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The Psychology of Evil:  
Dr. Philip Zimbardo Captivates College Community

by Marilynn Thomas, Psychology 

On Thursday, March 27, we were privileged to have Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo spend the day with us here on campus. The program included both a morning and an afternoon presentation in Rennie Forum, as well as an opportunity for faculty and staff to talk individually with Dr. Zimbardo at a morning coffee hour and then again at lunch.

Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Stanford University, immediate past president of the American Psychological Association, is also the 1999 winner of the APA’s Division One’s Hilgard Award for Lifetime Contributions to General Psychology. He is an award-winning distinguished teacher and writer, and internationally recognized as an innovative researcher in social psychology. As one of the most popular professors at Stanford University, Dr. Zimbardo continues to teach large undergraduate courses in introductory psychology and social psychology.
Guest speaker Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Psychology Department Chair Robin Hailstorks, and President  Ronald Williams

He has become the voice and image of psychology through the twenty-six episodes of the PBS TV series, "Discovering Psychology," which he created, wrote, and narrated, which is now a staple in most college courses (including PGCC) across the United States and in ten countries worldwide.

Dr. Zimbardo’s morning presentation was primarily an open and frank question and answer session with students, during which he encouraged them to ask any questions at all about the field of psychology. In response to their many questions, he sought to explain various behaviors, such as drug use, in terms of time orientation. Whether people are to the past, the present, or the future is partially determined by culture and generation, and will affect how they view and regulate their own behavior. He exhorted the students to consider entering the field of psychology because, as he explained, we need young women and young minority students with new perspectives to replace researchers who are now retiring. 


Dr. Philip Zimbardo models one of his gifts.

"The Psychology of Evil" was the afternoon topic, as Dr. Zimbardo traced the development of the concept of evil from biblical times to the present, making some interesting connections with the current political and diplomatic situation in the Middle East. Reviewing some of his early research on prison role playing and Milgram’s obedience studies, he explained how powerful the situation can be in determining behavior, causing essentially good people to engage in outrageously evil behaviors.


The Instructional Area Newsletter, Volume 18, No. 3

Spring 2003