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The Social Psychology of Evil

A toxic mix of destructive leaders, susceptible followers, & conducive environments

Dr. H. C. Sinclair

on 7 November 2017

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Transcript of The Social Psychology of Evil

The Social Psychology of Evil
Foster the Lucifer Effect
“Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Then take that first step
Destructive Leaders
Diffusion of Responsibility
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
Start with a Foot-in-the-door
"It always starts with 15 volts...and then increases in gradual steps that do not seem like noticeable differences." - Phil Zimbardo
Dial down our humanity
Outgroup Derogation
In-group Justification
Adjusting our Empathy
-Present an acceptable justification
Cover story
National security
"They started it!"
Competitive Victimhood: We are the real victims
Even better if you can assign a meaningful role with that justification.
- Alter semantics of the act/action
Shocks = punishments for wrong answers
Torture = enhanced interrogation
We committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world.
- Jim Jones, Death Tapes
Preserving our belief in a just world
Victim Blaming
Activation of empathy for targets can inhibit aggression in most cases
Turn off recognition of humans
Disinhibition of aggressive responding
Empathy-deficiencies linked to aggression
"Imaging data lead to the hypothesis that antisocial, violent, and psychopathic behavior may in part be attributable to impairments in some of the brain structures (dorsal and ventral PFC, amygdala, and angular gyrus) subserving moral cognition and emotion." - Miczek et al., 2007
"I'm not going to be responsible for this." - participant in Milgram study
"I felt like I became invisible."
Mere presence effect
Presence of others increases arousal
Social facilitation
Emotional Contagion
Excitation Transfer
"The psychological self-attention and deindividuation theory has argued that lynching atrocity will increase as a function of the relative number of mob members. Two series of analyses (one using newspaper reports and the second using photographic records) using different and nonoverlapping samples of lynching events rendered a consistent pattern of results: Lynch mob atrocity did... increase as a function of the relative numbers of mob members in the lynch mob." - Leader et al. (2007) in Without Mercy: The Immediate Impact of Group Size on Lynch Mob Atrocity
Group Size
Anonymity & Aggression
Silke, 2003
Then Invoke Consistency
Asch's Results
As few as 3
Modern Variation
Conformity on the Brain
Normative Social Influence
Berns et al., 2005
Independence - Amygdala & Caudate Nucleus
Conformity - Occipital Lobes
Resolve to "see" what the group sees
End Results
But they also had many followers
All examples had
How do you get so many to go along?
Filter and censor information to insulate/isolate group
Reinforce conformity to norms
Direct and indirect pressure & derogation
Foster group cohesion/entiativity
Illusions of invulnerability
Unquestioned belief in group's morality
Illusion of Unanimity
Create "Suitable Targets"
Create Groups: Us vs. Them
AnCoDi Hypothesis
Fire up Emotions
Reduce Empathy to Targets
: Enhancing empathy for ingroup members viewed as victimized by outgroup can INCREASE willingness to attack outgroup members as NOW it is justified as "protecting one's own."
Conducive Environments
Losing our Self
It's What's to be Expected
Susceptible Followers = "Us"
Social Identities
The Susceptible Circle
& use Cognitive Dissonance
Which part of the brain is activated among those who resist conformity?
A.) Occipital lobes
B.) Medial Prefrontal Cortex
C.) Amygdala
D.) Anterior Cingulate Cortex
________________________ argues that the emotional content of speeches can incite violence.
A.) The Toxic Triangle theory
B.) The ANCODI hypothesis
C.) The Susceptible Circle taxonomy
D.) The Deindividuation model

Internal Cultures:
Provides Identity
Claims to meet basic needs one is lacking
Belonging as well as others
Displaces threat source
Gives something to believe in
Group esteem becomes self-esteem
Exert Power
Starting Points
Difficult Life Conditions
Economic deterioration
Political disorganization
Significant social changes
Threats to basic needs
Conflict between groups
War, revolution
Continuum of Cultural Practices that Contribute to Collective Violence
Staub, 2006
Elements of Destruction
Elements of Prevention
Devaluation of Others
Humanizing Others
Exclusive Ideologies
Inclusive Ideologies
Unhealed Wounds
Healing Past Wounds
Uncritical Respect for Authority
Moderate Respect for Authority
Monolithic Society
Pluralistic Structures & Processes
Unjust Societal Arrangements
Just Social Arrangements
Passive Bystanders
Active Interventionists
Full transcript