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Zimbardo - Essay Example

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There are always people who commit crimes, initiate wars, dehumanize and humiliate other people. However, there is also an opposite power of heroism which balances evil impulses in any…
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Download file to see previous pages Most people believe that they act according to their own values. If a person commits a crime, psychologists study this person in detail trying to identify what personal traits or events in biography forced motivated further criminal activities. Personal dispositions are not the only factor which makes an individual behave in a certain way. It is interesting to what extent social context motivates behavior of the individual. Surprisingly, it can become the major influence under certain circumstances. Dr. Zimbardo entitles this phenomenon of individual transformation Lucifer effect.
According to Zimbardo, “evil is the exercise of power to harm, hurt and destroy” something or someone. There are certain conditions when dominance becomes the way to cope with a huge stress. For instance, the Abu Ghraib prison tortures happened in totally stressful atmosphere. War motivated hatred between US soldiers and Iraqi prisoners. The prison building was bombarded during the day and all people experienced daily fear to die. They did not leave the prison at all (Zimbardo). As a result, they transformed their stress into dominance over the weak.
Zimbardo’s theory does not seek for the “bad apple”; it aims at finding a “bad barrel”. Any particular situation is a result of the system. If the system has some space for bad things to happen, they will happen. System can be represented by the organization, community group or the whole civilization. It involves a wide range of factors; cultural, legal and social norms restrain behavior of an individual (Zimbardo). In Abu Ghraib, the US military organization to control prisons was a failure. One person was assigned to control 3 prisons but she never showed up there; there was no supervision at all. People who worked in prisons had no day offs. They had 12 hour shifts and worked all day long. Higher rank officers ordered to torture the prisoners creating the situation of diffused responsibility. Functioning in that system ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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