As the story goes, Dr. Jekyll uses a chemical to turn into his evil alter ego Dr. Hyde. In real life, however, no chemical may be needed: Instead, just the right dose of certain social situations can transform ordinarily good people into evildoers, as was the case with Iraqi prisoner abusers at Abu Ghraib, argued former APA president Philip G. Zimbardo, PhD, in a presidential-track program during APA’s 2004 Annual Convention in Honolulu.
Indeed, Zimbardo–an emeritus psychology professor at Stanford University–highlighted how this Dr. Hyde transformation occurred among U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib by presenting classic psychology research on situational effects on human behavior.
Zimbardo, who will be an expert witness for several of the U.S. soldiers on trial, argued that situations pull people to act in ways they never thought imaginable.
“That line between good and evil is permeable,” Zimbardo said. “Any of us can move across it….I argue that we all have the capacity for love and evil–to be Mother Theresa, to be Hitler or Saddam Hussein. It’s the situation that brings that out.”‘
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