Zimbardo’s Evil Equals Power

The acclaimed author of “The Lucifer Effect”, Professor Philip Zimbardo has defined Evil as the exercise of power to intentionally harm people psychologically, to hurt people physically, to destroy people mortally or ideas, to commit crimes against humanity. He emphasized the term “exercise of power” ergo evil to some extent equalised to power.

When attempting to justify the atrocities of the Abu Gharib cases, Zimbardo posits that those guards were not evil by nature but they have committed extreme abuses because of the prison setting where the guards were granted power unlimited.

Framework of Human Transformation to Evilness

Zimbardo proposed a framework of analysis on evil behavior by referring to how psychologists understand the transformation of human behavior. A dynamic interplay of

1- Dispositional – Nature of the individuals as foundation of study – Bad Apples
2- Situational – External or environmental influence (Costume and other physical existence of the setting) – Bad Barrel
3- Systemic – Broad influences: political, economic, cultural, legal power (Abstract social interactions that organise behavior) The Bad Barrel Makers

He summarized this framework as;

“You wanna change the person? You’ve gotta change the situation. You wanna change the situation? You’ve gotta know where the POWER is in the system”


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