Prominent social psychologist and Professor Emeritus at Stanford University Phil Zimbardo spoke in Ames Courtroom about his new book titled The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. The talk discussed the psychological processes involved when ordinary people commit evil acts.

“My goal is to introduce prominent members of the legal academy to a sampling of the most interesting insights of social psychology, social cognition, and related fields that illuminate many of the questions raised in law and legal theory,” said Professor Jon Hanson, an organizer of the event and co-founder of the Project on Law and Mind Sciences at HLS. “As Phil Zimbardo will make clear, law and psychology have much to offer to each other.”

Zimbardo’s new book discusses recent events such as the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses in Iraq as well as the full story behind his now famous Stanford Prison Experiment, for which he is best known.

In the experiment, Zimbardo assigned 24 normal college students to be prisoners or guards in a mock prison. The students quickly began acting out their roles, with the guards becoming brutal and the prisoners becoming passive and depressed. The conclusions of the experiment have become legendary in the psychological community.

Hanson’s new Project on Law and Mind Sciences sponsored the event. The Project recently hosted a conference on the HLS campus which drew leading social psychologists and legal thinkers. In addition, the Project has a blog called The Situationist, which serves as a forum for scholars to discuss the intersection of law and mind sciences.

Zimbardo’s lecture was also co-sponsored by The Program on Law and Social Thought, ACLU-HLS, The American Constitution Society at HLS, Unbound: Journal of the Legal Left, the Kennedy School of Government Center for Public Leadership, and the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics.

To view a webcast of the event, click here.