Writer: Sarita Lopes
Subject: What is the Lucifer Effect?
Link: QUORA / 20.05.2021 / Review: The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo
What is the Lucifer Effect?
As the old saying goes “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.”
No one disputes the influence friends exert on us. Whether they favor hints, tips, advices or open discussions the fact is that we take into account what they say. They mean no harm. After all, they are friends, right?
Not really. Specially if it is a group behavior. Teenagers struggle to fit in. They will wear the same outfits, hear the same songs, talk alike. All in the name of acceptance by the group.
Adults are not different. They also join groups, seek people with same interests and obey a certain dress code. They tend to group together with people sharing the same moral values, social-economic status. So far so good.
The problem begins when those groups show their evil face. Protected by the group, individuals are capable of doing the most atrocious things. As Hannah Arendt said, the banality of evil is flabbergasting.
Lucifer Effect is the influence of groups on behavior. As Lucifer is considered the evil angel, the result of those actions are not good. Much to the contrary.
During WWII, millions of Jews and other minorities were killed in concentration camps. Public reaction was zero, zip, zilch! Lucifer Effect.
In an experiment conducted years ago, students were requested to deliver powerful electric shocks to others, obeying a man in a white coat. The shocks were fake, but students did not know about it. They kept on obeying the man in white coat, giving shocks above 450 V—lethal dose. More than 65% of participants would have killed their classmates if the shocks were real. Lucifer Effect.
In another research called “The Stanford Prison Experiment”, college students were randomly assigned the role of prisoners or guards during two weeks. The guards were so engrossed by their role that they quickly started harassing, bullying and dehumanizing the prisoners. The experiment became so brutal and out of control that it was interrupted in less than 5 days. Lucifer Effect.
Not so long ago, the brutalization of prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison became an international scandal. Pictures of naked Iraq prisoners being led around on leashes and forced to commit sacrilegious acts to their beliefs became public. Lucifer Effect.
Never underestimate the power of groups. Beware of your own Lucifer—we can all go from good to evil.