Leadership & Ethics

The Psychology of Evil by Philip Zimbardo

By The Cove August 3, 2020


At the #BreakIn we aim to draw your attention to a number of Leadership and Ethics videos available online to assist with your professional development and encourage discussion with your peers. One such video is 'The Psychology of Evil' by Philip Zimbardo presented as part of the TED Talk series, as well as YouTube.

Philip Zimbardo, known for his work on the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, has direct experience with observing how easy it is for ‘nice people to turn bad.’ In this talk, he shares insights and graphic unseen photos from the Abu Ghraib trials where he suggests that "power without oversight is a prescription for abuse." Importantly, he then talks about the flip side: how easy it is to be a ‘hero', and how it is possible for us to rise to the challenge.

He suggests, “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. Those people who act. The key to heroism is two things: A. you have to act when other people are passive. B. you have to act socio-centrically, not egocentrically.”

Watch the documentary and reflect on your own understanding of human behaviour. Under what conditions and circumstances do you think it’s possible for individuals to compromise their values and behaviour?  What safeguards could you employ to protect yourself and your team from becoming ethically compromised?



The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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