The Lucifer Effect
In a way, “The Lucifer Effect” further demonstrated the subjectivity of ethics and ethical decision making to which people have more prevalently adopted in modern time. This is accomplished via the introduction and evaluation on the role that environment plays. According to Philip Zimbardo, the character or personal nature of an individual plays less of a role in the influence moral environment of an individual than people understand. As a social psychologist, he posits that social context is what actually influences moral character. According to Zimbardo, this is what makes cross the line of evil and wrong so appealing to people and why they wander in that direction.
As opposed to evaluating the classical works as it related to this assertion, Zimbardo examines acts of brutality conducted by one human being against another, which have occurred within the last century. One area of his focus is the aforementioned torture incidents that occurred in the Middle East. Zimbardo conducted an experiment known as the Stanford Experiment in which he selected college students and created a mock prison. In that mock prison, some of the students were prisoners and others were guards. The findings of the experiment indicated that many of the students acted with oppressive brutality as prison guards, and other students coward in submission.
Its goes without saying that the findings of the study were surprising and unexpected. People generally like to believe that they have more control over their actions and behaviors. No one wants to think that their environment can have such a profound impact on who they are and the actions that they choose to engage in because it can be perceived as a lack of strength and self-awareness. The findings of this study may not have been strong enough to show that environment plays as strong a role as Zimbardo suggests, but is does show that social environment has an impact that a degree that cannot be ignored.
As a young child, I can recall my mother cautioning me about being mindful of the company that I keep. She held fast to the old adage that “evil communication corrupts good manners” and prefer that I not place myself in environment in which I could be influenced to do the wrong thing. At the time, I saw these warnings as the over-protective ramblings of a worried mother. I believed that no one who was truly sure of who they were as a person could be influences by any one or any situation. I now see this perception challenged in the findings of the aforementioned study. I see those warnings as having far greater merit that I did before.