The Lucifer effect

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The book, Lucifer Effect, by Zimbardo, explores the causes of evil in society. Zimbardo argues that character is not spontaneous but is influenced by the environment and social set-up. The author uses experiments to show how different roles can lead to diverse character traits, such as cruelty and depression. Zimbardo also emphasizes the need for good leaders and friends to shape character positively. The book challenges readers to be aware of their environment and choose their companions and mentors wisely. The author concludes that everyone is vulnerable to becoming evil, and it is crucial to monitor one’s environment to prevent this from happening.

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Literature review

Lucifer effect is a novel which unveils the secrets behind evil in the society. While many people have always argued that character is spontaneous and comes naturally from birth, Zimbardo by contrast, is more embedded in documentation, experimentation and observation of human life and this has revealed different aspects that contribute to the evil in the society.

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According to the book, anyone is vulnerable to develop diverse character traits. These can either be good or bad, kind or cruel, caring or indifferent. Zimbardo emphasizes that the line between evil and good is very permeable. This he confirms from the ancient history in the bible, where Lucifer who was God’s favorite angel later rebels into evil practices.

What makes people evil?

Zimbardo’s explanations on the theory of evil are quite unique. One great contribution to either good or bad character traits is the environment or social set-up where they live. According to the book, an experiment was set up in which some students assumed the roles of prison wardens, while others played the roles of prisoners. The end result was fascinating because the two sets of roles developed into very different and opposite character traits. Zimbardo explains that cruelty and wild personality was the character traits of the warden students, while the prisoner students developed into depression and rebellion. This gives a summary that an environment of existence contributes greatly into what one becomes.

Another experiment was set up to study the results of leadership on character. Various people were given a chance to exercise punishment on the offenders.  The victims of punishment were to experience electric shocks, some of which were painful and send the victims wailing. Zimbardo explains that 2/3 of the student punishers fully complied to the instructions given to them, and they never reduced the intensity of punishment, even if the victims complained of acute pain.

Many people always follow the directions they get from leaders or their mentors. Children of instance, automatically ape the behavior of their elder siblings or parents. Teachers are also included in this chain of mentorship. This book is an eye opener to many and challenges people to be good leaders if at all they want to create reliable people in the society of tomorrow.

Zimbardo’s book also expounds on the need to have the right set of friends and companions around. This backs up a philosophical saying that reveals that bad company corrupts good morals. Good set of friends are a motivating factor towards excellence in character. Hard work, discipline and wisdom are some attributes of good friend. Bad company however is characterized by unruly behavior, lack of respect and even drug addiction. Zimbardo insists that one must choose friends rightly so as to excel in character.

Liberalization in today’s world is a great tool to character development. Movies and other entertainment avenues have contributed to diversity of character among the people. Horror and evil films contribute to evil characters in the society. Good people have also been a result of watching films that have moral lessons in them.

In conclusion, environment of existence must be watched lest they play a part in inducing evil in the society. This cuts across the whole population because no one is immune to becoming evil. Zimbardo out rightly explained this by commenting that all are vulnerable.


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The Lucifer effect. (2016, Dec 27). Retrieved from

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