I had several BBC radio interviews recently (and several more to come). Two of them are posted on my site. The first was by Phil Mercer of BBC Radio Oxford for his “More Questions Than Answers” segment. You can listen to it here.
The BBC World Service’s interview was conducted by venerable reporter and presenter Dan Damon. You can listen to it here. The segment explores the ethical aspects of bystanders and related matters. The unique aspect of this show is that my discussion partner is Professor Philip Zimbardo, a psychologist famous for the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment which established that situations can be evil — and they can change ordinary people into evil-doers.
Together Zimbardo and I explore the interplay of individual factors, such as denial and the “bystander effect,” with the important role that the situation plays in encouraging people to behave in ways that appear to be counter to their values, character, and past behavior.
The important lesson we can draw from Zimbardo’s work for our understanding of disasters is that if ordinary people can be prompted to behave in clearly evil ways as a result of situational factors, it is certainly clear that they can be easily intimidated to behave passively as bystanders irrespective of the consequences for others. This has obvious implications for the design of organizations if we are to make substantial progress toward protecting our collective welfare.
PS. There is a live interview on Leonard Lopate’s NPR program on Friday. I’ll post my reactions.