Below are concepts and videos that explore Philip Zimbardo’s ideas behind the “Psychology of Evil” as seen on his website for The Heroic Imagination Project.
I. The Situational Awareness:
• Psychological techniques that one can learn to better understand, respond to, and prepare for any challenging social situations and influences.
• To accurately analyze human thinking, feeling, and behavior, it is necessary to examine the forces from three spheres of influence: individuals, situations, and systems.
• One must learn about specific forms of social influence (e.g. conformity, the bystander effect, obedience to authority). The idea is that the more people know about each form of such influence, the less likely they will be persuaded to act against their better judgment during critical moments of decision.
II. Peer Pressure and Conformity
• Informational Influence: the belief that the group has a better understanding than you do of the situation, or has special information or expertise. (And so you do not trust your perception of the situation.)
• Normative Influence: the extreme discomfort that comes from speaking out against the group, even when one knows the group is wrong. The desire to be accepted and liked convinces group participants to keep disagreements to themselves.
III. Bystander Effect
• Pluralistic ignorance: a situation where a majority of group members privately reject something, but assume incorrectly that most others accept it, therefore in turn going along with it.
V. Prejudice and Group Perception
• Minimal Group Paradigm: The tendency for people of one group to rate their fellow group members more favorably than members of another group.
• Ingroup and Outgroup Biases:
o Group identity leads to division of one’s social world into “us” (ingroup) and “them” (outgroup). Many unconsciously use group identity to evaluate others, even when this leads to incorrect conclusions.
o People tend to rate members of the out-group as being more similar to each other than to members of the in-group, i.e. “They are all the same.”
o We also tend to exaggerate the differences between the in-group and out-group, i.e.: “They are very different than us.”
o This tendency forms the basis of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination.
“Blue Eye/Brown Eye” Experiment Video (9:27)
—Please be warned that the video is from the 1960’s, and there is some terminology used in the video that is unacceptable today.