PHILIP ZIMBARDO QUOTES

American psychologist (1933- )

Time matters because we are finite, because time is the medium in which we live our lives.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life

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Tags: time


If you put good apples into a bad situation, you'll get bad apples.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, "A Conversation with Philip G. Zimbardo: Finding Hope in Knowing the Universal Capacity for Evil", The New York Times, Apr. 3, 2007

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If you want to change a person, you've got to change the situation.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, TED talk, Sep. 2008

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We have been taught that there is a fixed, impermeable line between good and evil, with the comforting belief that We and our Kin are on the good side and They, Those Others are on the bad side. This good-bad, dark-light dichotomy creates concepts of the other, the enemy, and supports not only prejudicial thinking, the in-group sense of superiority over the out-group, but worse of all it encourages dehumanizing others, thinking of them as undeserving creatures who are less than human. It is not hardwired into us; it is learned from adults, from the media, from politicians, from slogans and propaganda all around us.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, "The Lucifer Effect: An Interview with Dr. Philip Zimbardo", Neuron Narrative, Oct. 20, 2008

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Tags: evil


To be a hero, you have to learn to be a deviant, because you're always going against the conformity of the group. Heroes are ordinary people whose social actions are extraordinary. Who act.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, TED talk, Sep. 2008

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Tags: heroes


Most of us hide behind egocentric biases that generate the illusion that we are special. These self-serving protective shields allow us to believe that each of us is above average on any test of self-integrity. Too often we look to the stars through the thick lens of personal invulnerability when we should also look down to the slippery slope beneath our feet.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

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It was God who created hell as a place to store evil. He didn't do a good job of keeping it there though.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, TED talk, Sep. 2008

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Tags: Hell


The line between good and evil is permeable and almost anyone can be induced to cross it when pressured by situational forces.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, interview with Hans Sherrer, Aug. 27, 2003

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Tags: evil


The idea that an unbridgeable chasm separates good people from bad people is a source of comfort for at least two reasons. First, it creates a binary logic, in which Evil is essentialized. Most of us perceive Evil as an entity, a quality that is inherent in some people and not in others. Bad seeds ultimately produce bad fruits as their destinies unfold. We define evil by pointint to the really bad tyrants in our era, such as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, and other political leaders who have orchestrated mass murders.... Upholding a Good-Evil dichotomy also takes "good people" off the responsibility hook. They are freed from even considering their possible role in creating, sustaining, perpetuating, or conceding to the conditions that contribute to delinquency, crime, vandalism, teasing, bullying, rape, torture, terror, and violence. "It's the way of the world, and there's not much that can be done to change it, certainly not by me."

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

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Fear is the State's psychological weapon of choice to frighten citizens into sacrificing their basic freedoms and rule-of-law protections in exchange for the security promised by their all-powerful government.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

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Tags: fear


We all like to think that the line between good and evil is impermeable--that people who do terrible things, such as commit murder, treason, or kidnapping, are on the evil side of this line, and the rest of us could never cross it. But the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram studies revealed the permeability of that line. Some people are on the good side only because situations have never coerced or seduced them to cross over.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, "The Banality of Heroism", Greater Good, Sep. 1, 2006

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Whoever has the power to label others as evil is automatically, or reflexively, the good person. Good people label bad people as evil. And once you do that, then it demonizes them. You don't negotiate with evil. You don't sit down at the table with the devil and say, "Okay, let's work this out." What you want to do is destroy evil. Every Catholic kid every night says, or should say, "Lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil." And so you've got to go to God to help you deal with evil rather than your State Department or your negotiators.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, interview, American Scientist, Apr. 2007

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Coming from New York, I know that if you go by a delicatessen, and you put a sweet cucumber in the vinegar barrel, the cucumber might say, "No, I want to retain my sweetness." But it's hopeless. The barrel will turn the sweet cucumber into a pickle. You can't be a sweet cucumber in a vinegar barrel.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, "You Can't be a Sweet Cucumber in a Vinegar Barrel: A Talk with Philip Zimbardo", Jan. 19, 2005

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In one sense, the Stanford prison study is more like a Greek drama than a traditional experiment, in that we have humanity, represented by a bunch of good people, pitted against an evil-producing situation. The question is, does the goodness of the people overwhelm the bad situation, or does the bad situation overwhelm the good people?

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, interview, American Scientist, Apr. 2007

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Tags: environment


The [Stanford Prison Experiment] was readily approved by the Human Subjects Research committee because it seemed like college kids playing cops and robbers, it was an experiment that anyone could quit at any time and minimal safeguards were in place. You must distinguish hind sight from fore sight, knowing what you know now after the study is quite different from what most people imagined might happen before the study began.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, interview with Hans Sherrer, Aug. 27, 2003

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I've always been curious about the psychology of the person behind the mask. When someone is anonymous, it opens the door to all kinds of antisocial behavior, as seen by the Ku Klux Klan.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, "A Conversation with Philip G. Zimbardo: Finding Hope in Knowing the Universal Capacity for Evil", The New York Times, Apr. 3, 2007

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We want to believe in the essential, unchanging goodness of people, in their power to resist external pressures, in their rational appraisal and then rejection of situational temptations. We invest human nature with God-like qualities, with moral and rational faculties that make us both just and wise. We simplify the complexity of human experience by erecting a seemingly impermeable boundary between Good and Evil.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

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Nothing happened on day one--in fact, I was going to end the study because it was boring. On the morning of the second day, the prisoners revolted against being hassled, having their freedom limited. It's 1971--the big thing was freedom, "down with authority," "don't trust anybody over 30," "don't trust the military-industrial complex." But once the prisoners rebelled, then the guards changed their perception. They said, "These are dangerous prisoners, not college students." And every single day it got worse and worse. The guards escalated their aggression against the prisoners, stripping them naked, putting bags over their heads, and then finally had them engage in increasingly humiliating sexual activities. After six days I had to end it because it was out of control--I couldn't really go to sleep at night without worrying what the guards could do to the prisoners.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, interview, American Scientist, Apr. 2007

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As we have come to understand the psychology of evil, we have realized that such transformations of human character are not as rare as we would like to believe. Historical inquiry and behavioral science have demonstrated the "banality of evil" -- that is, under certain conditions and social pressures, ordinary people can commit acts that would otherwise be unthinkable.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, "The Banality of Heroism", Greater Good, Sep. 1, 2006

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Our time is brief, and it will pass no matter what we do. So let us have purpose in spending it. Let us spend it so that our time matters to each of us, and matters to all those whose lives we touch.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life

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Tags: time