What is evil? Is everyone capable of evil? Are there just a few “bad apples” responsible for atrocities like the Holocaust? Abu Ghraib? The shooting in Tucson? Or do systems and circumstances have a strong influence in the perpetuating evil? What happens when good people are thrust into situations and systems that foster evil? These are the kinds of questions that Dr. Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford University, has been exploring for decades. Zimbardo has also been examining how our society can inspire and nurture more people to become heroes.
Our friends at the Greater Good Science Center recently have featured Zimbardo’s words and work into good and evil. Zimbardo’s essay, “What Makes a Hero?” explores what heroism is, why people become heroic, and how we can foster that heroic action. They also feature videos of Zimbardo talking about “What Makes a Hero?” and “The Truth About Good and Evil“.
Check out his brilliant but disturbing TED talk about good and evil:
If you’re an educator, check out ideas for exploring good and evil with your students, using Zimbardo’s book, The Lucifer Effect.
And, read the interview we did with Dr. Zimbardo about the power of education and challenges for the future.