Greetings from Phillip Zimbardo!

 In Everyday Heroes, Hero Training, Social Psychology

If you remember the Hero Round Table back when Hero Town first launched in 2015, then you might remember the hype around the keynote speaker, Dr. Phillip Zimbardo. Since then, we are proud to have Dr. Zimbardo as a member of our Advisory Committee.

The Stanford Prison Experiment

Dr. Zimbardo is most well known for his work on the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971. The aim of the experiment was to examine group dynamics and to understand the psychological effects of perceived power. Zimbardo wanted to test whether or not inherent personality traits were responsible for the abusive treatment of prisoners by guards in concentration camps.

The participants were a group of average, healthy men who were divided into two groups: prisoners and prison guards. The experiment was set up in the basement of Stanford University, and was supposed to last for two weeks. The experiment quickly got out of hand however, due to the extreme abusive behaviour the prison guards inflicted on their prisoners. The guards were given no rules to follow, and so they created their own rules – to horrifying ends. Confrontations between guards and prisoners broke out as early as the second day, with the guards using fire extinguishers and humiliation as weapons.

It was thanks to Zimbardo’s then-girlfriend Christina Maslach ordered him to call off the experiment after just six days. The findings from that experiment was that under certain circumstances, ordinary people could commit horrendous acts of cruelty.

The Heroic Imagination Project

What is less well known is Zimbardo’s work in heroism after the harrowing results of the prison experiment. After the results that showed evil could be committed by ordinary people, Zimbardo became interested in the opposite phenomenon: everyday heroes. While writing The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, Zimbardo became weary of studying the worst of human nature, and decided to investigate what makes people perform acts of heroism.

This realisation was a turning point in Zimbardo’s research, and he went on to found the Heroic Imagination Project. The HIP is dedicated to supporting and funding research, education and initiatives towards promoting and encouraging heroism. If you recall our recent post discussing what a hero is, then you may recognise some similarities between ours and HIP’s definition of a hero:

… intentional action in service to others in need or to humanity by defending a moral cause, without personal gain and with awareness of likely personal costs. Heroism is the creation of a “bright line” of morality on an issue that is defended, upheld and promoted despite pressures to do otherwise.

The Heroic Imagination Project provides programs that are designed to educate participants about the psychological research behind heroism, mindset and the bystander effect. Our team at Hero Town are the only providers of this training in Australia.

Watch Dr. Zimbardo’s message below

With Hero Town Geelong’s hero training program, you too can train to become a hero. Empower yourself to enact positive change for yourself, your peers and your community too by enrolling in heroism training.

Steph Downing
Stephanie Downing is the administrative assistant for Hero Town Geelong. Born and raised in Geelong, Australia, Stephanie is a graduate of Deakin University with her Honours degree in Professional and Creative Writing. She adores words of all sorts and is especially infatuated with the medium of poetry and fiction, with publications of her work being featured in magazines such as WORDLY Magazine, Plumwood Mountain Journal and Cordite Poetry Review.
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