The Lucifer effect

The Lucifer effect

The Lucifer effect It is a term used in the field of psychology to determine how a seemingly normal and trouble-free person is capable of committing evil acts.


  • 1 What is the Lucifer effect?
  • 2 The Stanford Jail Experiment
  • 3 We can all commit evil acts
  • 4 Psychological processes associated with the Lucifer effect

What is the Lucifer effect?

The Lucifer effect is a process of transformation by which a normal individual without psychic problems ends up committing an evil act. This punctualization is important, as this can happen to all types of people without necessarily having any type of disorder or apparent trauma.

However, there is an influence that makes this person able to lose all humanity and commit violent acts. The trigger can be any concrete event, or simply a situation that the person is going through.

This can happen in any context and at the most unexpected moment, since the so-called Lucifer effect can arise even in everyday life., without there being an apparent reason that leads to this change in behavior.

This term was coined by Canadian psychologist Phillip Zimbardo, who also wrote a book in which he thoroughly explained this social pathology. This researcher dedicated much of his professional life to investigate human behavior.

The Stanford Jail Experiment

One of his most famous and controversial investigations was the Stanford jail experiment. The study was carried out with several volunteers who would play the roles of guards and prisoners in a fictional prison.

The result aroused a great controversy and had to be canceled a few days after it began, as there was a huge lack of control. So, as the days went by, the guards and prisoners were increasingly assuming their role.

Many of the volunteers who served as guards increased their level of sadism day after day, especially at night when they thought the cameras were turned off. Meanwhile, those who acted as prisoners began to have quite important emotional disorders.

This experiment determined how people can get their most evil side under different circumstances, how to assume a role of power or under specific social circumstances.

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We can all commit evil acts

Criminologists They tend to point out that the most heinous acts start from a specific situation that the individual is going through. This means that the person who has this behavior and carries out the action may be conditioned by a specific context.

In fiction we can find many examples of how this change occurs. There are already mythical characters that can better show us what this phenomenon is about and how this change can occur.

It is the case for example of protagonist of the series 'Breaking Bad', one of the most controversial characters due to the evolution he experiences, going from being a person with a normal life without apparent problem to commit all kinds of violent acts and find great pleasure in them.

What the Lucifer effect tells us is that all people can fall at a given time and under certain circumstances to cross that line that separates good and evil. This is something that can happen to anyone, regardless of their economic, social and education level.

Psychological processes associated with the Lucifer effect

Beyond that anyone is susceptible to this effect, there are psychological and sociological processes that have been studied and determine that people are capable of transforming and committing acts of this kind.

One of them is the conformity of the group. The need for acceptance in a particular group can make us capable of having behaviors that do not match our values but that are required to be accepted in a specific environment.

Another of the most common is that of obedience to authority. This principle starts with the military hierarchy, for example, where people are capable of committing violent acts because they have been ordered by their superior.

There is also an assumption known as moral disconnection. This theory is related to social learning and how this affects the person to change their value system and their moral codes.

In this way, we have a series of behaviors that we consider to be neither acceptable nor desirable. However, it may be the case in which we integrate behaviors that have nothing to do with the principles that we consider to be correct.

In short, even seemingly good people may be able to commit evil acts given the Lucifer effect. Surely after reading these lines you already have a little clearer what this phenomenon is about and in what contexts such a case may arise. We hope you found this information helpful!