The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip G. Zimbardo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What a journey to go through! The book, with its small typeface and rich content, is quite a challenge for me to finish in a few days. However, I am really happy that I read it!
The author starts with a short introduction of evil and then moves on to his landmark study--the Stanford Prison Experiment. It was really a grueling experience for me to read what they college kids have gone through in the basement. At some moments, I really felt so disgusted and kind of suffocated. I was just incredulous that normal, well-behaved college kids could have turned into either shameless torturers or depressed and almost hysterical inmates. Wasn't it just an experiment? Obviously it wasn't.
Another focus of this book is the prisoner abuses that happened in the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq. I know a little more about Guatanamo than Abu Ghraib, but I just couldn't imagine such atrocities just happened in these prisons, where the Americans should have been deemed "liberators" or "representatives of western democracy." I just could do nothing but sigh while I read these pages.
The last part of the book is about how we can resist bad social/situational influence and also about celebrating heroes and heroism. The part about celebrating heroes and heroism is not so substantial, in my opinion. I think it is mainly because of the lack of comprehensive studies in this branch, as most psychological studies have been focused on the dark side of human nature, according to the author. However, I look forward to more findings in this domain, not just about heroes and heroism, but generally about how we can really avoid situational factors that lead us to evil deeds by strengthening our virtuous side. It seems to me these two are not yet on the same level of comparison. Virtues are not special deeds, but atrocities or abuses induced by situational forces are. Can we really connect the two so easily? I think it is something worth a lot of studying.
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