The Lucifer Effect

  • by Philip Zimbardo
  • Narrated by Kevin Foley
  • 26 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

What makes good people do bad things? How can moral people be seduced to act immorally? Where is the line separating good from evil, and who is in danger of crossing it? Renowned social psychologist Philip Zimbardo has the answers, and in The Lucifer EffectDrawing on examples from history as well as his own trailblazing research, Zimbardo details how situational forces and group dynamics can work in concert to make monsters out of decent men and women. Zimbardo is perhaps best known as the creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment. Here, for the first time and in detail, he tells the full story of this landmark study, in which a group of college-student volunteers was randomly divided into guards and inmates and then placed in a mock prison environment. Within a week, the study was abandoned, as ordinary college students were transformed into either brutal, sadistic guards or emotionally broken prisoners. By illuminating the psychological causes behind such disturbing metamorphoses, Zimbardo enables us to better understand a variety of harrowing phenomena, from corporate malfeasance to organized genocide to how once upstanding American soldiers came to abuse and torture Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib. He replaces the long-held notion of the "bad apple" with the "bad barrel" - the idea that the social setting and the system contaminate the individual, rather than the other way around.
This is a book that dares to hold a mirror up to mankind, showing us that we might not be who we think we are. While forcing us to reexamine what we are capable of doing when caught up in the crucible of behavioral dynamics, though, Zimbardo also offers hope. We are capable of resisting evil, he argues, and can even teach ourselves to act heroically.


What the Critics Say

"Zimbardo challenges readers] to look beyond glib denunciations of evil-doers and ponder our collective responsibility for the world's ills." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

What Most of Us Would Wish To Deny About Ourselves

Where does The Lucifer Effect rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Tough to answer. It is a chore to absorb because the subject is so distasteful and contrary to wishful thinking. As far as value to my personal life is concerned, it rates in the top three. As far as enjoyability is concerned it rates low. This is a "must read" and tears away at the illusion that we are all basically averse to committing atrocious behaviors.

Who was your favorite character and why?

This is not a book about characters. It is a work on the CHARACTER of mankind.

What aspect of Kevin Foley’s performance would you have changed?

Dunno. It is a tough book to narate because of the distasteful subject matter.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The book made me angry at my species, my government and the people who are willing to sell-out being good humans in exchange for awards, promotions or just not being punished for violating basic human ethics because of orders from peoples supposedly in positions of authority.

Any additional comments?

This is another great work that, if read by the masses, would have a positive outcome on our world because people cannot just sit back and ignore the world after experiencing "The Lucifer Effect" and the artful and determined way Zimbardo gave it to us.

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- Peter

Zimbardo Comes Clean...

I have studied the Standford Prison Experiment for many years and teach it in one of my classes in which I focus on theories of morality. The points made in documentaries and other writings I have come across have made me feel like Zimbardo has kept a very tight hand on the portrayal of this very controversial experiment (now considered unethical in psychological study circles due to the mental anguish caused to participants) and, more disturbing, his tight grip on his own reputation and role in the experiment. The fact is, Zimbardo went as crazy as any of his guards, maybe more so, considering the power he wielded in the situation, and it when his girlfriend (later his wife) who eventually pointed out that he was senselessly tormenting kids and letting them torment each other and she was the reason that the experiment ended. In almost every documentary I have seen, there is Zimbardo, employing subtle mitigations for his own behavior, using phrases like "EVEN I [emphasis mine] was affected by the power of the situation..." etc., when perhaps he should have said "ESPECIALLY I was affected by the power of the situation, which I set in motion and in which I should have shown the most responsible behavior..." In short, I always say Zimbardo as one engaging in justifying denial and rationalization.

I was impressed that in the PREFACE of this book, Zimbardo acknowledges his behavior as "evil," using that very word in regard to himself and he doesn't follow it up with his usual posturing regarding it. I also like that he emphasizes in this book that the individual is STILL RESPONSIBLE for his/her behavior, even when under the power of a situation, something I have not heard him really say in so many words before, or at least in not such clear terms.

Another reviewer complains of all the details given about the Standford Prison Experiment, but I, as someone who has studied this benchmark in group psychology for a long time, was DELIGHTED to finally get the full story.

And that he had included an entire section on individual responsibility and how to resist the power of the situation makes this a masterpiece in psychology.

Thumbs up all the way around.

(I never comment on the narrators, because I feel that is irrelevant in the evaluation of a book--hey, I am choosing to listen rather than read, so I take what I can get--but I also have to respond to the other reviewer's panning of Foley reading this text. He's not the best, but I don't find him distracting in the slightest.)

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- Douglas

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-01-2011
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio