2010 Shows

(Original Air Date 10/25/10) Is it possible for a really good person to turn evil? Do you think you have an inner demon that could be triggered to make you rob a bank, steal from a neighbor or torture another human being? Dr. Phillip Zimbardo, professor emeritus at Stanford University and author of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, has performed some of the most groundbreaking experiments in the history of psychology. Find out what happens when several Dr. Phil audience members are put to the test! Will they blindly follow instructions from an actor who looks like an authority figure? And, find out how the horrific abuses discovered in 2004 at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq mimic the results from Dr. Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment in the 1970s. See the surprising parallel that demonstrates just how easily a good person can be drawn to the dark side. And, find out how an Army ranger says he followed  routine orders and ended up in prison for bank robbery. Are you susceptible to manipulation by an authority figure? Tune in to find out!

Find out what happened on the show.
Replied By: ribeirojc on Jan 5, 2013, 5:52PM
Such a long time since the last comment...

I'm no psychologist or something of the sort, just a common person, an Engineer who lives in Brazil.

I disagree, starting with the title.
Thare are no "good" or "bad" people. The actions people take are the result of choices they make when dealing with reality.
And "reality" can range from the "real thing" to a very distorted neurotic projection.

We (human beings) are the result of an evolution (yes... Darwin) which honed our species so that we do whatever is best for our survival and the survival of our kin.
Assuring the survival of our genes is how we become immortal.

This atavic conditioning exists in every person. The difference is how each one deals with it.
Some are predators, some are "bad" and some are "good" (sometimes, usually, most times, always - all shades of gray).

Everytime we are able to perceive reality as it really is and we are able to understand our mind's workings we are able to decide what is the most appropriate action. And the more appropriate is just that - neither "good" nor "bad".
That is what I understand as (real) free will.

I can imagine a situation in which my child is kidnapped and I have the power to torture someone in order to find out where s/he is and therefore save his/her life. I would not hesitate to do it. And I would not consider it a "bad" action.

The Stanford experiment described used one of the survival tools we have learned. A lone human has very little chance. We survived because we formed groups and this is a very strong reason.
So, belonging to a group is part of our heritage. Be it a fraternity, soccer fan group, alumni, nationality, prisoners or wards.
Replied By: settheexample on Dec 28, 2010, 2:58PM - In reply to yoyoqn
       I would just like to thank you for being brave enough  to emphatically express your insight and bear your soul. In this society, something has definitely took a turn it is as if there isn't a ounce of consciousness or we have paid proffesionals doing research  to see if all are on board. I've  experience this in the work place, I follow what the job entails but I decide the method that suites  criteria, that achieves results, and most of the time. retain my self dignity,and conscious, I  had outside influence that  developed my sense aware of what I wanted and what I did not want.  It is a sad day when to make a spectacle of anyone using any means  just for observation , research is a HARVEST READY 100 FOLD.  IGNORANCE GONE TO SEED, . it is a known fact two of the same kind one is not necessary, therefore all bandwagoneers are in trouble they just don't know it.  You deserve a medal for the character you retained.  I thank you& parents .
Replied By: outfoxnu on Dec 26, 2010, 12:08PM
I have never been able to inflict pain on anything.  I could not imagine how people are told to, then do it!   In high school we were to kill a mouse, then dissect it.  I could not do it.  I refused to do it.  My parents were called and I was severely punished for not doing it.  I seem to march to a different drummer and things most humanbeings do to one another and the reasons for it really scare me.  I believe you are born to either be able to do this or not.   All it takes is someone or something to bring it out in you, no matter how you were raised.
Replied By: theleftcoast on Dec 24, 2010, 1:09PM
We watched the video of this experiment in a psych class, and it was just wrong on so many levels, we were shocked! First of all, as anyone with the slightest experience in clinical trials knows, the PI (primary investigator) NEEDS to be an objective observer. No negotiation whatsoever. The fact that this guy played the Warden in this twisted experiment, when it was obvious that he wanted to prove that people were 'evil,' is completely unthinkable!  He goaded the 'guards' to harass and humiliate the 'inmates,' to prove his own sick 'thesis.' The only thing he proved was that damaged people damage other people, as he single-handedly did to each participant in this 'experiment.' The trauma that he caused to each of the participants is shocking, and watching the original footage feels like watching a 'snuff' film.
Replied By: viceversa22 on Dec 24, 2010, 3:45AM
I'm American, but I've been studying overseas doing a Master's program for quite some time. I remember reading Dr. Zimbardo's prison experiment in undergrad at some point... I know it's been tweaked in various ways over the years: prisoner of war camps, sports teams, lifeboats, etc.

If you want a really good example of this, go to an immigration office in any major European city. Go and film for a few hours, and you'll be amazed. I say go to Europe because there really are the unwashed masses from all over the world... within about an hour you'll find that some American or Canadian will try and jump the line, "one-upping" an Eastern European or African (frequently with children, certainly who need their Visas more urgently)... the weird thing is that the guards treat people in the heirarchy more-or-less nicely, depending on country of origin, even though technically we all have the same rights (which is to say, none).

Complete strangers go in, and within 10 minutes, everyone has assumed very rigid roles.
Replied By: marissamour on Dec 23, 2010, 4:11PM - In reply to mkben4
By your logic, it's okay to hurt other humans because it's something that has always been done. I'd say I'm dumbfounded, but I'm hardly surprised by this ignorance. This is exactly what's wrong with this country. Images like those of the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib need to be shown to the public because it does happen regularly. Why do you think it is okay to cover up the abuse of Americans' abuse of other humans? Dehumanizing other people is nothing that Americans should be at all comfortable with. Why is it okay for Americans to abuse their power and enforce the subordination, let alone allow the torture, of non-Americans? What happens when these people that America has historically denegrated fight back?
Replied By: marissamour on Dec 23, 2010, 3:53PM
I find it extremely problematic that Dr. Zimbardo referred to the soldiers who tortured the prisoners at Abu Ghraib as "good" people who, under the circumstances in which they found themselves, merely made bad decisions. It seems to me that Dr. Zimbardo is merely providing people who do bad things with an excuse to commit evil acts. If both good and bad people have the potential to make bad decisions and act cruelly, then what is the difference between good and bad people? Perhaps the answer is that people who act cruelly are, in fact, cruel; they aren’t good people. The difference between a “good" person and a "bad" person is that, while everyone may have a natural desire to exact revenge and follow "group mentality," a good person would recognize their ethic responsibility to other human beings, and make the choice to not harm another person. Dr. Zimbardo claimed that the soldiers who tortured the prisoners at Abu Ghraib showed no signs of criminal behavior or malevolent character prior to their actions at Abu Ghraib, and used this information to deem the soldiers “good” people. However, if a serial killer showed no signs of psychiatric problems before killing numerous people, would they be deemed a good person? The majority of people would say that a serial killer is a “bad” person, regardless of their prior history, because they have killed numerous people. The defense that “they were good people that did something bad” is just that: a defense that people can use to cover up the fact that they have done something evil.
Replied By: mkben4 on Dec 23, 2010, 4:33AM
Hi Dr Phil! I am a huge fan of your show and have been since it has aired. I have never emailed or commented on anything you have aired except today. Yesterdays show really bothered me on the american soldiers and how they treated their prisoners with graphic photos. I guess my point and comment would be our soldiers see so much over there, we cannot even imagine what they see every day while we have our freedom here. Should we on national tv make them look like bad US soldiers to the public?  Maybe we should air what the taliban do to our people in graphic photo's. Which happens all the time. Is it right? Absolutely not.  My husband went though ranger training and did not come out a bad man, he also graduated from West Point and did not come out a bad man. Prison abuse has been going on for many decades. It is what it is...I think it should not be aired to the public to make our soldiers bad evil people.
Replied By: cutelil222 on Dec 22, 2010, 11:15PM - In reply to doomsdaydiva
I am not sure what to say. You need to go to the hospital and possibly be held for a few days. I know it is not ideal, no one would want to, but the hold could help you. You need to speak with someone who is a professional.
Replied By: cutelil222 on Dec 22, 2010, 11:10PM
This episode reminds me of drunk people doing stupid things. I think too many people blame an outside source for things they decide to do. Many people will disagree with me, but I have been put in situations where I could have been a bad person, and chose not to be. I believe it is more a matter of self worth and true compassion. If you are looking for someone to lead you, then you will follow. If you are confident in yourself and hold strong to your beliefs and have a good heart, all the time, then you will not get caught in a bad situation because you were following people. I can see how it is easy to do, but anyone who is manipulated enough to treat others badly, deep down want to do it. I have read about the prison experiment in psychology classes, I am the kind of person who would not forget I was in an experiment. People do like being in control and having control of others, but the ones who take advantage of this are not good people doing bad things, they are bad people who are good most of the time. I did not agree with the Doctor on military pressure. The soldiers in 2004 did not treat the prisoners like scum because they did not know what to do, they treated them this way because they thought they could. I understand the anger toward the prisoners, but do not discount the reason for the actions of the soldiers, they were mad and wanted answers. They wanted to treat the prisoners badly, it was a choice not a conditioning or a lack of know how. I am glad the particular soldier who was mentioned was good in his life, pre-abuse of prisoners, but that was just because he had not been presented the opportunity, to do something like this, punish bad people, and "get away with it". I see the abuse of power often with local authorities, if you look into thier past, or present home life, they are "good people", it does not mean what they are doing today is ok. I love psycological evaluations and psycology as a whole, but unfortunatly some things happen just because people think they can get away with it. If we, as a society, made less excuses for the bad behaviors I think more people would be forced to think twice before they acted "as they were told." Hold people liable for their actions, I do not allow one of my children to get away with being bad because the other three were being bad as well. If people are punished for following the leader, who does wrong, they will be forced to think for themselves and stand on their own two feet.
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