The Lucifer Effect by Zimbardo, 2007, Excerpts
Most people adopt moral standards undergoing normal socialization processes during their upbringing. Those standards act as guides for pro-social behavior and deterrents of antisocial behavior as defined by their family and social community. Over time, these external moral standards imposed by parents, teachers, and other authorities become internalized as codes of personal conduct. People develop personal controls over their thoughts and actions. They learn to sanction themselves to prevent acting inhumanely and to foster human actions.
Individuals and groups can maintain their sense of moral standards by simply disengaging their usual moral functioning at certain times, in certain situations, for certain purposes by:
· Redefining our harmful behavior as honorable, creating moral justification for the action by adopting moral imperatives that sanctify violence.
· Minimizing our sense of a direct link between our actions and its harmful outcomes by diffusing or displacing personal responsibility.
· Changing the way we think about the actual harm done by our actions.
· Reconstructing our perception of victims as deserving their punishment, by blaming them for the consequences.
· Dehumanizing them, perceiving them to be beneath the righteous concerns we reserve for fellow human beings.
· Ignoring, distorting, minimizing, or disbelieving any negative consequences of our conduct.