Philip Zimbardo Explains the Lucifer Effect

Jeff Hawkins recently featured a fantastic pair of articles on the Leaving Scientology blog that are a must-read for anyone considering leaving the Church of Scientology, or attempting to recover from the duress inflicted on them during their involvement with this pervasive cult.

These enlightening essays explore one of several key concepts included in Dr. Philip Zimbardo's well-established theory based on extensive scholarly research regarding how good people are easily conditioned to do evil deeds. Zimbardo's studies contend that situational factors in certain institutional settings can become a diseased breeding ground for evil acts, and the ultimate cure for this type of evil is acts of heroism.

Dr.Z and Robin Williams, TED Conference (2008)
The underlying theory behind The Lucifer Effect book initially evolved from Zimbardo's infamous Stanford Prison Experiment that former cult members, from many different destructive groups, often find reassuring for proving that anybody can be rapidly indoctrinated into a dangerous cult mentality no matter how smart or naive they might be.

As always, Jeff's articles listed at the top of this post not only hit a nail on the head, they also raised a great deal of positive discussion on the systematic factors inherent in the Church of Scientology that makes it such destructive cult. Thus, we thought we would add the following video to help amplify that recently raised awareness of Zimbardo's seminal works on The Lucifer Effect for further reflection.

This clip is a quick but thorough introduction that Professor Zimbardo gave to a distinguished  TED|Talks audience in 2008 that applies The Lucifer Effect theory to the travesties that happened at the Abu Ghraib prison encapment in war-torn Iraq. The above photo with comedian Robin Williams was taken at the same TED event, with the appropriate credit (and thanks!) going out to

"The shift [needed] is towards a public health model that recognizes situational and systemic vectors of disease. Bullying is a disease. Predjudice is a disease. Violence is a disease."
- Phil Zimbardo [18:18]
As Dr. Zimbardo explains in the lecture above, the main principle of the Lucifer Effect theory is to explain how institutional situations can affect human behavior. He touches upon the bad apples concept that Jeff highlighted, as well as briefly defining the other key concepts developed during his decades of research.

Another concept from this theory that is also worthy of highlighting is mentioned in the run-up to Zimbardo's concluding remarks around the 20 minute mark in the above clip, where he briefly recaps his supporting points that certain situations can have the power to do three things:

These factors are extremely relevant for former cult members who beat themselves up over not doing anything to stop the abuses they witnessed. Admitting that abusive practices run rampant within the Scientology organization is the first big step of fighting off the cult's influence over one's mind. While recognizing that previous inaction towards stopping institutional abuses has been proven a common response in an abusive group environment, is a giant realization for recovering cult members to make towards seeing that they are not alone in their experiences.

Dr. Z's points regarding the normal situational responses to the influence of an abusive institution are also expanded upon further in the Resisting Influence guide that is featured on The Lucifer Effect website.

For a much more comprehensive lecture from Philip Zimbardo on the Lucifer Effect (where he has the time to thoroughly explore all of the aspects of his theory and hypothesis) along with other related interviews and discussions, check out the following playlist available on YouTube compliments of the PLMSTube channel.

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