Famous psychologist visits university

“The Archives of the History of American Psychology at the University of Akron welcomed Philip Zimbardo to campus Wednesday to speak on The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. On his second lecture of the day, Zimbardo said he rushed to Akron from Columbus driving upwards of 80 mph.”

The Archives of the History of American Psychology at the University of Akron welcomed Philip Zimbardo to campus Wednesday to speak on The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

On his second lecture of the day, Zimbardo said he rushed to Akron from Columbus driving upwards of 80 mph. Despite this, he said it was a great lecture.

I think it was almost one of my best talks, he said. It was really the interaction and the situation that made it work for me.

The emeritus professor of psychology at Stanford University was greeted Wednesday night in the Simmons Hall Auditorium by a standing-room-only crowd. Those in attendance packed aisleways and the stage at Zimbardo’s request.

He said it was best that way.

Even though I always feel bad about people being on the floor, on the other hand people are happy to be there because they look around and say ‘I’m in the right place’ and I feed off that energy.

He said he worked his way through college in New York City as a concession boy in theaters.

When it was a hit, people walked and they were happy to be there and so they bought the candy that I was selling, Zimbardo said.

But once I worked in a play that was failing, and you walked in and you paid the same money and the place was half empty, he said. People didn’t buy anything … because everybody said ‘I got screwed.’

Zimbardo’s lecture was scheduled to last one hour, but he said that once he starts telling his stories, in between slides, it’s hard to keep it to one hour.

Zimbardo began with a lengthy introduction on evil. He asked, how well do you know someone?

The psychologist said everyone thinks they know a person, but who they really know is the person someone else is trying to be. He said people are only themselves to a select few people.

His lecture focused on the relationship between his famous Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971 and the Milgram Shock Experiments. He said the experiments demonstrate how ordinary people are able to do terrible things.

In the Stanford Prison Experiment, Zimbardo said they chose normal, good boys with no criminal history.

Students were divided into groups of prisoners and jailers by the flip of a coin to research the psychology of imprisonment. The experiment produced extreme results, which caused it to be stopped prematurely.

Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended prematurely after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated, Zimbardo said in a statement on his Web site. In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.

He said participants were unaware of the roles they would play. They were told they would be contacted within a certain time frame. The students selected as jailers were contacted. However, the prisoners were picked up and arrested by local police working with the experiment, who took them directly to jail. The jail was actually a basement of a building on Stanford’s campus.

Zimbardo explained that this was important because it made students lose their freedom rather than give it up for the experiment.

If freedom was given up, he said, it could be taken back.

All of these examples were then compared to the incidents of mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison in 2003.

During the Abu Ghraib hearings, the defense team called Zimbardo as an expert witness. However, he said his testimony did nothing for the defense.

Zimbardo argued that the soldiers were not properly supervised and they were the bottom of the military chain of command and untrained for the job at hand.

He argued that, as in the Stanford Prison Experiment, the jailers in uniform without supervision begin a transformation, regardless of whether they were normal people who lived next door.

He said by the jailers wearing uniforms – in both Abu Ghraib and Stanford – it changed their outward appearance and allowed them to become a member of a group.

The psychologist then compared that to the way the KKK form in groups and de-individualize themselves through their hoods. Through this, he said, people can change and those who were once perceived as normal and good are now capable of evil.

The lecture ended with Zimbardo giving examples of a new study of the human psyche that he is trying to spark others’ interest in: Heroism.

I thought it was fascinating, said Scott Bible, an industrial and organizational Psychology graduate student. It seemed like an interesting psychological perspective.

Amanda Ross, a counseling psychology graduate student, agreed.

It was amazing, Ross said. It reinforced the reasons why I’m going into this field.

Zimbardo is also the author of the oldest current textbook, now in its 18th edition, Psychology and Life. He has published 300 other scholarly works.

He has also hosted a wide variety of television and video series including the PBS series Discovering Psychology.

His research has focused on social psychology, including shyness to time perspective, madness, cults, political psychology, torture, terrorism and evil.
Currently, he is the director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Policy, Education and Research on Terrorism at Stanford University.

Recently, Zimbardo appeared on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Nothing I have done in my whole career is going to earn me more pizzazz than being on your program, Zimbardo said on the show March 29. As my students say, ‘it’s totally awesome, man.’

In response, Stewart asked, students at Stanford talk like that?


” #1.1361631:2631830962.jpg:20071025_zimbardo1_kg.jpg:Social psychologist Philip Zimbardo speaks to a full house Wednesday night in Simmons Hall Auditorium.:Kim Graham”