Views & Reviews Round Table

The Lucifer Effect

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 21 April 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2110
  1. Andy Hall, ST1 core surgical trainee, St George’s Hospital, London
  1. andyhall07{at}

    The Lucifer Effect explores questions that society would rather not ask: “What makes previously moral individuals act immorally?” Or, in Philip Zimbardo’s attention grabbing prose, “How can good people become evil?” This topic proves pertinent to medical practice in the wake of modern scandals from Rugby Union’s “bloodgate” furore (BMJ 2009;339:b3873, doi:10.1136/bmj.b3873) to research falsification.

    The first section of Zimbardo’s book engages the reader with a synopsis of the Stanford prison experiment of 1971 from the first person perspective of its lead researcher, one Philip Zimbardo. Through his eyes we witness the developments of a psychology research project that runs horribly awry.

    He describes how groups of volunteer students behaved when split into two randomised …

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