Philip Zimbardo was the leader of the notorious 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment — and an expert witness at Abu Ghraib. His book The Lucifer Effect explores the nature of evil; now, in his new work, he studies the nature of heroism.

Why you should listen

Philip Zimbardo knows what evil looks like. After serving as an expert witness during the Abu Ghraib trials, he wrote The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. From Nazi comic books to the tactics of used-car salesmen, he explores a wealth of sources in trying to explain the psychology of evil.

A past president of the American Psychological Association and a professor emeritus at Stanford, Zimbardo retired in 2008 from lecturing, after 50 years of teaching his legendary introductory course in psychology. In addition to his work on evil and heroism, Zimbardo recently published The Time Paradox, exploring different cultural and personal perspectives on time.

Still well-known for his controversial Stanford Prison Experiment, Zimbardo in his new research looks at the psychology of heroism. He asks, "What pushes some people to become perpetrators of evil, while others act heroically on behalf of those in need?"

What others say

“Professor Zimbardo deserves heartfelt thanks for disclosing and illuminating the dark, hidden corners of the human soul.” — Václav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic

Philip Zimbardo’s TED talks

Philip Zimbardo on the TED Blog
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Live from TED2014

Nuclear fission reactors, Africa’s Einsteins and the healing power of nature: A recap of “Beauty and the Brain,” All-Stars Session 2 at TED2014

March 19, 2014

By Liz Jacobs and Thu-Huong Ha   Our brains work in mysterious ways. They make us laugh, they make us cry, and sometimes, they make us 19-year old geniuses. The 11 speakers in this All-Stars session specialize in areas of the brain as diverse as personality, trauma and gender, but they all agree: Our minds […]

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Culture

TED Weekends: Understanding evil

March 9, 2013

Philip Zimbardo knows evil inside and out. He led the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971 and was an expert witness at Abu Ghraib, privy to graphic unseen images. At TED2008, Zimbardo explains how easy it is for the good to turn evil, and on the flip side, for inspiration to lead people to heroism. […]

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Phillip Zimbardo on the powers of time: The animation

June 12, 2010

RSA Animate shares this neat whiteboard video illustrating an idea from TEDTalks star Philip Zimbardo: How our individual concepts of time influence us. Watch more from Philip Zimbardo on time, on TED.com >> Watch more video from RSA Animate >> (Thanks for the tip, Thaniya!)

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Quotes from Philip Zimbardo

Boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out of school. In Canada, five boys drop out for every three girls. Girls outperform boys now at every level, from elementary school to graduate school.
Philip Zimbardo
TED2011 • 1.7M views Aug 2011
Informative, Funny
Boys’ brains are being digitally rewired for change, novelty, excitement and constant arousal. That means they’re totally out of sync in traditional classes, which are analog, static, interactively passive.
Philip Zimbardo
TED2011 • 1.7M views Aug 2011
Informative, Funny