fall last fall, it was quite the interesting show, most of the audience admitted themselves that if they were put in the position of some of the prison guards(Abu Ghraib) they would have done similar horrible acts. I recall seeing on that show that everyone on the night shift was involved in what was done to the prisoners.

    It reminds me of something I read a few weeks ago "if there wasn't something wrong with them why would be be treating them so bad". This is a sense is a form of just world fallacy people tend to believe bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people. It also plays into cognitive dissonance if you treat someone in a way that harms them you tend to think worse of them in order to prevent cognitive dissonance. The same can be said if you do a favor for someone you think better off them.

    Phillip Zimbardo one of the authors of this book understanding how good people turn evil is also the creator of the Stanford Prison experiment who saw striking similarities Abu Ghraib and his prior experiment.

    In 2004, Zimbardo testified for the defense in the court martial of Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick, a guard at Abu Ghraib prison. He argued that Frederick's sentence should be lessened due to mitigating circumstances, explaining that few individuals can resist the powerful situational pressures of a prison, particularly without proper training and supervision. Although the judge disregarded his testimony and gave him the maximum sentence of 8 years.

    The mitigating circumstances he was referring to was the fact that in his opinion that their behavior was largely situational attribution related not dispositional.

    Rather than providing a religious analysis, however, I offer a psychological account of how ordinary people sometimes turn evil and commit unspeakable acts. As part of this account, The Lucifer Effect tells, for the first time, the full story behind the Stanford Prison Experiment, a now-classic study I conducted in 1971. In that study, normal college students were randomly assigned to play the role of guard or inmate for two weeks in a simulated prison, yet the guards quickly became so brutal that the experiment had to be shut down after only six days.

    How and why did this transformation take place, and what does it tell us about recent events such as the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses in Iraq? Equally important, what does it say about the "nature of human nature," and what does it suggest about effective ways to prevent such abuses in the future?

    Please join me in a journey that the poet Milton might describe as making darkness visible. Although it is often hard to read about evil up close and personal, we must understand its causes in order to contain and transform it through wise decisions and innovative communal actions. Indeed, in my view, there is no more urgent task that faces us today.

    When Dr. Philip Zimbardo, author of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, first appeared, he and Dr. Phil examined what makes a good person do bad things. Now, they continue to explore blind obedience to authority and how social influences can have a negative impact on your life. Don't miss Dr. Zimbardo's eye-opening experiment on group conformity with teen girls. Would your daughter follow the crowd and bully an innocent victim? And, an ex-gang member speaks out about gang prevention and finding the courage to choose his own path. Plus, learn about Dr. Zimbardo's Heroic Imagination Project that teaches participants how to become everyday heroes

    I won't link all of the information but there's quite a few sub topics in the resisting the influence page.

    The celebrating heroism section as well as the dehumanization section are also very good reads

    Regarding Celebrating heroism I found these paragraphs really stand out.

    Their heroic deeds are always special, but these heroes are just plain folks, ordinary citizens, who “do what they had to do” when moved to action by some call to service. Typically, they say, “It was nothing special;” “I did what anyone would do in that situation.” And some add, “and what everyone ought to do.” I refer to this phenomenon as “the banality of heroism.” Doing so, obviously trades off of its similar opposite in the phrase coined by Hannah Arendt, “the banality of evil,” that she used to describe why modern criminals, like Nazi Adolph Eichmann were so frightening precisely because they are “terrifyingly normal.”

    We also want to believe that there is something IN some people that drives them toward evil, while there is something different IN others that drives them toward good. It is an obvious notion but there is no hard evidence to support that dispositional view of evil and good, certainly not the inner determinants of heroism. There may be, but I need to see reliable data before I am convinced. Till then, I am proposing we focus on situational determinants of evil and good, trying to understand what about certain behavioral settings pushes some of us to become perpetrators of evil, others to look the other way in the presence of evil doers, tacitly condoning their actions and thus being guilty of the evil of inaction, while others act heroically on behalf of those in need or righting injustice. Some situations can inflame the “hostile imagination,” propelling good people to do bad deeds, while something in that same setting can inspire the “heroic imagination” propelling ordinary people toward actions that their culture at a given time determines is “heroic.” I argue in Lucifer and recent essays, that follow here, it is vital for every society to have its institutions teach heroism, building into such teachings the importance of mentally rehearsing taking heroic action—thus to be ready to act when called to service for a moral cause or just to help a victim in distress.

    One important distinction is that between physical risk and social risk types of heroism. Heroism in service of a noble idea is usually not as dramatic as physical risk heroism. However, physical risk is often the result of a snap decision, a moment of action. Further, physical risk heroism usually involves a probability not the certainty of serious injury or death. The individual performing the act is generally removed from the situation after a short period of time. On the other hand, it might be argued that some forms of civil heroism are more heroic than physical risk forms of heroism. People like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dr. Albert Schweitzer willingly and knowingly submitted to the trials of heroic civil activity day after day for much of their adult lives. In this sense, the risk associated with physical-risk heroism is better termed peril, while the risk involved in civil heroism is considered sacrifice.

    I know first hand from my own experiences social influence can be a very bad thing. Also reading on history it's quite proven it is one example is this English woman who became obsessed with Hitler and thus adopted his view of anti semitism. She later tried to commit suicide and there are rumors she had a baby back in England Hitler's unknown son. Anyways that's sorta off topic.

    People assimilate to their surroundings and want to belong to an "in group"

    It's interesting how social psychology works...

    we examined how social situations lead ordinary people to commit unimaginable acts of violence, discrimination, and indifference to the suffering of others. Many of us hope that if we were placed in such situations, we would be the courageous ones who resist unjust authority, who are immune to compliance tactics, and who never abandon our core beliefs and principles in the face of social pressures. However, the reality is we can never predict our actions without being placed in similar situations. This is one of the recurring themes of “The Lucifer Effect” and something that should not be lost on us as we make everyday decisions.

    Indeed, even without being placed in the heat of war, the inhumanity of prisons, or the clutches of social psychologists, our daily lives are wrought with similarly compelling social tensions. This section of the website was created as a springboard for learning how unwanted and unjust influence can impact your daily life and to better equip you to resist these forces. By understanding the contexts of influence and social compliance, become familiar with significant experimental findings from social psychological research, along with some basic terminology, we hope you will become more proficient in identifying common social influence principles and the strategies that professional agents of influence may use to gain your compliance. Finally, we will take you through frameworks that prominent social psychologists have created to understand social influence and identify how you can apply these ideas to your own life. Furthermore, we will discuss ways to utilize your new understanding of the principles of social influence for positive social change, and finally close with some specific hints from Dr. Z on how to resist unwanted influences.

    Other times the influence comes not dressed up in words in persuasive messages or visually appealing ads, but simply when the members of a group you are in, or want to belong to, act in a particular way. They don’t have to tell you what to do; they simply exhibit the behavior or the style of action that is expected of “good team members.” That form of social influence is known as conformity. “Do as we do,” is the conformity motto.

    Go along with the majority, the consensus and be accepted. Refuse to dress as they do, talk like they do, value what they value, or act in ways that are clearly the accepted social norm for this group, and you are rejected, isolated, expelled, ridiculed. The power of many groups in our lives to influence our thoughts and actions can be enormous, especially when we desperately want to be accepted by any given “in group.”

    Finally, all these sources of social influence are imposed from the outside in, from assorted influence agents on individuals or groups. One of the most powerful forms of influence is self-persuasion, where conditions are set up that encourage individuals to engage in personal thought and decision processes. Obviously we tend to know our strengths and weaknesses better than do others, so we can tailor self-generated persuasive messages likely to be effective. One tactic for inducing self-persuasion comes from role-playing positions that are contrary to one’s beliefs and values. Also when we are resolving a commitment we have made to engage in public behavior that does not follow from our personal beliefs, cognitive dissonance is created. To the extent that we come to believe we made that commitment freely, without (awareness of) external situational pressures, we start to rationalize it and come to convince ourselves that it was the right action and the right position to hold.

    There are many books on the science of influence, some of which we will note for your later in depth review. For now, however, we will outline some suggestions about what you can do to weaken or counter each of these varieties of social influence. Some of our advice is specific to a given influence type, other advice is more general in that it focuses on how to develop effective mind sets which will serve you well across many different influence settings. Knowledge of how these influence settings work and what you can do to resist them is the first step in becoming a wiser consumer of social influence. However, you have to be continually vigilant and continually put into operation these resistance tactics for you to inoculate your self against their insidious power.

    A few comments of myself I think their is a lot of situational issues which drives evil for example people that are known as dyssocial sociopaths these people are conditioned by their environment. It's basically a form of social influence.

    Remember the entire group might be wrong-headed because the leader has biased their opinions – “group think.”

    Their's tons more good information on that website about the book the Lucifer Effect, I'm really considering getting that book. I strongly suggest reading all on that's on that website, knowledge is never a bad thing.

    Finally social influence isn't always a bad thing a doctor,nurse or another individual you look up to may suggest you to consider avoid certain behavior which hasn't been going well for you an example would be alcohol or drug use. This influence obviously is intended to have a positive effect on one's life.
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  2. peacelovingguy

    peacelovingguy Well-Known Member

    A good person would need to be hurt to turn evil.

    Like those Iraqis - most living a life one day - and the next your pulling your kids out of bombed homes - looking at Americans bringing 'freedom'

    So good men put on masks and chop people's heads off.

    It is so easy.

    Most people here shudder now - but you would commit certain evils.

    Peer group pressure, social upbringing, family life, it can turn a child into a killer. Rare but African child soldiers would do horrible things to adults - woman and kids included.
  3. Prinnctopher's Belt

    Prinnctopher's Belt Antiquities Friend SF Supporter

    All people are capable of evil under the right circumstances. Not to mention that the word and concept behind evil itself is highly subjective and varies with societal standards of morale.
  4. LightInTheDarkestNight

    LightInTheDarkestNight Well-Known Member

    Nobody is born evil, it's situational things that make people who they are.

    You do make a good point if you had to bury your children or something very tragic due to them being murdered. One could very easily become hate filled, bitter, resentful, and even resort to an evil act yourself.

    It's like the movie American History X, the two sons dad was a firefighter who was murdered while fighting a fire by a African American. The boys grew up without their dad and got sucked into a Neo Nazi gang. They were vulnerable and prone to the social influence and manipulation by the leader. Two African Americans were stealing the main characters car when his younger brother awoke him in the middle of the night and he killed them and even curb stomped them. He goes to jail I forget for how long and his firm in his Neo Nazi beliefs but he soon realizes their cooperating with the Hispanics which upsets him and eventually he notices they aren't firm in their beliefs like he is their just egoists concerned about themselves. He finally gets raped in jail. He also befriends a African American while working in the kitchen and he has a revelation that his racism beliefs and hatred are all totally misguided, the nicest guy to him in jail was an African American. He gets out and when he does the Neo Nazi movement in his town is much stronger and his younger brother is entrenched in that lifestyle wanting to follow his idol his big brother, he makes it his mission to teach his brother that the whole philosophy behind their hatred and racism is wrong, get him out of that lifestyle and show him the right person he needs to be. There is good and bad in every person, there are also people you will like in some races while not getting along with others of the same race... Anyways I won't spoil the movie that's just a bit of a summary not giving away the ending it's quite good if you haven't seen it.

    Being vindictive is almost human nature in sense, more so with people who live certain life styles, like those involved with the drug trade, gangs or those who take pride in their street cred or rep. Just because your in that lifestyle doesn't make you evil but your more prone to assimilate to your surroundings, and succumb to social influence.

    People generally like to hate and judge other so they can feel better about themselves. It's sorta like Nazi Germany all of the hate directed to the Jewish people was totally misguided, ignorant in many ways they were their scapegoats and people like could look down upon so they could feel "superior" and better about themselves.

    Once someone is hurt they feel like their justified in hurting someone else. It's just a escalating cycle, generally one wants to hurt the person who hurt them worse that way they can feel like they've "won" or that no one got the upper hand on them. They may even have some kind of delusion that their doing that person a favor by humbling them, or "teaching them a lesson" yet that is just a mask for their egoist intentions. That person may have have already gone through lots of suffering or humbling experiences on their own, therefore your just harming someone. Revenge is after all selfish as one is not left in a better position after you get it.

    Our society is largely about repaying evil for evil, people aren't forgiving or understanding.

    This is a quote I really like from a monk 600 years prior to Jesus.

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  5. LightInTheDarkestNight

    LightInTheDarkestNight Well-Known Member

    Pretty much everything in life is subjective and arbitrary someone coming forward or testifying about a murder might be labeled a "snitch" by people who follow that code and he may get hunted down yet other people may think that person did the right thing and commend them for helping get justice for the murder victim and their family.

    A good example of this is perspectivism. That their is no "true" way of looking at the world.


    Even perspectivism is a perspective haha ;)
  6. Prinnctopher's Belt

    Prinnctopher's Belt Antiquities Friend SF Supporter

    That pretty much solidifies my point.
  7. gloomy

    gloomy Account Closed

    People become evil when they stop questioning themselves-- this is when you see things like the Norway shooter, neo-nazis, people causing worldwide recessions for profit, etc… they just think it's who they are. It's also why so many people nowadays are so horrible… they don't want to admit they could be wrong.
  8. Moat

    Moat Banned Member

    I do not believe in good or evil, god or lucifer, only the thin shade of grey that each of us walks throughout our life and occasionally stagger from at certain times in our life.
  9. LightInTheDarkestNight

    LightInTheDarkestNight Well-Known Member

    I agree on the latter part people feel justified in their misdeeds or evil actions due to rationalization, minimization or what have you. One identify's with being good and I can't be wrong therefore someone else has to be. It's all boils down to projection and the blame game, I can't be wrong and feel any sense of guilt, shame, remorse, sin, wrong action therefore it has to be you or someone else...

    It's very strange about the Norway shooter how he had hatred for Muslims yet he was a Christian, a right wing nut who also killed mostly Christians...

    A good quote is "We have already committed the crime in leaving our evil to other people" Carl Jung
  10. LightInTheDarkestNight

    LightInTheDarkestNight Well-Known Member

    In the sense if you mean everyone has good and bad in the sense yes this is true. Even the nicest people have a dark side(shadow) often times this is unconscious which means their more likely to project it onto someone else.

    Normal or sometimes even good(that's who they identify with at least people do engage in "evil" acts) what is evil is an act that intentionally harms someone physically, mentally or emotionally.

    If you go to the website I linked and read up on some of the information it's quite obvious even people who identify with being good and nice people if they were put in certain situational circumstances with external pressures they would be capable of doing an act which could cause great harm to someone.

    I know first hand how negative social influence can be, people who identify with being "good or being moral" can be capable of very evil and harmful acts.

    If they justify it(rationalization) or feel like the "minimized harm"(minimization) and they are social influences pressuring them to do or merely if they belong to a gang it's just that kind of culture they live in (dyssocial sociopaths). Not to mention if their totally ignorant to a person's life and all of their suffering, no one has the exact same past, and thought process what could be extremely traumatizing to one person may only be slightly to another. People who have a lower level of cortisol are more prone to PTSD oddly enough 3 1/2 years ago I was tested and I had a blunted cortisol response which makes someone more prone to trauma and PTSD.

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 4, 2011
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