News FocusSocial Psychology

Using the Psychology of Evil To Do Good

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Science  29 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6029, pp. 530-532
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6029.530

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Forty years after presiding over the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, Phil Zimbardo has reinvented himself as a social entrepreneur, leading a new project that will attempt to turn the Stanford Prison Experiment and other studies of the dark side of the human psyche into a force for good. Last year, Zimbardo founded the Heroic Imagination Project, which operates out of a former Army post in San Francisco's Presidio park. Its goal is to use lessons learned from social psychology research to teach ordinary people—from high school students to office workers—to recognize the influences that can make people stand idly by when they see a person in need and embolden them to commit what Zimbardo calls acts of everyday heroism. The organization has plans for teaching, research, and public outreach that are just getting off the ground.