Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sympathy for the Devil

Tonight's interview with Stanford Psychology professor (emeritus) Philip Zimbardo on The Colbert Report reminds me that maybe one day I should actually read his latest book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, if I ever want to think seriously about the notion of "heroes" and "villains."

I meant to write about Zimbardo here when I first watched this recent documentary about his infamous Stanford Prison Experiments among other "Human Behavior Experiments" demonstrating how ordinary people can be prompted to do extraordinarily awful things to each other. Never quite got around to that--but it turns out those two programs are merely the tip of the media iceberg. (Lots more TV and print appearances are catalogued here.)

I see, too, that Zimbardo is quite the master packager of himself--in addition to the site for the book, he's got a snazzy little home page and another devoted to the prison experiments, complete with slide show and discussion points. One such note does a nice job of decoding one of my favorite bits of police fetishism: "Consider the police procedures which make arrestees feel confused, fearful, and dehumanized. Note that this policeman is wearing sunglasses just like those we had our 'guards' wear and as did the head of the National Guards at Attica Prison during its bloody 1971 riot!"

No comments: