What Makes People Go Wrong? (Part Two)

Right in the beginning of the Ted Talk, Philip Zimbardo talks about how there really is no fixed line between good and evil; that there is always good and evil in all of us. The line between good and evil is permeable, good people can be swayed and seduced across the line and bad people can be pushed and counselled into doing the right things. Most people like to believe that the line begins with them on the good side and everyone else on the other side. This is the last point that I’d like to talk about. In my proposal I stated that in the end it all relies on perspective to decide who is evil and who is not, so why is it that these heroes are put into a good light; when in the end the word hero is just a title placed on them.  Most people believe they are doing the right thing, sometimes they know what they’re doing is not really what they would like to do, but they still push through and do it. My favorite lesson I learned from Mr. Zimbardo is that heroes aren’t usually in capes and have superpower, and that villains aren’t always stronger than the average person; but that we all have the potential to be a hero and there will be a time when we have a situation that will provide us with a choice. This situation has the power to do three things:

  • The very same situation that can inflame the Hostile Imagination in those who become perpetrators of evil.
  • Can also inspire the Heroic Imagination in others of us.
  • Or render most people passive bystanders and then be guilty of The Evil of Inaction.

So really in the end the right situation and perspective is also a part of what makes us into who we become.

What Makes People Go Wrong? (Part One)

In the Ted Talk, The Psychology of Evil, the main question that Philip Zimbardo asks is ‘what makes people go wrong?’. He began to talk on about the line between good and evil, as well as Ying and Yang. Mr. Zimbardo has researched the subject of evil and criminology to the point that he has a book he’s written about; in this book he explores The Lucifer Effect. The Lucifer Effect has an infinite potential that has the capacity to make us behave kind or cruel, creative or destructive, caring or indifferent, and make us villains or heroes. Zimbardo defined evil as the exercise of power to intentionally harm, hurt, destroy, and commit crimes against humanity. With this definition I completely agree, but then again I believe that there is so much more to just plain black and white. In my eyes I believe there are millions of shades of grey out there that have made mistakes and regret them, or even the opposite. One thing that Zimbardo stressed is that there are steps to falling into the slippery slope of evil.

These are the seven social processes that grease the slippery slope of evil:

  • Mindlessly taking the first small step
  • Dehumanization of others
  • De-individualization of self
  • Diffusion of personal responsibility
  • Blind obedience to Authority
  • Uncritical conformity to group norms
  • Passive intolerance of evil through inaction/indifference.


With these steps I really do agree on what he is thinking. To make me even further believe these steps he provided information on one of his own studies where he took 24 healthy, normal college students and randomly assigned twelve to be the ‘guards’ and the others to be ‘prisoners’.  The interesting thing about this study is that it failed. It failed in less than a week. They found that the ‘prisoners’ were breaking from the treatment. It astounded me, the results were so vivid. To really think that normal, healthy people could transform so quickly once they got the power in their grubby hands.