Friday, March 20, 2009

Book Excerpt Of The Week: Part 1- "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil" By: Philip Zimbardo

I keep hearing people discussing the spiritual & psychological war that people feel that we are engaged in. This book touches on that topic in a variety of ways. The following excerpt discusses 10 ways that people can be lured into complying with situations that they know are wrong. [Sidebar: In Part 1, I list the first 5. I'll post the last 5, in Part 2.] Knowledge is power. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

"Lets outline some of the procedures in this research paradigm that seduced many ordinary citizens to engage in apparently harmful behavior. In doing so, I want to draw parallels to compliance strategies used by 'influence professionals' in real-world settings, such as salespeople, cult and military recruiters, media advertisers and others. There are ten methods we can extract from [the researcher] Milgram's [experiment] for this purpose:

1) Pre-arranging some form of contractual obligation, verbal or written, to control the individual's behavior in pseudo-legal fashion. (In Milgram's experiment, this was done by publicly agreeing to accept the tasks and procedures).

2) Giving participants meaningful roles to play ("teacher," "learner," etc.) that carry with them previously learned positive values and automatically activate response scripts.

3) Presenting basic rules to be followed that seem to make sense before their actual use but can then be used arbitrarily and impersonally to justify mindless compliance. Also, systems control people by making their rules vague and changing them as necessary but insisting that 'rules are rules' and this must be followed.

4) Altering the semantics of the act, the actor, and the action (For example: from 'hurting the victims' to 'helping the experimenter,' punishing the former for the lofty goal of scientific discovery)- replacing unpleasant reality with desirable rhetoric, gilding the frame so that the real picture is disguised. (We can see the same semantic framing at work in advertising, where, for example, bad-tasting mouth wash is framed as good for you because it kills germs and tastes like medicine is expected to taste).

5) Creating opportunities for the diffusion of responsibility or abdication of responsibility for negative outcomes; others will be responsible, or the actor won't be held liable. (In Milgram's experiment, the authority figure [i.e. The Researcher] said, when questioned by any 'teacher,' that he would take responsibility foranything that happened to the 'learner')." - From, "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil" By: Philip Zimbardo

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So true, so true !