“Ordinary People” Doing Evil
By Adam Roberts
And
Mackenzie Sevenants
Summary

Throughout human history there has been evil in the
world. Many people believe that some people are born
with evil hearts and intentions. But what about those
seemingly normal people, people like you and me, who
do evil and sadistic things? This is known as the Lucifer
Effect, which states that people who are psychologically
normal will do evil things under certain circumstances.
The Lucifer Effect is based around the human mind’s
power to make people “kind or cruel, caring or
indifferent, creative or destructive, and makes us villains
or heroes.”- Philip G. Zimbardo
Philip G. Zimbardo “Stanford Prison Experiment” 1999
http://www.prisonexp.org/ November 2011
Summary Continued…
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There have been a few experiments done to test
the theory of the Lucifer Effect. The two most
know experiments are “The Stanford Prison
Experiment” which was carried out in 1971 by
Philip Zimbardo, psychology professor at
Stanford University. The second well know test
was “The Milgram Experiment” which happened
in 1961 under Stanley Milgram, a psychologist
at Yale University.
Philip G. Zimbardo “Stanford Prison Experiment”
1999 http://www.prisonexp.org/ November
The Stanford Prison Experiment


In 1971 a psychology professor at Stanford
University, Philip Zimbardo, put together an
experiment to test how students at the school
who have a normal mental history would behave
in a real life prisoner and guard situation.
The Experiment began with Zimbardo choosing
twelve students to be guards and twelve to be
prisoners in a fake prison at the University.
--Philip G. Zimbardo “Stanford Prison Experiment” 1999
http://www.prisonexp.org/ November 2011
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Continued
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As predicted by Zimbardo, the students who were picked
as guards attitude’s changed because of the role they
were given. They started to act as if they really had
power over the prisoners. They psychologically and even
physically began to torture the prisoners. Soon, the
prisoners began to psychologically breakdown and go
along with the abuse. They even began to obey the
orders of the guards.
Like Zimbardo also predicted, the students began to act
as if it were a real prison and they were the guards and
prisoners. They had actually taken their roles seriously
as if it was real.
Philip G. Zimbardo “Stanford Prison Experiment” 1999
http://www.prisonexp.org/ November 2011
Results of The Stanford Prison
Experiment
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Zimbardo’s goal for this experiment was to understand
the abuse that goes on in prison by testing out the idea
that these students would develop the traits of actual
guards and prisoners.
Only after one day of being in the prison, one of the
students had already begun to show a dramatic change
in his attitude and was removed from the experiment
because of his psychological state.
The experiment was suppose to last for a total of
fourteen days but was closed only after six because of
the danger the students were to each other.
Philip G. Zimbardo “The Lucifer Effect” 1996 http://www.prisonexp.org/
Understanding how good people turn evil November 2011
Results of The Stanford Prison
Experiment

The final conclusion supported that idea
that the students did not “inherent” these
changed personalities but that the
situation which they were in caused their
violent and evil behavior.
Philip G. Zimbardo “Stanford Prison Experiment” 1999
http://www.prisonexp.org/ November 2011
The Milgram Experiment


The Milgram Experiment occurred in 1961
and was organized by Stanley Milgram of
Yale University.
This Experiment was to test people’s
compliance to obey orders of an authority
figure even if it went against the patient’s
moral beliefs and conscience.
Kendra Cherry “The Milgram Obedience Experiment” 2011 Psychology
Guide Web November 2011
The Milgram Experiment
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Milgram gathered a group of over 100
participants to be apart of the test.
The participants we given the job as a
“teacher” and were told that another
participant was the “learner”. The
“teachers” did not that the “learners” were
actually just actors.
Kendra Cherry “The Milgram Obedience Experiment” 2011 Psychology
Guide Web November 2011
The Milgram Experiment

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The “teacher” and “learner” were placed in separate
rooms in which they could talk and hear each other but
could not see each other.
The job of the “teacher” was to ask the “learner”
questions and each time the “learner” would get a
question wrong the “teacher” would hit a button which
would deliver an electric shock to the “learner”.
The electric shock would gradually become stronger and
stronger to the point where the “teacher” knew that the
“learner” was experiencing extreme pain.
Kendra Cherry “The Milgram Obedience Experiment” 2011 Psychology
Guide Web November 2011
The Milgram Experiment

The “teachers” all noticed the danger and
pain that they were causing the “learner”
but when they asked the experimenter if
they should stop, the experimenter would
respond by saying things like “Please
continue” and “You have no other choice,
you must go on”.
Kendra Cherry “The Milgram Obedience Experiment” 2011 Psychology
Guide Web November 2011
The Milgram Experiment Results


It was predicted that only a very small fraction of the
test subjects would inflict the maximum amount of
voltage of 450 volts. By they were in for a huge surprise
when they were proven wrong and two thirds of the
“teachers” delivered that final 450 volt shock to the
“learner”.
Based on these results, it was concluded that the
“teachers”, who were normal people and had no
background of doing evil or sadistic things to other
people, had delivered that dangerous 450 volt shock, all
while knowing that the “learner” was in terrible pain,
because and authority figure had told the it was ok to do
so.
Kendra Cherry “The Milgram Obedience Experiment” 2011 Psychology
Guide Web November 2011
Explanations and Conclusion
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In conclusion The Stanford Prison Experiment was
extremely accurate and realistic. What was predicted to
happen in the experiment was what happened in the
real life at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq.
The Abu Ghraib Prison was run by American soldiers
who were not fit to control the group of Iraqi inmates.
The Soldiers treated them in the same ways as shown in
The Stanford Prison Experiments but even worse. These
“normal” people were brought to do evil things to these
people by torturing them physically and mentally.
Martyn Shuttleworth “Stanford Prison Experiment” 2008 Experimentresources.com Novermber 2011
Explanation and Conclusion
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People act in these evil way in these circumstances
because when they are given the specific role, they
turning into that character and act in a way that
character would act.
When told by a authority figure in which they look up to,
they may feel uneasy about it but most people will still
do what they are being told to do even though it is what
they are against.
It’s a very interesting subject to think about because in a
way all of us have a dark, evil side in which we will go
sadistic things under certain circumstances.
Professor Christina Maslach “The Stanford Prison Experiment: Still powerful after all these
years” August 12, 1996 Stanford New Service November 2011
Work Cited Page
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Philip G. Zimbardo “Stanford Prison Experiment” 1999 http://www.prisonexp.org/
November 2011
Philip G. Zimbardo “The Lucifer Effect” 1996 http://www.prisonexp.org/
Understanding how good people turn evil November 2011
Kendra Cherry “The Milgram Obedience Experiment” 2011 Psychology Guide Web
November 2011
Martyn Shuttleworth “Stanford Prison Experiment” 2008 Experiment-resources.com
Novermber 2011
Professor Christina Maslach “The Stanford Prison Experiment: Still powerful after all
these years” August 12, 1996 Stanford New Service November 2011
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“Ordinary People” Doing Evil