Comprehending Man’s Dark Nature

Comprehending Man’s Dark Nature




Comprehending Man’s Dark Nature

Philip Zimbardo is a social psychology professor at Stanford University. He is prominently known for his studies that reveal man’s capacity for evil. His most famous research is the Stanford prison experiment (and later on in the Lucifer Effect) concentrating on the motivations of man to do evil. The moral demarcation once crossed unleashes the innate evil in man. Zimbardo tries to find out which situations trigger the dominance of man’s evil nature and the subsequent translation of the nature into malignant behavior. His work has inspired continued research on the topic in tandem with movies and novels.

The study chose ordinary men devoid of prior criminal record, established short temperaments or any health condition that may predispose them to behave irrationally. To ensure the authenticity of the findings the participants were arrested by police and brought to the location as they were going about their daily lives. The test aimed at evaluating how the participants will respond to the drastic change from their routine lives. A mock prison was enacted in one of Stanford University’s basements. The participants were then divided into two groups, prisoners, and prison guards with their corresponding regalia. Two days into the study disquiet arose among the prisoners, which was met with a swift and effective retaliation by the guards. The ringleader was stripped naked and put into solitary confinement. The prisoners conformed into their assigned roles obeying the prevailing authority enforced by the pseudo-guards, who had equally settled into their roles. Individuals who previously were pacifists turned into violent aggressors in line with the social norms associated with their positions (Zimbardo & Anarchist Black Cross, 2000).

The experiment was stopped prematurely by a concerned colleague of Zimbardo and its publication received negative feedback due to its unethical practices. However, it informed on the tendency of man to act in accordance with assigned social roles. The research was unique as it took real life participants without prior knowledge of the activity, as it would have interfered with their judgments. The research’s findings were interesting as they revealed the potential for evil inherent in every human. The insights can be used to find out how social situations affect human behavior both positively and negatively subsequently reinforcing the former and controlling the latter (Zimbardo & Anarchist Black Cross, 2000).



Zimbardo, P. G., & Anarchist Black Cross. (2000). The Stanford prison experiment. Austin, TX: Austin ABC.



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