Monday, 9 April 2012

The Psychology of Evil

Schindler's List (1993) Movie Review:

Schindler’s List (1993) directed by Steven Spielberg is an astonishing historical movie about a German businessman, Oskar Schindler (starred by Liam Neeson) who saved thousands of the Jewish refugees during the Holocaust massacre. It is an award-winning movie inspired by Thomas Keneally’s non-fiction novel, “Schindler’s Ark”.
What in the story that fascinated me mostly was the portrayal of the Evil Psychology, how people, especially the Nazi troops led by the authoritarian leader, Amon Golf (Ralph Fiennes) under Adolf Hitler's command could lose their sense of humanity and dehumanize the refugees. In a few phases of genocides at the rise of the Nazi’s power during World War II, millions of the refugees killed in the violent acts. It was such a painful moment for me watching those captured refugees regardless of their gender and age being tortured to death, to be treated like animals and the scariest gas chambers that were built to kill all of them in mass. The fact that the army troops were constituted by both males and females young German soldiers just stroke my mind and hurt my feelings when realized that they actually obeyed to the authority and carried out the persecutions and genocides without second thoughts. Questions came into my mind following by the deadly scenes of tortures- Have they lost their minds or were they stupid enough to have no brain to think before they acted such violently? It then came to my realization that there is no one in this world that can force anybody into bad deeds, unless the person is put into a situation where everyone else are taught to think, feel and behave in the same cruel ways. This is act of deindividuation where people portray the psychology of evil, the “loss of self-identity or self-consciousness” phenomenon as suggested by Zimbardo (1969) which leads to the “loss of cognitive control over motivations and emotions” and the diffuse responsibility to the external influences. 




Now, let’s take a look at how did a leader, like Hitler encouraged the act of dehumanization amongst the followers with the concept of Deindividuation:
  • Remove individual’s uniqueness and individuality via uniforms
  • Submerge into groups to promote group-thinks
  • Advocate of propaganda to endorse the desired acts/ beliefs
  • Disguise with another identity via putting on hood or mask
The abovementioned factors underlying the Deindividuation concept are demonstrated in a series of experimental studies done by Philip Zimbardo, google the Stanford Prison Experiment, it will link you to many more articles/ journals about it. =)

The "Lucifer Effect
The transformation of human character from good to bad with conditions

Stanford Prison Experiment

Stanley Milgram’s Obedience study (1963) can also be used to explain the violent acts of the Nazi troops where all of the armies obey to the authority orders.
  • Start with an ideology that can justify actions or beliefs.
  • Use authority to legitimate the ideology.
  • Assign people with roles or position to justify their actions in accordance with the assignments.
  • Put people in novel setting in which adopting new sets of beliefs and behaviours to accommodate to the new settings are highly-favoured.
  • Set rules to guide behaviours (Reward of desirable behaviours; Punish non-desirable behaviours).
  • Create situations that permit people to behave in certain ways.
  • Diffuse responsibility for consequences on authority.
  • Does not allow disagreements or disobedience by not providing means for exiting the situation.
Milgram's Obedience Study

These studies have eventually enhanced our understanding about how the dehumanization and deindividuation acts can take place in the real world settings, especially during the wars. 

Watch other Similar Movie

                                        The Milgram Experiment Movie (2009)



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