From the Stanford Prison Experiment to creating heroes

100 Inspiring Voices | Episode #25 | Dr. Philip Zimbardo | From The Stanford Prison Experiment to creating everyday heroes


The Stanford Prison Experiment. 60 books. 600 publications. 40 years at Stanford University. Dr. Philip Zimbardo is one of the most influential psychologists in history.

In this conversation, I speak with Dr. Zimbardo about his childhood, what led him into psychology, the Stanford Prison Experiment, and his work to create everyday heroes.


2:00 – “I was always a psychologist as a child, meaning always asking questions why people do things they do. Why people behave the way they do. It started with a lot of personal experiences.”

2:30 – “When I was five years old, I whooping cough and double pneumonia and I was quarantined for five and a half months”

4:00 – “When I got out of the hospital, I was incredibly skinny, I had blue eyes and a big nose, and that was the image of ‘The Jew’ in the South Bronx… I learned to be a good runner.”

5:15 – “I was curious about why kids would do that. I knew I was a good kid, I knew I was nice. That first experience about prejudice really started me off thinking ‘why do people behave the way they do?'”

6:40 – “I wanted to do an experiment to demonstrate that if you put good people in a bad situation, the situation will dominate the people, rather than the people will change the situation.”

10:40 – “The Heroic Imagination Project is my legacy, rather than the Stanford Prison Experiment.”

12:30 – “Can anyone be a hero if what we mean by a hero is someone who makes sacrifices for the good of other people?”

16:15 – “Curiously, the word hero and heroism was not in any textbook in psychology. The words don’t exist…. that’s very, very curious.”

18:00 – “It’s standing up, speaking out, taking action. Those are the kinds of things we do.”

20:15 – “The workplace is actually a setting in which individuals can do lots of good, using their time, their expertise, to help fellow workers, and collectively to help with various causes like reducing prejudice.”

21:30 – “That’s where the Heroic Imagination comes in. Making people aware that something is wrong. We need more women in tech. We need more Asians, blacks, in positions of leadership. The Heroic Imagination is you give voice to that.”

23:30 – “Resilience is a very complex concept. We originally think of resilience as bouncing back… but resilience means how can we, each of us, deal with the many problems we have… life is filled with challenges and sometimes the challenges seem overwhelming to you as an individual… that’s ideally where co-workers can help, where neighbors can help…”

25:45 – “The moment you say there’s nothing I can do to make this better, at that moment you’re making it worse. And the conclusion is that you’re likely to die earlier.”

26:05 – “The opposite of resilience is giving up. And when you give up, you die. You die psychologically, or you die physically.”

26:45 – “People have to know that you’re making yourself available… it’s really critical that each of us makes clear to our friends and family that we’re available in your time of need.”


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