The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

Philip Zimbardo saw the abuse at Abu Ghraib coming from a long way away—about 30 years. Zimbardo was the researcher behind the Stanford Prison Experiment, a 1971 study in human behavior that divided normal male college students into “prisoners” and “guards” at Stanford University. The results were so disturbing that the experiment had to be stopped after just a few days. Zimbardo has never written in-depth about the study—and only revisited it after Abu Ghraib, when he was asked to assist the defense of Staff Sgt. Chip Frederick, accused in the scandal. Frederick is serving time, and Zimbardo has put together an enlightening, if chilling, explanation for why good people can become complicit in evil acts. We all need to read this book. Fortunately, it’s compelling and well-written.