The Psychology of evil

‘The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.’ John Milton, Paradise Lost

circle-limit-iv                                                                                                     M.C.Escher’s, Circle Limit IV, 1960

‘Three psychological truths emerge from Escher’s image. First, the world is filled with both good and evil-was, is, will always be. Second, the barrier between good and evil is permeable and nebulous. And third, it is possible for angels to become devils, and, perhaps more difficult to conceive, for devils to become angels.’ Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect, how good people turn evil

This extract is from a book I have been reading, a book written by the psychologist behind the Stanford Experiment, Philip Zimbardo.  It is essentially a deep analysis of how good people turn evil. Escher’s piece above presents this aspect of human nature wonderfully, there is good and evil among everyone.

The suggesting of authority corrupting people was something that I was particularly interested in, especially in regards to propaganda.

‘The process begins with creating stereotyped conceptions of the other, dehumanized perceptions of the other, the other as worthless, the other as all-powerful, the other as demonic, the other as an abstract monster, the other as a fundamental threat to our cherished values and beliefs. With public fear notched up and the enemy threat imminent, reasonable people act irrationally, independent people act in mindless conformity, and peaceful people act as warriors. Dramatic visual images of the enemy on posters, television, magazine covers, movies, and the Internet imprint on the recesses of the limbic system, the primitive brain, with the powerful emotions of fear and hate.’

‘Human beings are capable of totally abandoning their humanity for a mindless ideology, to follow and then exceed the order of the charismatic authorities to destroy everyone they label as the enemy’ Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect, how good people turn evil

The corruption of authority within history is horrific, a harsh reality and a shocking truth. How much of history should we believe and how much is believable?


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