Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Lucifer Effect - Person, Situation, or System?

“All evil begins with a big lie,” whether it’s a claim to be following the word of God, or the need to stamp out political opposition. A seemingly insignificant step follows, with successive small actions, presented as essential by an apparently just authority figure. The situation presents others complying with the same rules, perhaps protesting, but following along all the same. If the victims are anonymous or dehumanized somehow, all the better. And exiting the situation is extremely difficult.

This lecture is long at an hour and fifty minutes. Near the beginning, Zimbardo makes an ironic freudian slip in which he substitutes NAACP for NCAA. Don't dismiss him for this slight. While I believe that his overview of the Lucifer effect would be exponentially more powerful if he addressed himself to the perennially evil assault on Black folks sanity, don't hold your breath for that, it's not his fight. It's our fight.

All minor quibbles aside, Zimbardo is an ally and he provides a fundamental and powerful tool box useful for the ruthless interrogation of the assault.

Power and Authority

Fundamental Attribution Error

The Big Lie

Deindividuation

Anonymity

Dehumanization

Discernment and description of the situation is a beginning. However, the power to exit the situation is rooted in the organized mastery and proliferation of technique. Zimbardo is a master technician whose work is well worth your time and attention.