Angels & Demons by M.C.Escher  
The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo  
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elcome to, official web site of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil (Random House, 2007). In this book, I summarize more than 30 years of research on factors that can create a "perfect storm" which leads good people to engage in evil actions. This transformation of human character is what I call the "Lucifer Effect," named after God's favorite angel, Lucifer, who fell from grace and ultimately became Satan.

Rather than providing a religious analysis, however, I offer a psychological account of how ordinary people sometimes turn evil and commit unspeakable acts. As part of this account, The Lucifer Effect tells, for the first time, the full story behind the Stanford Prison Experiment, a now-classic study I conducted in 1971. In that study, normal college students were randomly assigned to play the role of guard or inmate for two weeks in a simulated prison, yet the guards quickly became so brutal that the experiment had to be shut down after only six days.

How and why did this transformation take place, and what does it tell us about recent events such as the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses in Iraq? Equally important, what does it say about the "nature of human nature," and what does it suggest about effective ways to prevent such abuses in the future?

Please join me in a journey that the poet Milton might describe as making “darkness visible.” Although it is often hard to read about evil up close and personal, we must understand its causes in order to contain and transform it through wise decisions and innovative communal actions. Indeed, in my view, there is no more urgent task that faces us today.

   — Philip Zimbardo
   Professor Emeritus
   Stanford University

©2006-2007, Philip G. Zimbardo

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