THE IMPORTANCE OF REACHING FOR A HIGHER STATE OF MIND ... in conversation with Philip Zimbardo, PhD by Chris Lau
17 Feburary 2009
Globally respected for his insights into the human condition and psychology; iCUBED.us are proud and honored to have an exclusive interview with Dr. Phillip Zimbardo. Famed for his best seller ‘The Lucifer Effect’ and his legendary ‘Prison Experiment’, Dr. Zimbardo continues to make psychology fascinating for teenagers and adults alike! Dr. Zimbardo took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss good and evil, and of course the concept of power……
PZ = Dr. Philip Zimbardo, PhD.
iCUBED.us = Interviewer
iCUBED.us: What does ‘Power’ mean to you?
PZ: The ability to use resources to have an impact! That impact can be on other people, or on the environment, it can be a quality of an individual or a group or a nation. It can be used for good, such as teacher's power to influence students, parents on children or a leader, like Obama on a nation.
iCUBED.us: ‘The Lucifer Effect’ is extremely popular globally. Why are people fascinated with the darker side of human nature?
PZ: Destruction is fascinating, it is swift, powerful, certain, while creation is slow, uncertain and interesting more in the final product than the slow process. We all aspire to goodness, but the temptation is always there to deviate, to bite the forbidden fruit, to cheat a bit, to see if we can get away with some violation of rules, laws, norms. Goodness is serious! Pleasure for pleasure's sake is fun. We may all sense that the line between good and evil is permeable and always wonder whether I could do that bad thing that others have done. Also there is a media bias in favor of portraying evil, violence, and anti-social behavior. "If it bleeds, it leads." is the statement that news editors are alleged to live by the top story is the one with blood on it.
iCUBED.us: Your famous prison experiment was ground breaking for its insights into the ‘Power’ relationships between guards and prisoners? You had to end the experiment early so were the results beyond your expectations?
PZ: Yes I did not expect the transformation of college students, chosen for their normality, would be so quickly, in a matter of a few days to become their roles- cruel guards and pathological prisoners - within the powerful situation that I and my research team had created.
iCUBED.us: There are many parallels between your prison experiment and the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Are the similar behaviors seen by the guards in both instances due to the environment or are some people just born bad?
PZ: No one is born just bad with the rare exception of psychopaths, and only 1% of any population fit that category. Human behavioral transformations occur when we are subjected to social / political / cultural situations whose features give us permission to be evil and provide the social psychological processes that facilitate such transformations - role playing, diffusion of responsibility, dehumanization, de-individuation, powerful authorities commanding obedience, lack of official oversight- for starters. Those features were equally present in my SPE and Abu Ghraib Prison-on Tier 1A, Night Shift.
iCUBED.us: There are many ways to describe power! Monetary, force, persuasion, influence as well as positional coercive power and more. Do all the aforementioned term’s sum up ‘Power’?
PZ: Yes, power is the sum of these resources, these processes, both personal and collective to have an impact on others, the environment, and the world -- for better or worse.
iCUBED.us: On the flip side of the negative aspects of ‘Power’, you also celebrate heroes and their feats. How do you define heroism?
PZ: Heroism is the antidote to evil! It is a socio-centric act to help others or a cause knowing that the likely costs are greater than any expected rewards. It involves some sacrifice, but it is always an action taken with good intentions and with the realization it might cost your safety, your well being and your career, yet the person does it.
iCUBED.us: Did influential men of peace such as Nelson Mandela and Gandhi wield a different type of ‘Power’ to achieve their goals?
PZ: Yes, they developed networks of like- minded individuals that collectively opposed great forces of oppression. The same was true of Martin Luther King Junior and his civil rights movement, as it was with Christians who aided Jews during the Holocaust. Individuals are expendable so it is a greater form of heroism to persuade others to join your network to carry on its struggle against some form of evil.
iCUBED.us: With regards to your career, when did your interest in psychology start? What other projects are you currently working on?
PZ: I started as a child growing up in poverty in a ghetto in New York City's South Bronx, surrounded by the evils of violence, prejudice, poverty and dehumanization of us by the rich and entitled. I was also sickly and picked on by bigger stronger kids. So I became an observer of human nature, to figure out who had the power to become a leader, what went into that skill, who were the perpetual followers. And I consciously reshaped my life to always be the leader, the most popular, most creative, most ambitious, most sought after, most energetic- and indeed since I was in junior high school to the present day, I have always been the leader of most groups I join. So I was an 'intuitive psychologist" before taking any psych courses.
iCUBED.us: Who would be more ‘Powerful’ for a teenager? A sports star, a movie star or a politician? Or would they all have a different type of influence?
PZ: They have different appeals, teenagers want young beautiful, rich, successful people to emulate, that is rarely a politician, but again Obama will change all that because he is attractive, smart, articulate and the most powerful person in the world, especially for young minorities.
iCUBED.us: In your opinion, who is the most ‘Powerful’ person in the world? And why?
Answer above, Barrack Hussein Obama, he has total juice to change much of the way the US runs and how the US relates to every other nation.
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